Forthcoming Hewlett-Packard printers that are priced at more than US$99 will let users print remotely using mobile phones and other wireless devices, without needing a traditional PC, the company announced on Monday.
By next year, more printing will be done from the Web than traditional PC-based word processing programs, a trend that has pushed HP toward developing Web-friendly printing services, said Vyomesh Joshi, head of the HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), during a press event in New York.
HP's Inkjet and Laserjet lines along with other consumer and enterprise-level printers will have the capability, called ePrint, to print from Web-connected devices. Joshi said customers would not pay a "premium" for ePrint.
Each printer with the ePrint capability will be assigned its own e-mail address. If someone wants to print a document from an iPhone, the document will go to HP's data center, where it is rendered into the correct format, and then sent to the person's printer. The process takes about 25 seconds.
The advantage for consumers is that the process does not involve a PC. No drivers have to be installed, Joshi said. The ePrint feature works with mobile devices from Apple, such as the iPad and iPhone, plus Palm, Android and Microsoft smartphone platforms. HP's technology holds a special advantage for iPad users since the device does not have native printing capabilities.
HP envisions scenarios where consumers send photos directly to a printing shop or use their printers -- some of which have scanning capabilities -- to scan documents and load them into Web-based productivity suites such as Google Docs. Those documents could then be accessed and printed by someone else using an HP printer's touchscreen interface.
The printers will also be able to support third-party applications. Live Nation, for example, will have a customized application to print items such as concert tickets and logistical information.
Google is also interested in Web-based printing and is working on Cloud Print, expected to be released by the third quarter. The feature will be designed to offer printer dialog interfaces for Web applications that let users send content directly to a printer over the Internet.
That is particularly important for Google, as it plans a third-quarter release for its Chrome OS, a browser-based operating system that will heavily rely on Web services.
"We want to make it easy for developers to add print capabilities to applications with just a few lines of code," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management for Chrome who spoke at the HP event.
For example, a PDF (Portable Document Format) file could be opened in a Web-based viewer such as Google Docs, which would have a printer dialog box embedded. The document could then be sent to a remote HP ePrint printer via its e-mail address.
HP is also pushing a service called Scheduled Delivery, where people can set up a daily feed of content that will be printed at a regular time, such as news content from msnbc.com or kids' activities from Disney.