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Printer in your pocket? HP's got it

A new technology allows business travelers to send documents from a wireless device to a networked printer. HP, RIM and SonyEricsson team up.

LAS VEGAS--Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday unveiled software that allows wireless devices to print documents such as e-mails or e-mail attachments.

Geared for businesses, the "mobile printing" technology was developed with BlackBerry pager maker Research In Motion and cell phone company SonyEricsson.

HP Vice President Vyometh Joshi unveiled the technology, now available, to executives during a keynote address at the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless I.T. and Internet 2002 trade show here.

The new software allows mobile devices to print e-mails or e-mail attachments, such as PDF files or Word documents, from a printer connected to a corporate network. Hotels that cater to business travelers, such as Hyatt Hotels, plan to use the technology on a trial basis, Joshi said.

SonyEricsson plans to add the printing capability to its phones, yet SonyEricsson Vice President Philip Vanhoutte didn't have a time frame for the service's introduction.

Wireless devices now offer a range of functions, including acting as a camera or offering Web surfing capabilities. Printing was a logital next step, Joshi said.

"It was something our customers wanted. It's that simple," he said.

Yet kinks in the technology are still being worked out. Jupiter Research analyst Dylan Brooks said a California hospital tested the software as a way for doctors to update a patient's medical records or fill out a prescription bedside. Most doctors, however, abandoned the technology for the traditional paper and pen, Brooks said.

Mobile printing had a more successful trial with city of Toronto health inspectors, who were able to shave two weeks off the time it typically takes to issue restaurant health certificate by printing them on the spot, an HP representative said.

The technology includes software for handheld devices and software for a corporate network. The network software is responsible for collecting documents to be printed, and directing them to the proper printer.

HP and RIM plan to sell the network technology directly to businesses. The handheld software will be available as a Web download in December for free.

The corporate license costs $35 per user, per year to outfit 100 or fewer employees. The price drops to $18 per user, per year for more than 100 users, up to 1,000, HP said.

RIM BlackBerry devices and devices using the Pocket PC 2002 operating system can now use the mobile printing technology. HP is also working with PalmSource to make the technology available for handhelds based on the Palm operating system, HP said.