Royal Mail and MS plan US launch for RelayOne

The reasoning behind the Royal Mail's, 'RelayOne' joint venture with Microsoft became clearer this week, as details of plans to roll out the service across the US were revealed.

The RelayOne service is a modern day equivalent of the telegram - allowing visitors to the RelayOne Web site to email messages and then have them delivered in print form anywhere in the world. The service is believed to have great potential for businesses, who spend millions of pounds annually with courier companies.

Answering criticism that it could have launched the service without Microsoft's assistance, Royal Mail Consultant, Roger Renders, told ZDNet News, a strong US partner was needed to help roll out the service in the US. "Microsoft also bring software expertise - particularly in the area of encryption and browsers that the Royal Mail does not have."

The Royal Mail is also considering getting the US postal service involved through an arrangement with its US subsidiary, Royal Mail Inc. Renders could see benefits in involving the US postal service, though he did not believe that this was critical, as RelayOne could simply place a US stamp on email to print messages and let them go through the normal delivery channels.

Renders also refuted criticism that encrypted email maybe more secure than email to print for certain types of commercial documents, as at no stage is encrypted email printed, and therefore liable to be seen by anyone other than the recipient. "There is a tradition of respect for the privacy of correspondence at The Royal mail that dates back hundreds of years. Employees are also required to sign the Official Secrets Act," he said.

Later versions of RelayOne will include the option to have email to print messages delivered as greeting cards - "we hope to have at least six Christmas cards ready for December", and the facility to place digital photographs into a message. Further down the line, RelayOne may also offer a translation service, so you can type your email in English and have it delivered in printed form in any language anywhere in the world.