> Milton Howard

> June 8


>Milton Howard is Director, Product Marketing for E-Stamp Corporation,

>the first e-commerce company authorized to sell electronic postage over

>the Internet. Anyone with a PC, printer, and an Internet connection can

>buy and print postage. Milton discussed what online postage is, the

>security behind it, how it will impact the U.S. Postal Service, and

>forever change the way people buy and use postage.


E-Stamp's product is a software package and a dongle. The dongle plugs into the parallel port on a PC, and looks like a cable adapter about an inch and a half long. The software runs on any PC (a Macintosh version might be in the company's future plans).

An E-Stamp is a two dimensional barcode that can be printed by any standard 300 dpi printer on an address label or a letter. E-Stamp sells envelopes with windows in the upper right hand corner (patented ones) for users that want to put the postage directly on the letter. Their software is compatible with Microsoft Word style interfaces, so mail merge works.

The company makes it's money by adding a convenience fee of about five percent onto the postage that it sells. They charge retail price, which is what they pay the postal service for it. You get the dongle when you sign their license agreement, and it holds a record of the postage you have paid for but not used, in addition to a serial number and some interface circuitry.

Howard did discuss things that E-Stamp is doing to protect their customers privacy, but the fact that the dongle's serial number is in the two dimensional barcode made that part of the talk seem a bit empty. However, he did say that his company is doing better about that than other companies trying to get into that market, and that part of the talk did ring true.

E-Stamp's target marketplace is the SOHOs (Small Organizations and Home Offices), because larger companies have mailrooms to do what their software does, so there is no opportunity for cost savings there. The typical customer is expected to do several pieces of mail a day and about five packages a week.

For at least a while after the software is introduced to the marketplace late this summer, the postal service will charge full retail price for E-Stamp users. It may be that after they have upgraded their mail sorting equipment to read the barcodes and sort based on them, there will be price breaks for E-Stamp users, but that will not happen quickly.

E-Stamp has many strategic partners, including companies like AOL, AT&T, the European version of Pitney Bowes, Avery, Microsoft and others that I did not remember. The fact that they could make an industrial strength deal with the USPS I find remarkable. I expect that we will be seeing their stamps in our mailboxes all over the place starting late this year or next year.

Tian Harter