(FORTUNE Magazine) – Real live executive assistants, beware: The Wildfire Assistant is a revolutionary, telephone-based, electronic aide created by Wildfire Communications, of Lexington, Massachusetts. Wildfire makes it possible for a business person on the road to check voice mail, return messages, accept incoming calls, and put people on hold while he or she calls someone else-all in a single, uninterrupted session, without having to punch in any secret codes. You do all this by calling a toll- free number and speaking to your "assistant"-actually the system itself, which is installed at your workplace and connected to the public telephone network, and which uses sophisticated voice-recognition software to process your commands (like "Find new messages" or "Call Frieda"). Your "assistant" talks back in a crisply efficient voice that makes a human secretary sound positively slothful. And if you get a call while you're on the line with someone else, the guileful gal will whisper the caller's name-you can hear her, but the person you're speaking to can't. Wildfire makes mere voice mail seem hopelessly inadequate for the mobile, wired executive. The system is expensive-corporations pay about $2,000 per user. But the product, which first shipped in late December, should come down in price. For a demonstration, call 800-WILDFIRE.

- Rajiv M. Rao