By the end of the year, the post office willing, it may be possible to log into a Web site, buy postage and then have any laser printer run it out on envelopes along with an address.
At least two companies, postage meter behemoth Pitney Bowes, and tiny E-Stamp, are poised to do battle for the market as soon the U.S. Postal Service authorizes the plan.
E-Stamp Corp.’s system uses an adaptor about half the size of a pack of cigarettes. Customers could go to the E-Stamp Web site and, using secret codes, buy postage with a credit card. The amount would then be downloaded onto their computer.
The E-Stamp software would then integrate with the user’s word processing and printer programs so that with a simple click on a menu, a bar code would be printed on the upper right hand corner of an envelope.