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Simi Firm Logs On With Integrated 'E-Call' Package for PCs


Communications industry veteran Larry Yen says he wasn't intimidated by the size and power of his competitors when he decided to leave the safe confines of a large firm and venture out with his own company in 1995.

All he needed, he figured, was a niche. And he already had one in mind--integrating personal computer, telephone and Internet technology to create a hardware-software package aimed at the small business and home office market.

Yen, founder of American Network Systems of Simi Valley, took the first step toward attempting to fill that niche with the company's debut product, Total E-Call, released this month.

Total E-Call, which operates with the use of a PC card, allows computer users to record phone greetings and caller messages by computer, identify callers on the computer screen before answering the phone, conduct an automatic telephone poll and perform about 60 other functions. The package retails for about $200.

"All big organizations can afford all types of computer telephony features, but not the small guy. The cost is high, you have to buy all these different switches," said Yen, president and chief executive of the 15-employee company. "But it doesn't matter whether you're a large business or a small business, you're going to have a PC on your desktop."

A batch of 2,000 Total E-Call units, manufactured in Taiwan, was sent to retailers in the initial release, with an additional 10,000 due out in June and 20,000 planned for July.

Yen said he came up with the Total E-Call concept in 1993, while he was marketing products in China for ACT Networks, a Camarillo manufacturer of voice, data and integrated network access products.

"ACT was already established when I got the idea and it was too much different from what they do," Yen said. "It would have been tough to persuade them to shift from the telecom market to the PC market. I decided instead of having all the trouble persuading the top management team over there, I could do it myself."

Yen dipped into both the telecommunications and computer industries to hire a team of employees who spent about a year developing the product and researching the market.

"The infrastructure goes through the phone line which is set up already," Yen said. "I thought, if we can provide a connection from the phone to the PC, there's a lot of applications we can do."

American Network Systems officials plan to introduce two more products in the Total E-Call line later this year.

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