HP Rolls Out Web-Enabled Printers


A line-up of 10 new HP printers can be used from the web or from smartphones such as the iPhone

Hewlett-Packard is looking to reinvigourate its line of printers by rolling out 10 new devices that allow users to print documents from the web or their smartphones. HP is also partnering with Apple and Yahoo to provide new functionality for the company’s printer line.

At a 20 September event in New York City, Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, introduced 10 new printers, which include new additions to the company’s Photosmart, Officejet, LaserJet and Designjet lines. Each year, Joshi said, about 200 billion pages of analog content are converted to digital. In addition, about 85 percent of smartphone owners now want to print from their devices, he said.

“You have all this content and you want to share and print this content and you want to be able to print it anywhere at any time,” Joshi said.

Business opportunity

This explosion of content and the desire to access content from anywhere drove HP to offer business users and consumers more functionality in printers, he said. This trend is essentially turning what had been stand-alone machines into multifunction devices that are hooked into the web and work more like a PC or smart mobile device than a traditional printer.

In addition, these types of printers allow HP to bring elements of cloud computing to one of the company’s more lucrative businesses. On 19 August, HP reported that its Imaging and Printing Group’s revenue for the third fiscal quarter of 2010 increased 9 percent year over year to $6.2 billion (£4bn).

This type of web-based printing technology and focus on the cloud also paves the way for HP to offer IT and managed services to larger enterprise customers, since the company can not only manage the data inside the data centre but print and publish the data as well. In addition, in this field HP is beginning to face competition from the likes of Xerox.

While the event focused on HP’s four main printer customers types – consumers, small businesses, the enterprise, and graphics and publishing – the company’s innovation on its line of printers for the home stood out.

For example, HP rolled out its HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One printer that includes web capabilities and access to a number of different Yahoo apps, including Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Search and Yahoo Messenger. After the show it was reported that the machine has a tabletlike feature that runs a version of Google’s Android operating system. HP has also worked on creating a larger display, and this eStation printer comes with a 7-inch screen compared with the original 4.3-inch screen.

HP is also working with a number of airlines, Delta Air Lines being the first, to include applications that allow quick and easy printing of boarding passes.

The HP Photosmart eStation will be for sale later in 2010 for $399.

iPad, iPhone link

However, what should have been the biggest announcement at the event actually came out the previous week, when Apple released the beta version of its iOS 4.2, which allows iPad and iPhone users to print from their devices. HP and Apple worked together to create this new type of wireless printing functionality.

One interesting feature of Apple’s AirPrinting is that it does not require drivers, so users do not have to download the latest driver in order to print. In addition, Apple has opened up the API to developers to allow them to build print functionality into their applications.

While the partnerships with Apple and Yahoo are noteworthy, HP has been experimenting with cloud-based printing technology for some time. Earlier in 2010, HP announced an agreement with Research In Motion to allow BlackBerry users to print documents to designated HP printers.

These types of web-based printers are only the beginning, and soon HP plans to build machines that use webOS, which HP inherited when it acquired Palm earlier in 2010. While HP executives hinted about these devices, they declined to comment on any specifics.

Google Docs access

For small and midsize businesses, HP is also offering a number of these new web-enabled printers, several of which include access to Google Docs, allowing business owners to print documents straight from the machine instead of the PC.

In addition, HP is working with QuickBooks maker Intuit to allow users to scan documents into an all-in-one machine and upload the information to the Internet without using a PC.

These various HP all-in-one machines and other printers for SMBs cost between $99 and $499.

For enterprises, HP is offering a number of new services for large businesses with much bigger printing costs. In addition to the earlier BlackBerry service, there are new security services, including one that scrubs all the data off the new web-based printers when companies choose to discard them. HP is also working to make the user interface of all these web printers the same for enterprises.

Finally, HP is addressing the needs of very specific customers, including graphic designers, architects and engineers. At the event, HP showed off the massive Designjet T2300 eMultifunction Printer, a web-based machine that allows architects to scan and email designs across the web without having to convert the plans into PDF files.

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