In this newsletter we\u2019d like to start looking at where unified messaging is today. One problem with doing that is if you mention \u201cunified messaging\u201d in a crowd of technologists, you\u2019d probably get as many definitions for the concept as you have individuals in the room.So we\u2019ll go with the \u201cofficial\u201d UnifiedMessaging.com Web site definition: Unified messaging is accessing \u201cvoice, fax, and email from anywhere, using any device, at any time.\u201d Unified messaging can be premise-based, using a server to bring together the applications, or it can be offered by a service provider as a network-hosted service, a.k.a. Unified Messaging Service.One key element of unified messaging is the conversion of text to speech. For example, if a user wants to access e-mail via phone, the unified message server will provide a computer-generated \u201creading\u201d of the e-mail over the user\u2019s phone. Speech-to-text conversion is also available, but in the early stages of effectiveness.On the flip side, if a user wants to \u201csee\u201d his voicemail log while at his computer, he can view the log onscreen. If he wants to hear the voicemail, he has the option of clicking on the voicemail entry and hearing the message on the computer-attached speakers. Some systems can also let the user see the log onscreen and hear the message on a phone handset.Fax message titles can be "played back" by phone using text-to-speech (based on the message title "read" by optical character recognition) or by associated phone number; the fax can then be forwarded to a PC application or traditional fax machine.While unified messaging can exist without voice over IP, VoIP protocols make integration of these two services easier. We\u2019ll discuss the progress of this integration in the coming months.