Sunday, October 15, 2006

Getting ready for Presto Preview

On Tuesday of this coming week, a new test will begin in our family... a test that will mark a new era for a certain grandmother. Thanks to HP, our family will be testing one of the HP Printing Mailbox units for Presto!

For those who haven't heard of what Presto! is about, here are a couple links:
- Presto puts digital photos in the hands of your grandma
- New printer delights the tech inept

Presto Printing Mailbox from HPThe short version is... The Presto! service combines a dedicated HP printer, modem and the Presto! service to make a hands-off unit that someone who is unfamiliar with technology can use to receive emails and photos. The unit looks like a slightly overgrown HP printer and has a place to plug it into a phone line on the back. Just install an ink cartridge, insert some paper and plug it into a phone line. When the little blue light blinks, you've got mail. That's it. Their target market is the Baby Boomer generation... specifically the 50+ year old folks who don't already have an internet connected PC or are timid about getting online with what they already have.

As the account manager, I get to pick and chose who can email the Presto Printing Mailbox. Each Mailbox unit gets a personal email address that can be given to anyone who has regular email. The trick is those folks can only send email to the Mailbox user if the account manager has added them to the allowed senders list or the Mailbox user has called an 800# and had the person added to their list manually.

During the preview, emails will be limited to email/html (the HTML being semi-unknown at the moment b/c I haven't seen how well they render it yet), JPGs and GIFs. That's enough functionality to allow photos to be easily emailed to the Mailbox user as well as family update emails and general cheer type messages.

I'm hoping they will expand the service to support PDF attachments and maybe Word docs. But for me PDFs would be perfect.

If this works well, it will revolutionize the way our family keeps in touch with the grandmother in question. Right now we all share photos and stuff via email with each other but she never gets to see them. This is the grandmother who swore she would never type after leaving a career as a librarian.

One of the coolest features of the service I'm waiting to validate is their auto-sensing of the account and hardware ID based on the caller ID of the phone line into which the Printing Mailbox gets connected. Supposedly, if I have setup the account before the Mailbox is plugged in and connects to the Presto! service the first time, everything will automatically configure itself and email from the Presto! account will just start flowing in w/o any further interaction from me.

Should this little piece of technological mash-up work as promised, I know what I'll be buying a few other 50+ year old family members over the next months.