27 Nov Presto! A 94-year-old woman goes online
I love it when technology products work as advertised, especially when the product is aimed at the non-technical consumer and I’m the one who has to install and support it. The whole experience is even better when you can surprise and delight someone who thinks most consumer technology has passed her by.
Such was the case this past weekend, when I installed the HP Printing Mailbox with Presto Service. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because Presto Services, Inc. launched this e-mail printer and news service at DEMOfall 2006. The install is the definition of plug-and-play, with one minor hitch. The device is designed for homes without Internet connectivity, but one really does have to get online to set up the service. The assumption is that an Internet-savvy friend or relative will buy, install, and set up the printing mailbox for a (typically) elderly person.
The setup procedures offer an 800 number to activate the Presto account. Wayne, the customer service rep I spoke with, provided outstanding service, explaining carefully why he needed particular information and how that information would be used. While we could set most of the settings over the phone, I needed to get online to create the list of authorized sender mailboxes and subscribe to a selection of available newsletters. I made a quick trip to a nearby Starbucks to get a Wi-Fi connection, and before I could finish my latte, I had the mailbox set up and added a handful of authorized senders to the account.
The toughest part of the set up was explaining to Ruth, my 94-year-old friend, what an e-mail printing mailbox was and why she’d find it useful. Not surprisingly, Ruth was skeptical (as she is about most things) until she received a message from a friend. It turns out that when you add an e-mail address to the authorized sender list, Presto sends that person an e-mail notifying them of the mailbox holder’s e-mail address and explaining the scope of the Presto service.
Seen it all
So now Ruth – whose lifetime has spanned the birth of television, the invention of the computer, and the rise of the Internet – finally, at 94, has e-mail. My biggest challenge now will be collecting e-mail addresses to authorize additional senders and sending Ruth messages frequently enough so the e-mail printer doesn’t become a disappointment.
I first encountered the team from Presto about three years ago (back when they called themselves Sinatra Systems, before changing their name to Sonata Systems, and then, finally to Presto Services). The company was convinced that there is a huge unmet market opportunity to develop products and services for the aging population. In fact, early baby boomers are a demographic bubble, representing tremendous disposable income.
Yet this market is almost totally ignored by a technology market enamored by the advertising power of the millennial youth market. In this regard, Presto is a pioneer and a strong example of how to build a product that well serves this aging population. The product is easy to set up, offers features (including monitoring paper and ink supply remotely) that make it easy to manage, and delivers real value – really simply.
Not just for curmudgeons
But let’s be careful not to pigeon-hole Presto and the HP Printing Mailbox as a product for the AARP set only. My next test for Presto: I plan to set up the printing mailbox in my home office and redirect all my e-mail newsletters to my Presto mailbox. This way, I will have printouts of my must-read electronic communications awaiting me each morning to read over breakfast or take with me to the treadmill.
There could be no more difficult test of a technology product than the curmudgeon Ruth, and so far, Presto has passed our expectations. I’m looking forward to staying in closer touch with her… and watching how this versatile product evolves in the marketplace.
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Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine, and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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