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Paperliess fax = e-mail?

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PANASONIC JAPAN'S LATEST INNOVATION, THE PAPERLESS FAX MACHINE, has some in the techie blogosphere scratching their heads. The machine, set to be launched Jan. 23 in Japan, allows users to send and receive faxes—and spare a few trees in the process. Equipped with a keypad and an LCD screen, the device lets users preview incoming faxes before printing, forward them if necessary, add personalized text or attach files to outgoing documents. While the electronics company's green effort is laudable, it has many wondering if it isn't attempting to reinvent the proverbial wheel—e-mail. When presented with the notion of a paperless faxing option, Kelly Egan, merchant processing supervisor at Evanston, Ill.'s Peel Inc., was at first enthusiastic about the idea. Egan, whose company sends hundreds of pages of faxes each day, said she could see such a product taking off. After a few minutes discussing the machine's capabilities, however, Egan reached an epiphany experienced by many contemplating the paperless fax. “Oh, wait, that's just e-mail.” Digital faxing services are also crying mimicry. Tim McLean, VP-international for eFax's parent company, j2 Global Communications, maintains there is little use for a paperless fax machine. “Internet fax and fax-to-email offer superior capability. ... From a privacy standpoint, it goes directly to your e-mail and not a screen. We [also] think it's much better in terms of integrating your communications systems. It eliminates this other piece of hardware.” —Chelsea Ely
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