HP announced a new breed of printers with new ePrint technology. The Web-connected printers are designed to work with cloud-based content, and print documents via e-mail -- freeing the printer from relying on a PC or other appliance.
According to an HP press release, "Every HP ePrint printer will have a unique simple e-mail address that allows the sender to deliver a print the same way they would send an e-mail message. Customers also can send documents to print through an HP ePrint mobile app on their smartphone device to a home, office or public print location such as a hotel or FedEx Office store. Customers will be able to send Microsoft Office documents, Adobe PDFs and JPEG image files, among others."
Smartphones and tablet PCs are tremendous tools enabling users to remain productive on the go, and allowing business professionals to conduct business anytime and anywhere. Each of these mobile form factors delivers much of the same productivity and functionality of larger notebooks or even desktop PCs, as long as you don't need to print.
These miniature computing devices lack both the physical ports for connecting a printer, as well as the drivers necessary to take the digital document and render it with ink or laser onto paper. The productivity gains of creating content -- or editing existing content -- using a smartphone or tablet PC can be eroded quickly by the hassle of trying to get the content out of the device and onto paper.
The simplest and probably most-used workaround for the lack of printing ability is to e-mail the file to a PC that is connected to a printer. You can e-mail yourself a doc from your iPhone, or send a spreadsheet created in Numbers for iPad to a client if you are at a customer site and need a hard copy in a pinch. HP is simply taking this approach to the next logical step by developing a system that cuts out the middleman and lets you just send the e-mail straight to the printer.
To be fair, there are third-party apps that facilitate printing from devices like the iPhone and iPad, as well as some more "innovative" solutions. Apps such as PrintCentral for iPad, ActivePrint, or Print Magic HD are just a few examples of the many available in the App Store. However, many of the solutions are convoluted and have poor, or mixed reviews -- and they still require some proxy device to play middleman in relaying the file to the printer.
"We are once again revolutionizing printing to make Web-empowered, cloud-enabled printing the new industry standard," said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president, Imaging and Printing Group for HP in the press release. "We know that our customers want an easy way to print their content, anywhere, anytime. We're making that a reality today by giving people the power to print from any Web-connected device -- smartphones, iPads, netbooks and more -- to any printer in our portfolio above $99. The world has changed."
Beyond e-mail, the new line of printers will also allow printing directly from the cloud. HP revealed that later this year there will be new tools to enable business customers to print directly from cloud-based services, such as: "Google Docs for easy document scanning to the Web for printing at a later time; Box.net to scan, share, manage and access business content online; Portfolio.com and Reuters for the latest news articles; Daily Brief for business essentials in one place including calendar, to-do list and news from American City Business Journals; and DocStoc and Biztree for immediate access to business forms such as invoices, contracts, receipts, legal agreements and checklists."
The initial models of the new printer line will range from $99 to $299 with the first model available sometime later this month.