Imagine if you could ditch boring old letters in favour of something more electronic? Y’know, using your computer to send documents to other people, without having to lick a stamp and find the nearest postbox. If only someone could invent such a technology. They could call it… email!
Oh, hang on…
Okay, so it’s tempting to snort at ViaPost, a UK startup that’s seemingly reinventing the e-wheel with its promises to ‘post’ mail over the internet using (in their words) ‘Post-over-Internet Protocol’.
It makes more sense when you dig a bit deeper though. In short, you download an application which, when you hit the ‘Print’ button, electronically sends your document to a printing house near the recipient, where it’s printed and then delivered by a Postman 1.0.
No, it’s not just a new way to send letters to your computer-loathing nan without having to pick up a pen. The real target is businesses, sending important business documents to key business contacts in a suitably business-like way. Contracts, for example, although founder Ben Way says utility bills are an obvious fit.
ViaPost says one benefit is price, although details are a bit scarce on its website to judge whether that’s true. The company says it’ll charge 24p to send a single-sided black and white letter, but there’s no indication of how much this’ll increase for multiple pages or colour.
The company is also touting its environmental credentials, due to not needing trucks to transport letters around the country. ViaPost has already established a relationship with Microsoft which the company reckons could see its technology included with Microsoft’s own software.
ViaPost is currently in beta in the UK, with a full launch planned for later this year, with plans to expand internationally later. Could it catch on? I can’t imagine using it as a consumer, and most business-to-business mail can be handled by (free) emailing.
But I can see the appeal for large-scale mailouts – it’s not hard to imagine a big bank or utility company buying ViaPost a few months down the line, if the technology is proven to cut costs.