HP on Monday introduced the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web, believed to be the world's first Web-connected printer with a touch screen. I had a chance to get an exclusive look at the new device, and I'm really impressed with HP's effort to reinvigorate the printer as the central hub in the digital home.
The Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web is poised to become HP's flagship printer when it's released in September. It's got all the common features we now expect to find in an HP Photosmart All-in-One, including printer/fax/copier/scanner, USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Ethernet, Bluetooth connectivity, HP's paper feed technology that automatically senses the size of media needed to a complete a job, five individual ink cartridges, and the ability to print screenshots directly from a PlayStation 3.
The real crowning feature, however, is the TouchSmart Web control panel that lets users connect to the Web and use custom apps from services like Fandango, Google, and Coupons Inc.
The massive 4.33-inch LCD touch screen is by far the largest display I've ever seen on a printer, and it's not just for looks--it actually has a purpose. HP has partnered with a wide variety of online services to give you an incredibly easy way to print out maps, coupons, movie tickets, recipes, calendars, and much more. The rep at the HP event demoed a custom app from Fandango, and it looked fairly foolproof: just enter your user name onto the Web app using the virtual keyboard, decide on a theater/movie/time, hit "print," and you're all set to go. All the initial setup including credit card security (a big issue for HP) is handled through the site itself, and HP claims all the kinks should be worked out prior to the printer's release.
Other partners already signed on to the project include Snapfish, Google Maps, Fandango, Google (maps, mail, calendars, to-do lists, contact lists, etc.), DreamWorks (coloring pages for the kids), Coupons Inc., Weather News, Disney, Sudoku, and Nickelodeon, to name a few.
There's also a "get more" button on the screen that brings you to HP's Web store--home to future apps, I assume; my helpful tour guide even mentioned the release of an SDK that would let developers create their own customized apps for the printer based on their own usage model...pending HP's approval, of course.
The whole TouchSmart series is pervasive across many HP platforms, including desktops, televisions, and now printers, with the central idea being the ability to access your information intuitively, quickly, and efficiently. Thankfully, the TouchSmart Web service is entirely free with no service fees, although the printer itself is set at a retail price of $400. Sounds steep right now, but if developers start rolling out custom apps, this could be the device to breathe new life into the otherwise flaccid printer game.
Stay tuned for more details and a full review.