HP puts its printers in the cloud

Web-enables printers and gives them an email address — so that you can print from anywhere, anytime, using any device. Say goodbye to stodgy device drivers and troublesome paper jams!

The way users access, create, store and consume content is changing. And the Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) at HP has kept a sharp eye on this transformation over the years.  The Group is now responding by introducing a new range of Web-enabled printers and managed printing services, for which it sees a USD 292 billion market opportunity by 2013. Currently, there is a market for three million units in India, and HP has 55 percent market share; it leads in the large format category with 90 percent market share.

Using internal studies the IPG identified four key trends: Firstly, there is a content explosion; digital content is growing 10-fold every year and the number of printable documents is increasing by a factor of 3x. Secondly, mobile devices like smart phones and tablets are becoming the preferred devices for accessing the Web; HP IPG predicts that by 2013, 26 billion incremental pages will be printed from mobile devices and 85 percent of smart phone users will want to print. Thirdly, content such as photos, newspapers, magazines, documents are moving from analog to digital; over 200 billion pages are moving to digital every year. And fourthly, the industry and consumers are moving from a device or hardware centric model to service-based business models. HP IPG predicts that the opportunity for managed printing services will grow from USD 18 bn in 2010 to USD 25 bn by 2010. Retailing publishing services will soar from USD 5 bn in 2010 to USD 12 bn by 2013.

In this scenario, workers and consumers would need to print from any device, at any location, on-demand. Responding to this transformation HP IPG believes the printer needs to be “Web-enabled” and “cloud-ware.”

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi on July 7, Vyomesh Joshi, Executive Vice-President, HP IPG said, “We decided that above a certain price point, every printer will be connected to the Web. It will be cloud-aware, and it will have an email address. So if I take a picture on my smart phone, I can send the picture to the email address of that printer, it goes to the cloud and gets printed.”

In a short demo Joshi printed documents on his smart phone and on Google Docs to a printer on stage, wirelessly, via the cloud. This was done in a few minutes via a service called ePrint. To do this one has first register their HP Web-enabled printer (support for ePrint) at the ePrint center (http://www.hp.com/go/eprint). The printer will then be assigned a unique email address. And to print documents one has to simply send it to the printer’s email address.

Speaking to me after the press conference, Neeraj Sharma, Vice-President, HP IPG India said, “We have been shipping printers with the ePrint function since the past one year.  These printers cost Rs 8,000 onwards. Apart from AirPrint [wireless printing from Apple devices] we’ve got ePrint even in enterprises. Wireless printing will complement printing from wired devices.”

When asked about the security aspects, Sharma said the ePrint Center (HP’s cloud printing service) allows you to define people who will be able to use your printer. Sharma also informed that much of the innovation on ePrint was done at HP’s R&D labs in India.

“We want to focus beyond the metros, in places where there is faster urbanization happening. We see a lot of potential for this service in the education sector in these (tier-2 and tier-3 cities),” said Sharma.

 Web Press

With media increasingly moving from analog to digital, HP IPG also wants to play an important role in the digital or Web press.

“Just like photos, we are transforming book publishing. The same thing will happen to magazines. Digital lets you print what you need and where you need,” said Joshi.

Joshi whipped out a novel titled Kate, which is a detailed account about the royal wedding in UK. He said a publisher in Paris produced 5,000 copies of the book in just four days.

The technology that enables this is HP Web Press, an enhanced version of its digital press that it introduced a few years ago.  The Web press can print 25 – 50 million pages a month; over one billion pages were printed on HP Web Press in 2010, informed Joshi.

Some publishers in India have evoked a keen interest in the Web Press, he said.
We believe that if there is indeed a market for this technology, the day is not far when we could get our customised newspapers and magazines, all with our favourite topics and articles!

The writer was hosted in New Delhi by HP-IPG India.