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StampMaster to test Net postage

The U.S. Postal Service gives StampMaster permission to test its technology for delivering postage over the Internet.

StampMaster today announced that the U.S. Postal Service has given it permission to test its technology for delivering postage over the Internet.

StampMaster's Internet Postage system allows users to print electronic postage delivered over the Internet directly onto envelopes or labels using ordinary laser or ink jet printers.

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In March, the USPS approved another technology for delivering electronic postage. E-Stamp also allows postage to be downloaded from the Net and printed directly onto envelopes using software, a small piece of hardware, and a standard printer.

StampMaster, however, says its system does not require the purchase of any additional hardware. "While users will purchase postage electronically and be charged an associated service fee, there is no start-up cost as the initial software download from StampMaster's Web site is free," the company announced in a statement.

"The market potential for [StampMaster's Internet Postage system] is very broad, " Raymond Boggs, who directs small business and home office research at market research firm International Data Corporation, said in a statement. "By aiming at 'Internet intensive' prospects, StampMaster is looking to hit the heart of the potential market."

StampMaster said it hopes to create a wide range of partnerships, including integrating its services into Web portals.

"It's exciting that StampMaster Internet Postage will deliver the benefits of low cost and 'stay-in-your-chair' convenience to millions of small office and home office users," John Payne, StampMaster's president and CEO, said in a statement. "But a tremendous future benefit will come to small and large businesses as StampMaster's Internet Postage is authorized by the USPS and becomes integrated right into the workflow."

Despite needing additional hardware, E-Stamp may come out ahead because of some heavy backing. Microsoft and AT&T each have a 10 percent stake in the company, according to E-Stamp.

Even Pitney Bowes, which dominates the market for postage meters in the physical world, last week announced it is moving to license its computer-based postage metering patents to vendors of digital mailing services.

Both E-Stamp and StampMaster have had some discussion with Pitney over Pitney's patents, said Pitney spokeswoman Sheryl Battles. But both the smaller privately held companies have indicated they will not need to license Pitney's patented technology.

Pitney said it is just a few weeks away from getting approval from the USPS to test its technology.