14 Comments

Summary:

Printing to a remote device from a handset or laptop can be a challenge if you can’t locate a web-connected printer. As is often the case, the simplest solution the best and HP thinks it has it — new printers with dedicated, simple email addresses.

HP has unveiled four new web-connected printers that leverage the company’s new ePrint service, a remote printing solution also debuting today. Each ePrint device comes with a “unique, simple email address” — sending a document or image to the printer’s email address will create a physical printed page. Starting at $99, the ePrint devices also connect with Google’s web offerings as customers can remotely send printouts directly from Google Docs, Picasa and Calendar services.

Using an email address to identify a remote printer makes perfect sense on a number of levels. Email use is fairly ubiquitous these days, with north of 800 million users, according to tech analyst Mary Meeker. It’s true that there are more social networking users than email users, but do you really want to come up with a Twitter name for your printer? Trying to assign a unique IP address to every printer is another option, but fails on two accounts. First, with more than 465 million in use, we’re running out of addresses; and second, and it’s not so easy to remember an IP address, which looks like this: 192.168.0.1. Another option would be to use the printer’s Media Access Control address — every network connected device has one — but unless you’re fluent in hexadecimal numbers, that’s even more difficult to remember and use.

It’s interesting that HP’s new ePrint solution has ties to Google cloud services, considering that Google has recently announced it’s own cloud-based printing effort. But the Google Cloud Print solution — see our early analysis as we cut through the fog — is a platform for developers and device makers to use with Google’s Chrome OS. With ePrint, HP isn’t waiting to see if Chrome OS gains widespread adoption when it arrives later this year, although it wouldn’t surprise me if Google Cloud Print eventually moves beyond Chrome OS. We should hear more about print options through the clouds at our Structure event later this month and glean some clarity on where this is heading.

By leveraging a common, simple method of digital communications, HP stands a good chance to bring mobile printing to the masses just as people embrace and adopt smartphones and other other web-connected devices. One in two U.S. consumers are expected to have a smartphone by the end of next year and they’ll all want to “ePrint” something at some time, be it for an airline boarding pass, directions or the latest dinner recipe.

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  1. Its either a brilliant idea or a dud. HP needs to focus on the phone market.

  2. Conquistador Monday, June 7, 2010

    Spammers will have a field day with this.

    1. I tweeted something that effect this morning, thinking that spammers could have unwanted pages printed on my web-connected printer. I’ll dig for details to see how HP’s ePrint will manage this. Perhaps there’s a white-list of email recipients to help manage access at the printer level?

      1. Since it may be easy to spoof the email id, I guess one way to control spam is to use webfinger and OpenID to authenticate the requester.

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  4. Brian McConnell Monday, June 7, 2010

    File under “such a simple and useful idea it should have been done years ago”. No need to worry about spam if it is password protected. Just email a PDF to your printer. Brilliant.

    It’s a good idea even in the office. Just last week I spent way more time than needed trying to figure out how to print something to a friend’s wifi printer.

  5. This sounds like a reboot of HP’s Printing Mailbox from a few years back. The product never really took off then and I’m not so sure now.

    Personally I think the trend is to less printing. We’re getting all these portable devices that can display beautiful images. Apple’s iPhone 4 and the iPad are just two examples. Plus we now have all these places in the cloud to access our documents and share them whenever we like.

    Of course, HP has every incentive to push printing: they literally print money with their ink.

  6. Mike Sullivan Monday, June 7, 2010

    This will absolutely result in spam printing, just as there is spam faxing. Arguably the laws prohibiting spam faxing will apply to this, but who knows whether that will prevent spammers?

  7. there is an easier solution. just get a usb to ethernet cable (15 bucks) and plug that thing into your wireless router. everything is automagically configured. okay you might have to turn on print sharing but that isn’t hard. this is the solution offices have used for a long time.

    the office i work in has a copier with an email address. it it about 5 years old. i think the only document ever printed by email was the test print during setup. it’s an awesome idea in theory but if you think about it…when was the last time you wanted a hard copy of something that you didn’t immediately fetch off the printer?

    it might be cool to print a page from the other side of the country but i doubt you wiil do it more than once.

  8. I am trying to understand if HP Cloud is essentiually a Big SaaS supporting various file formats[Docx, XLS, etc] that can be printed ? Its a good idea, but we would want Drivers to Install and print from Cutstom Desktop Apps.

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