Why Your Next Printer Will Have an Email Address

HP (s hpq) 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 (s goog) 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: 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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