Presto: Because Computers Scare Old People

A silicon valley startup called Presto has quietly launched a new service aimed at people who don’t currently have Internet access, but want to be able to receive emails and photos from loved ones. It combines a special printer produced by Hewlett Packard with a web service that sends data to the printer over a normal phone line – no need for internet access or a computer.

Featured prominently throughout the Presto website are pictures of happy old people receiveing photos from (younger, presumably tech savvy) loved ones. My guess, based on those ubiquitous pictures, is that old people are the target demographic for the Presto service.

Teasing aside, Presto looks like a pretty cool service for some people (possibly the parents and grandparents of TechCrunch readers). The printer costs $150. Take it out of the box and feed it electricity and a normal phone line. No need for broadband internet service. You are assigned a special email address, and when someone sends photos or other content to that email address, it prints out on the printer. The old person user simply takes it off the printer and looks at it. We’ll be getting a test version of the printer and service and will post a more lengthy review after a hands on experience.

The service itself costs another $10 per month, which is where Presto makes their money. HP makes their money off of the ink cartridges that people will buy after using the service.

I do have a spam concern. It’s a pretty good bet that spammers will be sending mass emails to, knowing that a hard copy will be printed out and delivered to the end user. I’m sure Presto will have filters in place to deal with most of this. But I also wonder if Presto’s incentive to sell advertisers the right to send a limited amount of “special offers” to Presto users will become too great to ignore over time, perhaps in exchange for a free or reduced price account. We’ll see.

Presto is backed by Kleiner Perkins and Clearstone Venture Partners.

I should have done this before, but I dug into the potential spam issue a little more. You have to be an accepted sender for the printer to accept the email, so unsolicited spam will not be printed. However, to access the user account to accept/reject friends requires a computer, so I guess a family member or friend will help them with account maintenance if they don’t have one.