HP Touts Next Generation of Web Printing

HP has unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its suite of consumer and business printers, announcing plans to redesign nearly its entire line with new cloud capabilities that will let people initiate a print job remotely simply by sending an email.

For HP (NYSE: HPQ), which introduced its first Internet-aware printer last year, the move extends to printers the same fundamental shift that has been reshaping the IT landscape as more and more facets of computing move to the cloud.

“What we believe is [whereas in] the old world where you had a PC and a printer and a driver, the new world is all about the Web-connected devices,” Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, said Monday morning at an event in New York. “It’s all about how can I create that content and print anywhere, anytime.”

The company is planning to include the ePrint capability in all of its printers priced at $99 and above, ranging from low-end consumer models to its top-shelf LaserJet units geared for small businesses and enterprises.

“What we want to do is make the cloud-aware capability as part of our core consumer and business printing,” Joshi said.

HP began dropping hints about a major new push into Internet-connected printers earlier this year, and is launching the initiative with several partners across the industry. At the top of that list is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which is powering the initiative with its new Cloud Print service, and is syncing its Docs, photo and calendaring applications with HP’s printer portfolio.

A host of other content companies have also signed on for HP’s ePrint launch with apps geared for the new cloud printers. Publishers such as Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and MSNBC have developed apps for printing daily news digests, and Facebook and Google’s Picasa have developed photo-printing apps.

HP is expecting hundreds of ePrint applications to hit the market by the end of the year in what it envisions as a sort of print app store hosted at the ePrintCenter, an online hub that will also let people monitor the status of remote printers.

For consumers, the new service offers applications ranging from printer-friendly versions of online maps to content geared for kids from entertainment firms such as Disney and DreamWorks.

On the business side, HP is talking up the ePrintCenter as a marketing opportunity, inviting businesses to develop coupon apps and other promotions. The company is also partnering with Yahoo in a pilot program to tailor ads to the content that people access through the ePrintCenter.

HP has developed an iPrint Photo app for Android smartphones, rounding out its support for remote printing from the major wireless environments. HP had already developed applications for printing wirelessly from Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and iPad, as well as devices powered by the Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems.

The new printers HP is developing are assigned a unique email address that will be used to initiate remote print jobs from any device connected to the Internet without having to install a driver.

“If you can email it, you can print it,” Joshi said.

HP officials said that the addresses will be “obscured” and the system will entail password protections and other safeguards to prevent spamming and other unauthorized uses.

The company is also offering a scheduled delivery service, enabling users to automatically send out print jobs on a daily or weekly basis.

In addition to Web content, HP’s service will let people remotely print conventional documents, such as Microsoft Office files and Adobe PDFs and JPEG images.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at Internetnews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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