In this age of mobile devices -- a fast-expanding array of smart phones, tablet computers and iPads, among others -- traditional printing methods that require both a PC and printer no longer work very well for many small businesses.
And the printers themselves haven't been all that smart. Most are not web-enabled. And those that are can't communicate with web-based applications. HP hopes to change all that. The tech giant is introducing a new category of web-enabled printing solutions that may change how you think about creating hard-copy documents of all kinds, or even what you choose to print. Basically, HP is launching a whole new "ePrint" platform that includes that will let you:
- Print from any email device to any new ePrint-enabled printer from anywhere in the world.
- Store documents or files through online services in the "cloud" and print direct when needed;
- Transform your printers into publishing platforms from which you can customize print apps and schedule timed delivery of content -- such as news business news, for example -- directly to your home or business printers;
- Manage and customize all of your business printing needs through a single online application.
HP's new line of "e-All-in-One" printers no longer need a PC (Mac, laptop, etc) to tell them what to do. These new devices are the first printers capable of talking directly to a variety of web-based applications where more and more small businesses now store and share documents, images, calendars, presentations and other items. Four different models range from $99 to $299 and they all let you access and print content from anywhere without a PC.
"We know that our customers want an easy way to print their content, anywhere, anytime. We're making that a reality today by giving people the power to print from any web-connected device -- smart phones, iPads, netbooks and more -- to any HP printer above $99," says Vyomesh Joshi, who heads the Printing Group at HP. "The world has changed."
HP's ePrint platform will also be supported by new dedicated print apps from Yahoo, Facebook, Reuters, DocStoc and others. Later this year, business customers can access print apps from services such as HP's Marketsplash for customized marketing materials such as brochures and flyers; Google Docs for easy document scanning to the web for printing at a later time; Box.net to scan, share, manage and access business content online; Portfolio.com and Reuters for news; Daily Brief for business essentials including calendar, to-do list and news from American City Business Journals; and DocStoc and Biztree for immediate access to business forms such as invoices, contracts, receipts, legal agreements and checklists
Applications will allow businesses to add customized messages to printed documents, including things like coupons and information on local services.
The new standard is this: If you can email it, you can print it. A traveling business owner, for example, could send a presentation from a Palm Pre or BlackBerry smart phone to print and pick up at a FedEx Office store.
Every HP ePrint printer comes with a unique simple email address that lets you deliver a printout the same way you'd send an email message. You also can send documents to print through an ePrint mobile app on your smart phone device to a home, office or public print location such as a hotel. This will include Microsoft Office documents, Adobe PDFs and JPEG image files, among others.
Another handy feature is the ability to schedule when and where you want your printed docs to appear. HP is also rolling out a new service called Scheduled Delivery that lets you choose content to be pushed to a printer at a designated time each day or week. For example, you could schedule a customized news feed from to arrive at 7 a.m. for pick up on your way out the door.
Simply register for the news or content feeds of your choice through the HP ePrintCenter and schedule the day, time and frequency of delivery.