IBM Research Project Looks to Reshape Mobile Email

Tired of messing with that bulky email on your smartphone? Well IBM researchers say they are working on a technology that will help users more quickly and efficiently zip through mobile email.

IBM computer scientists at its Almaden Research Center are working on a new mobile client known as IBM Mail Triage that quickly scans email and identifies what needs immediate action and what can be handled later, whether you have an iPhone, Pre, Android or other smartphone.

[What kind of software costs $920 million?]

Many mobile email clients are designed essentially as smaller versions of desktop email clients, IBM says. Mobile email users typically focus on triaging their messages to determine what's new, what they can delete right away, and what's important enough to handle immediately. They defer everything else until they are at a desktop or laptop with a full keyboard and larger display, IBM states.

Big Blue says its Mail Triage project accounts for the behavioral differences in the way users address emails on a desktop computer versus email a mobile device. For messages that do not require immediate action, a user can indicate an intended action - such as handle next, defer for later or reference, as well as specify actions such as call this person, schedule a meeting, reply later, and so on. Users can easily access the created tasks via their mobile device or desktop through a cloud-based service and quickly resume their intended actions when they are on the best-suited device for a task, IBM stated.

According to the Triage Website: Rather than showing a set of folders or jumping straight to the user's inbox, we separate the user's email into Untriaged and Triaged folders (the latter containing mail that the user has already either handled or assigned an intended action). We also provide access to the set of tasks that capture the user's intended actions.

From this view we provide color-coded "badges" to help users determine what Untriaged email they have. The grey badge indicates the number of read messages, the light blue badge the number of unread messages, and the dark blue badge the number of new messages. We report the number of new messages separately from the number of unread messages because we discovered through observation that mobile email users spend most of their time just in the inbox.

We provide one line showing a message's sender, one line for its subject, and two lines from the message body. We help draw the user's attention to the new messages (often where users want to look first) by visually distinguishing them with a light blue background. We apply the convention of a blue circle to indicate unread status.

The IBM Mail Triage project is a prototype application, being used only by IBM employees. IBM did not say when the systems might be available as a product.

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