SAN FRANCISCO-Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion (maker of BlackBerry connected devices), FedEx Office and Hilton Worldwide joined forces April 21 to kick-start a new cloud-based service for mobile printing, long a nagging problem for many traveling businesspeople.
As a result of this new initiative, BlackBerry users now can search for the closest connected printer wherever it may be, use the HP cloud service on a secure network to access it, and then make the printout.
Here’s a scenario most businesspeople have faced at one time or another: You’re in an airport, restaurant, cab or some other location away from print services, and you suddenly realize you need to print out a contract or other legal document to physically hand to somebody.
E-mail-especially involving legal, financial or other sensitive documents-doesn’t hack it in this situation.
In view of the fact that most people don’t carry portable printers, getting a paper copy in this situation usually doesn’t happen. But using the new cloud-based system from HP called ePrint Enterprise, a person using a BlackBerry can search for the nearest connected printer-wherever it may be located-enter a security code, go to the printer and obtain the printout on demand in a matter of minutes.
HP and its partners in this new endeavor-RIM, FedEx Office and Hilton Worldwide-are building this new ecosystem.
If the user is anywhere near a Hilton hotel or any of its affiliates (which include the Conrad Hotels, Waldorfs, Doubletrees, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inns and Homewood Suites), or near one of the 1,800 FedEx Office retail locations in the world, that print can be made immediately.
By the end of the year, all of the Hilton properties (about 500 already are set up) and most of the FedEx Office locations will be connected for this kind of mobile printing.
Business Takes PlaceEverywhere
“It’s simply a matter of being where business takes place, and it takes place everywhere,” Victor Garcia, CTO for HP’s Canadian operation, told eWEEK.
“The vision is for there to be printers available for this service within 1 mile of where anybody is located, at any given time. And they don’t have to be HP printers, either.”
All the mobile print services will be handled through HP’s own cloud-service data centers, Jeff Bane, HP vice president of Worldwide MPS Service Delivery, told eWEEK.
“It’ll be a combination, actually. Some of the service [and data storage] will be handled in our own data centers, and some will be handled on site [at the user’s location],” Bane said. The new cloud printing services can be customized to dovetail with existing IT systems, he said.
Since all connected printers already have an IP address, HP has been slowly building its own ecosystem of printers for about 15 years and intends to expose as many of the publicly available printers as possible to the new ePrint system.
The Vision: Printers Everywhere
The company envisions these connected printers to be set up and made available 24/7 in specially built kiosks in addition to hotels, airports, government buildings, Internet cafes, schools and numerous other locations.
ePrint Enterprise is only one part of HP’s Enterprise Production Print Solutions. This is a suite of options that provide enterprises with several onsite, offsite and near-site production print capabilities.
These are HP Onsite Copy/Print and Mailroom Services, which enable comprehensive day-to-day operations management; HP Enterprise Services Document Processing Services, which specialize in digitizing, storing, archiving and retrieving documents-and include high-volume print and mail services; and HP Virtual Print Center, a turnkey HP portal available with MPS contracts, which enables users to produce, manage and distribute printed materials on demand.
Bruce Dahlgren, HP’s senior vice president of Managed Enterprise Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group, reminisced a bit about the way document processing used to be, putting these new cloud-based services into fresh perspective.
“Twenty years ago, we all used transparencies for presentations,” Dahlgren said. “We all had to check our mailboxes and wait for information to come to us, so we could do something with it. Then, when we did get something important, we had to go and copy it and send it out to those who needed to see it.
“We had to add scanners and fax machines and all kinds of other stuff. Now that everything’s digital, look at all the electricity we’re saving and how we’re shrinking our carbon footprints. It’s all good from that perspective.”
However, despite all the cutbacks in office equipment that the future holds, HP will still be making money in another department: data storage.
“We may not be selling fax machines and scanners as much anymore, but people still have to store all their data, and we’re seeing huge gains in that sector,” Dahlgren said.
For more information on the new HP MPS Smart Decision Suite, go here.