HP's ePrint initiative: Color me conflicted on cloud printing

Summary:HP's ePrint effort is powerful and makes a lot of business sense. The challenge for HP: Encouraging you to print more.

Hewlett-Packard has launched a broad initiative to allow you to print from any device---your Apple iPad or iPhone, your BlackBerry, your Android phone and any other mobile gadget. The effort, dubbed HP ePrint, is powerful and makes a lot of business sense. The challenge for HP: Encouraging you to print more.

HP's ePrint goes like this (statement):

  • You can send anything you want to print to from a mobile device to a Web-enabled printer.
  • You can schedule printing as needed. You could print your own newspaper really by timing the latest stories from the New York Times, Reuters and ESPN.
  • Every HP printer will have an email address and when connected to a mobile app your print jobs can go everywhere.
  • E-print will work with Google Docs and a bevy of partners are planning apps.
  • Web connected printers will be the norm in the HP portfolio.
  • HP will have an online hub to configure devices, track jobs and download apps.

It all sounds swell, but I'm conflicted about the service and somewhat skeptical. Here are the moving parts to ponder:

  • The technologist in me applauds HP for rethinking printing. Cloud aware printing ditches the drivers and could be quite handy.
  • The businessman in me thinks HP is on the right track because it may be able to sell more printers---and therefore ink. Meanwhile, the cloud printing effort is a nice way to futureproof one of HP's cash cows. HP is showing us the future of printing with the old business model---sell those supplies baby!
  • The skeptic in me knows those business implications and can't help but think HP is just trying to get me to print more and therefore buy more ink. Frankly, I'm tired of buying ink.
  • The curmudgeon in me really likes my printers dumb. For all the pizzazz of the HP announcement I have never had the urge to print from my smartphone and don't see myself running out to buy a cloud-enabled replacement printer.

If I were to print this missive out from my smartphone it would be called "conflicted about cloud printing. I don't think I'm alone so I'm going to be very interested in how these conflicts are sorted out going forward. For HP, the move is a no-brainer, but I wonder if folks will really print more. Your mobile device has basically become your photo album. You don't show prints of photos you hand them your phone and swipe. Photo printing in my house is just rare these days. Today, you may print one photo out of 300. Not so long ago you'd print out 300 photos just to figure out the one you liked.

Documents have become a similar story. Printing is still important and you have to hand it to HP for thinking ahead. However, there are still challenges ahead. Thoughts on e-Print?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Banking, Data Management, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Printers, Software

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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