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Presto! E-mail without a Computer!

By Brian | February 28, 2007 | Share on Facebook

This product has been around for a while, but I just heard an ad for it on the car radio, and was intrigued enough to jot it down at the next red light and then look at the website when I got home.

It’s called Presto by Hewlett-Packard, and technically speaking, it’s just a high-end fax machine and an e-mail forwarding service. But it’s got a great marketing spin:

Do you want to send e-mail to Grandma, but can’t because she doesn’t know how to use a computer and doesn’t want to learn? No problem!

Buy her this box and plug it into a regular phoneline. Then, go to our website and select an e-mail address for her (e.g., grandma@presto.com). Don’t worry – she doesn’t even need to know about the address. Once you’ve registered, you send e-mail to grandma@presto.com, and we queue it up, format it nicely, and send it via full-color fax to Grandma’s machine every night at 2AM.

When she wakes up in the morning, her “e-mail” will be sitting in the machine’s output tray – pictures of the grandkids, the latest family gossip, birthday wishes, etc. We’ll even provide third party content, so you can sign Grandma up to receive a weekly newsletter from her favorite newspaper or magazine.

No matter what you send, the process is the same: Grandma wakes up every morning and checks the Presto machine, just like she checks her regular mailbox. Couldn’t be more simple, no?

(NOTE: The above is not a quote; I wrote it myself. But it basically summarizes the way they are selling the product)

This strikes me as sheer genius – circa 1996.

It’s been a well-documented trend for several years now that older people are a big presence online. So the odds are that Grandma not only owns a computer, but is also fully versed in e-mail and surfs the web regularly. If not, she probably knows quite a few people of her generation that do, and would probably prefer to learn, as opposed to doing an end-run around the process with a device like this.

Of course, there are exceptions: if Grandma has physical ailments that prevent her from reading the screen or typing very well, then this might be a good subsitute. Also, cost works in Presto’s favor. the machine is $150, and the service is $9.99/month. Even a cheap computer is going to run $500 or more, and the monthly fee for internet/e-mail access is probably going to break the ten dollar mark too. So if Social Security isn’t going as far as it should, Presto might be a cheap alternative to actual e-mail.

So I think there’s a market for this, although it’s probably small and shrinking. The world is becoming more tech-savvy, not less, so in time, one would expect Presto! to go Poof!

Topics: Tech Talk | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Presto! E-mail without a Computer!”

  1. Jeff Porten says at February 28th, 2007 at 4:30 pm :
    Sounds to me like a product more suited to 1796. Here’s a brainteaser: for that generation who still prefers to avoid electronic communications, would they prefer:

    1) three dashed-off Prestos! a week

    2) one handwritten or typed letter biweekly, with grandkids’ original Crayola masterpieces attached?

    Strikes me that users of Presto are saying two things:

    1) my parents are not worth 20 minutes of my time mucking with envelopes and stamps; and

    2) I can’t quite get my head around the idea that a year’s worth of Presto would pay for 692 regular letters.

  2. Brian says at February 28th, 2007 at 10:28 pm :
    True enough, although I’d add the caveat that anyone who’d even consider buying one probably doesn’t understand the difference betwen a hand-written, mailed-in-an-envelope note and a note that pops out of the Presto machine…

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