As HP continues their $300 million dollar advertising effort for Print 2.0, it’s interesting to take a look at what their approach entails. VJ Joshi gave the clearest expression of their vision during a presentation the Web 2.0 conference. In that, he made it clear that their “foundation is supplies”, mostly ink for personal printers.

While HP is taking tentative steps towards the concept of Print as a Service, their focus remains squarely on personal printers and how to increase the volume there. While they hedge their bets with purchases such as Snapfish, their priorities are clear. Which is probably as it should be for a company with an established $26 billion/year business in that area.

But the future isn’t for each consumer to run their own mini print shop (the current home print model). The future is for print to exist as a pure service. Need to mail a letter? Click and it’s printed, stuffed, stamped, and in the mail stream. Oh, and it’s printed at a higher quality than any home printer out there.

As we become more mobile, more networked, and more variable in our needs, maintaining personal manufacturing capability (even light manufacturing like print) makes less sense. Certainly some people will want to do their own printing, but they will rapidly become a minority.

At Postful, our approach is to build towards this rapidly accelerating transition. By moving print directly into the service cloud, we’re treating it as just another output format for the web. Information can be delivered on web pages, sms, voice, or print. The medium is no longer the message.

Of course this is not an absolute issue. There will continue to be a market for personal printers just as there continues to be a market for home woodworking shops. But, given current trends, the shift is definitively away from that model.


Founders’ Day

October 17, 2007

The world is full of rightfully obscure holidays (working closely with the USPS, we get to witness all of them). However, there are a few which actually deserve far greater attention.

Founders’ Day is once such celebration. Every year on October 27, employees give gifts to the founders of the companies which employ them and consumers give gifts to the founders of companies they love. It’s a celebration of the gift of consumption which those companies give to us every day of the year.

At least here at Postful, it’s the one holiday we go all out on.

Now, as with most holidays, its history is perhaps somewhat less than charming. Origins date back to the feudal system where peasants were “asked” to provide gifts of thanks every year to the owners of their land. Homestead StrikeFounders’ Day in it’s modern form was inaugurated by Henry Clay Frick in 1896 as a punishment for workers after the Homestead Strike at Carnegie Steel.

Andrew Carnegie, on his return from travels abroad, learned of this decision and softened the holiday into something more resembling its modern form.

In terms of modern iconography, the popular characters of the Jolly Founder and the Spirit of Capital were introduced through advertising campaigns in the 30’s.

Over the years, the holiday has seen its popularity rise and fall. Over the last several years it’s enjoyed something of a resurgence, particularly in the US tech industry and the manufacturing sector in Southeast Asia.

This year we’d like to invite you all to join us in celebration! Only ten days left to pick out your gifts!

Why We Do This

October 16, 2007

Occasionally, we receive feedback from you that really reminds us why we’re doing this.

I recently received an e-mail describing the impact of a letter that arrived the day before a dear family friend passed away. I paused for a few minutes after reading the description of him smiling as he read and re-read the letter and looked at the included pictures.

Making just one moment like that possible justifies what we’ve put into this. And this is just one of the stories we’ve received from all of you.

Each time, I’m left with the sense that we’re actually doing something good. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of programming, support, marketing, and sales. It really helps to be reminded of the lives connected.

In any case, I wanted to share some sense of what this means to us. And I wanted to publicly thank all of you who have shared your stories with us.

Like all proud parents, we’ve found that having a beta is a rewarding but exhausting process. Sadly, this blog, like a previous child, has been neglected.

So, I thought I’d take a few minutes this evening to give a general update on where we’re at, how things are progressing, our dreams of writing Broadway musicals, etc.

Over the last month, we’ve been finding the balance between working on bugs, working on new features, and helping our new users. Due to herculean efforts by our programming team (think of the Augean stables), we’ve made some major improvements in response to your feedback. Some of our feature releases have been slightly delayed in this process, but we’re definitely moving forward now with a better system than the one we began with.

Personally, I think all of us have gone through the process of finding what our limits are. Sleep can be delayed, but you have to find a balance in order to keep going for the long haul.

This may sound strange to those who haven’t worked in this kind of environment, but it’s actually hard to force yourself to take breaks. Emotionally, working on this is energizing. It’s thrilling to see each new user’s ideas and questions. Each bug is a personal offense that simply must be dealt with. The limits have been physical. Past a certain point, you have to give your body breaks from that kind of constant rush. Heck, some of us have even started taking the occasional day off again.

That’s the rough overview, at least. There are a hundred little stories, some of which we’ll be able to share as things develop, others we’ll probably keep to ourselves. It’s somewhat incredible that it’s only been a month and a half since the beta began. I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises the next few months bring.

Postful in the News

April 10, 2007

Shameless, I know, but I thought I’d put up some links to early discussions of the Postful beta. This is a very exciting phase for any startup, as you begin to get broad feedback from early users and reviewers. Suddenly, the hypotheticals about what’s important and how people will respond are replaced by very direct feedback.

In any case, I’d love to put up links to all the sites that have pointed to us, but I’ll content myself with giving you a few samples:

Fantastic Response

April 6, 2007

I wanted to start by thanking everyone who has written about us and to us. We’re working through your questions and comments and will be getting back to every one of you.

It’s almost shocking to have gone from working in near-total isolation on this to suddenly having questions, comments, and requests coming from all over the world (and for those sending me questions in Chinese, bablefish is rendering your letters as threatening poetry and my friends who read Chinese are more comfortable with traditional than simplified characters). I think we’ve passed that point where things are entirely in our control (and I’m still in “take deep breaths” mode).

I’m going to post answers to some of the most common questions here over the next few hours. Once again, I just want to thank everyone for the fantastic response.

I must admit that when I was forwarded a screenshot of Gmail Paper last night, my first thought was, “Holy crap, Google has gotten to mail ahead of us.” Suffice it to say after reading details, I recognized the joke and felt shame. Shame that I now share with the world.