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Blast Off!

The medium for every message

Get ready for another Internet buzz phrase: “the universal outbox.”

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That’s the central offering of MessageBlaster, a Massachusetts startup with a deceptively simple and potentially useful service.

Sometimes — say, when you’re working on a team project or have a big announcement to make — you need to tell lots of people the same thing. (Ex: “The Smigglemeyer meeting’s been moved to 10:30” or “I’m going to be on Oprah Wednesday afternoon.”) Trouble is, some of those people want an email, others a phone call, still others need to be paged, and a few may even prefer a fax.

MessageBlaster hammers away this problem with a cool new tool. With the universal outbox, you type a single message and — blam — it goes to as many people as you want, who receive your missive in their medium of choice. The email folks get emailed, the pagers get paged, the phoners get phoned, the faxers get faxed — and you get jiggy because it’s do dang easy.

Two MessageBlaster features really stand out. One is the capacity to move easily between voice and text. For instance, if your intended target wants a phone call, MessageBlaster will convert your typed message to spoken word. This feature, which I tried a bunch of times, works surprisingly well and stunningly fast. (Try it yourself on the Message Blaster home page.) The other useful feature is the ability to poll recipients with a yes/no question, which can come in handy when you need a simple answer from several far-flung colleagues.

For messages to more than three people, MessageBlaster charges 15 cents per minute for phone calls, 10 cents per page for faxes, and nothing for email. Those price points seem a little high to me. Why not just offer a flat subscription fee for unlimited use — like an ISP? But I’ll leave those decisions to people who know better.

What I know is this: for free agents struggling to juggle lots of projects and coordinate dozens of people, MessageBlaster can be the administrative assistant they never had.

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