Mobile Printing via BlackBerry Devices
By Jeff Goldman
HP's new ePrint solution for BlackBerry devices enables BlackBerry users to print directly from their smartphones to printers either on their own network or at ePrint locations supported by PrinterOn. The new offering joins similar solutions already on the market such as BreezyPrint and Cortado, as well as soon-to-be-released applications from a wide range of other providers, including Google.
The basic concept behind all of these offerings, according to ABI Research senior analyst Michael Morgan, is both simple and compelling. "Any printer nearby is now your printer," he says. "So now you don't have to worry, am I carrying the proper file, do I have my thumb drive with me... you just need a printer and a cell phone and connectivity, and it's game on - you can print wherever you want."
The most obvious requirement for a solution like this, Morgan says, comes from any last-minute need to print a document while away from the office. "We've all forgotten to print something every once in a while, and highly mobile people are never by their own printer... and the one thing that always seems to be with you is your cell phone," he says.
Analysys Mason principal analyst Steve Hilton isn't buying it -- particularly as environmental concerns motivate users to minimize printing. "The printing that happens now is... if you're an ad agency and you're pitching a deal and you need to print out some high quality graphics for the campaign you're working on -- and I cannot imagine that you'd be doing it on some random HP printer," he says.
Still, IDC research vice president Stephen Drake says it's a logical way for a company like HP to try to keep interest in printing alive. "They want to make it easy for you to print on devices, and increasingly smartphones are becoming the device of choice," he says. "They're growing at tremendous rates -- and if every laptop and desktop can print, why not extend that to smartphones?"
Jim Cone, vice president of brand marketing for Hilton Garden Inn
, says that's a key consideration for his company's hotels, which have been using PrinterOn technology to enable guest printing for seven years now.
When the solution was first introduced, guests had to upload their documents to a web site, select the desired printer location, get an access code, then go to the hotel's business center and key in the access code in order to allow the document to be printed.
That access code, Cone says, is key to ensuring that the file is kept secure. "It's really important for the security of the guest, so that their document is not just spewing off of a printer in a business center -- it's waiting for that person to be standing at the printer and entering that access," he says.
The second evolution of the technology, Cone says, allowed users to email the file to be printed to an email address that was specific to each hotel's business center, rather than having to upload it to a web site. "For every hotel, we had a little card printed up that had that specific email address," he says.
With the new HP ePrint solution, Cone says, the entire experience is far more intuitive. While viewing an email on your BlackBerry, you can simply bring up a search box, search for printers by location, and then click on your nearest printer, with no uploading or emailing required. "It takes that very simple tool and simplifies it even one step further," he says.
Cone says there's a real need for this kind of functionality on BlackBerry devices. "I know anecdotally that a lot of our guests are using their smartphones and handheld PDAs to print remotely," he says.
"A lot of people are choosing not to travel with their laptops any more, because you can do so much on a PDA, especially on a BlackBerry," Cone says. "If I don't have to lug a laptop with me through security when I'm traveling, and I don't need to have that laptop with me, I'm not going to do it."
Similarly, at North Carolina's Fayetteville State University
, director of systems and infrastructure Joseph Vittorelli has been using Cortado's printing solution for a year a half. "When I saw Cortado, it made perfect sense, because I can be anywhere, print anything from my BlackBerry -- and pick it up at any printer on campus without having to scroll through 200 print queues to find a printer that's close by," he says.
And that's true off campus as well. "I can go home and not have to worry about taking a laptop home, or a briefcase full of papers: I can just print from my BlackBerry from my network drive when I get home," Vittorelli says.