It's early Monday morning. I'm heading from San Francisco to Palo Alto, and I'm stuck in morning-rush-hour traffic. Like everyone else, I'm on my cell-phone. But unlike most of my fellow commuters, who are chatting it up with friends, I'm getting the latest news, sports scores, stock information, and weather reports. How? With Tellme (www.tellme.com), a free service that lets you search the Web over the phone using voice commands.
Tellme has told just about everyone about its service. Founded by a group of Netscape alumni, the company has given new meaning to the words "much-hyped launch." But this is one service that comes pretty close to walking its talk.
Want to find a nice place to have lunch? Say "restaurants," and the system will prompt you on how to find one by name, cuisine, or location. Need to make a quick call to a friend? Say "Tellme" to get back to the main menu, and then say "phone booth." Speak or punch in the friend's number, and Tellme will connect you for up to two free minutes.
Tellme may well be the voice of the future. Indeed, the only time that Tellme couldn't understand me was when I called from a loud party. What was I doing using Tellme? Trying to find a quiet movie.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.