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Your PC is a communications machine, and these programs are the engines that drive it.

Long a key strategic tool, communications software has ridden the crest of the Internet wave to become a core application in most computing environments. PCs are now communications tools, tapping modem and fax programs to reap the benefits of the global Internet infrastructure and corporate intranet architectures. The TCP/IP protocol has emerged as the great equalizer in this scenario, making it possible to communicate with virtually anyone, anywhere.

Ubiquitous communications has also helped change the way we work, with the number of remote offices, home-based workers and mobile personnel on the rise. Remote-access programs have made hooking up with headquarters easier than ever. By leaning on the Internet's broad shoulders, these packages are able to offer cheaper, more numerous connection points.

Connectivity software hasn't just done a better job spanning geographic distances; it has also grown more adept at reconciling differences among operating systems. New applications have taken advantage of Windows 95 and put a fresh face on legacy apps--letting users tap into mainframe, AS/400 and UNIX applications from the familiar confines of their desktop PCs.

As communications channels have increased, the challenges of dealing with digitally transmitted information have also grown. To sidestep the chaos of an information overload--with Web data, e-mail, voice messages, faxes and pager calls pouring in from numerous sources, the idea of the universal inbox has caught on. Currently present in a handful of apps and still developing in others, the inbox is a single receptacle for all types of communications.

The new Windows CE-based pocket computers that arrived late last year are poised to put a new spin on communications. WinCE remote-control software, Web browsers and e-mail readers are already shipping, with more to follow.


Communications: The Winners

Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.