As the world goes mobile, being tied to your printer is starting to make less and less sense — and cloud printing is becoming the sensible alternative. Google Cloud Print (s:goog) is one good system, but it requires Chrome and is really a replacement for the user’s personal print network, and that doesn’t make sense for everybody.
Enter Ezeep, a Berlin startup that’s been in stealth mode. The company provides a technically similar service to Google Cloud Print – both basically abstract the printer drivers off to the cloud – but its system is aimed at organizations like hotels that may want to charge for printing. For them, Ezeep is promising to take a lot of hassle off their hands.
“We’re working on changing printing. We want to change the whole industry and the user experience,” Ezeep co-founder Sascha Kellert tells GigaOM. “People are frustrated with printing, and it costs companies a lot of money. We have an infrastructure that moves most of the things that are currently done locally into the cloud.”
The managed service’s first clients are indeed hotels, but Kellert won’t say which ones.
The system means guests no longer have to take their documents to the hotel staff by USB stick or email for printing. Instead, using Ezeep’s subscription-based system, the hotel provides the guest with an online portal that includes a per-page billing mechanism. The guest uploads their document and it gets printed through the hotel’s connected printer, for collection later.
Ezeep also has apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS. These are mainly intended to find nearby printers and send them documents stored on the mobile device, but it is also theoretically possible to use them as an intercontinental fax replacement.
There’s even a neat feature for sensitive documents that lets the guest set up a print job, then manually trigger on their phone when they’re standing in front of the printer.
The company has “several partnerships in the pipeline which are quite big”, and the first full version of the product will come out “soon”, says Kellert. Details of pricing are vague right now, but there is money behind the venture. Ezeep quietly closed a funding round last October that brought in €500,000 ($662,000) from the likes of HTGF, which also funded 6wunderkinder, and serial entrepreneur Thomas Madsen-Mygdal.
It’s not as if there aren’t cloud printing companies already targeting this space, though.
Setting aside brand-specific manufacturer initiatives like HP’s, PrinterOn provides an interesting point of comparison, since it offers mobile and desktop cloud printing to customers including, yes, hotels.
However, on the desktop side – where people tend to store their documents – PrinterOn’s service involves emailing the document to a special address or installing a driver. And while PrinterOn’s service is secure, that is only because it involves sending a release code back to the user which they then have to approve.
Ezeep’s system, on the other hand, just involves uploading the document to the cloud. “Again, keeping it simple,” Kellert says.
In the long term, Ezeep wants to seek partnerships with hardware manufacturers so the company can provide physical kit as part of its managed service. “But we’re not seeing that much demand right now as most people have printers already,” Kellert points out.
And in the meantime, attendees of trade shows such as next week’s LAUNCH in San Francisco will get to see Ezeep-sponsored conference printers that offer a demonstration of the service. Even mobile-centric businesspeople still need a little dead tree sometimes, and Ezeep hopes that its system fits the bill.