Besides making a voice call, have you ever thought of using a public payphone to send fax or e-mail, or even plugging in a notebook PC to send data to your colleagues or customers? You should, because Hong Kong residents are among the pioneers of access to such services. Telecommunications firm iMagic has developed the PowerPhone, a multimedia public payphone operated by a touch-screen panel that can deliver colour graphics, video and audio messages. Launched last summer, PowerPhone is being tested in most MTR stations and at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, and can be used free of charge. The company said it would roll out the second-generation PowerPhone, which features a built-in scanner and data port to support the functions mentioned above, in the second quarter of this year. PowerPhone users later will have to pay either by coin or credit card for voice and data calls. The costs for fax, data transmission and e-mail through PowerPhone had yet to be decided by New World Telephone, which had the exclusive rights to deploy the product in Hong Kong, iMagic Infomedia Technology chief executive Dorothy Tsang said. The company would issue smart cards to PowerPhone users who were blind and could not operate the touch-screen PowerPhone alone. 'Once users insert their personal smart cards and pick up the handset, they will be connected to an operator who helps them access any PowerPhone services,' Ms Tsang said. The service also was available for premier users seeking personalised attention. New World will install 355 PowerPhones in Chek Lap Kok airport terminal. They will operate in conjunction with the existing 150 PowerPhones around the SAR. Another PowerPhone innovation is its ability to do electronic commerce. Users will be able to buy movie tickets, with the screen showing the theatre seat plan, providing more details than when tickets were bought over the phone, Ms Tsang said. Through PowerPhone, users also could reserve restaurant tables or game courts run by the Provisional Urban Council. Interactiveness was the key for PowerPhone, which not only could put up ads for companies, but also could be an on-line shop, with users able immediately to buy advertised products, Ms Tsang said. Another use is as a bilingual information kiosk. For instance, Ms Tsang said the telephones installed in the new extension of the convention centre were useful during the handover, because they offered visitors 24-hour assistance, including event and location information and news updates. PowerPhone with iTourist, an application jointly developed by iMagic and the tourist association, has been used to promote tourism by offering visitors map guides and information about restaurants, hotels and major attractions in Hong Kong. iMagic developed the PowerPhone software in-house and outsourced the production of hardware to an original equipment manufacturer. The company plans to roll out PowerPhone in other countries. It showcased the payphone at the last Comdex computer show in the United States.