HP has unveiled its latest range of printers in Hong Kong which now enable you to print from anywhere in the world. Its printer line-up starts at AU$129 and each one comes with its own email address. We check out the flashy launch and ask the tricky questions.
Alex Kidman travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of HP.
It's easy enough to think of printing as a supplementary and often rather boring technology. HP's latest swing to engage with the customer involves what it's calling the ePrint platform. All of its printers above US$99 (AU$129) from now on will come with their own email address, enabling printing from devices like smartphones and iPads without the need for drivers, configuration or even being on the same side of the planet.
The other intriguing side of the new platform are applications. HP has offered apps on a model previously sold in the US. Surprisingly, the most popular printing app wasn't email, calendars or even Sudoku, but content from Nickelodeon.
The explosive growth in mobile internet users is HP's impetus to launch a web-enabled printer. HP's senior VP of Imaging & Printing, John Solomon, claimed in the keynote address that more than half of the world's mobile internet users were in the Asia Pacific region and it's the fastest growing part of the world for new internet users, too.
This isn't HP's first printer with in-built applications. In fact, HP has learned what its US customers actually used the apps for, which informed the development of second-generation applications.
HP's ePrinting solution is entirely cloud-centric, based not surprisingly on the company's own networking technologies, whether you're emailing a document or grabbing content from one of its partner companies.
From now on, every HP printer worth more than US$99 will be ePrint enabled. The first model we'll see in Australia will be the Photosmart Wireless eAll-In-One, which will be available from 1 July for AU$129. According to HP representatives, while the features of the printers in the range will vary depending on the price point, all the applications should be universal, so something that works on an expensive printer should also work on a cheap one.
HP demonstrates printing from a Palm Pre. We're sure the fact that HP's purchase of Palm has nothing to do whatsoever with its choice of smartphone.
And, as if to prove it, an iPad is brought out to print from. Not everything can be printed — you'd need an application that supports emailing out its files in formats that the ePrint service can understand. The thought does strike us that you could always grab a screenshot of an iPad screen and print pretty much anything that way, at least in theory.
"No PC required" is HP's marketing pitch for the new printer line. It's a slight fudge, we discover later, as all print queue management is done from a web browser — you can't cancel print jobs from the printer body itself, at which point we'd pretty naturally head for the nearest PC anyway.
DreamWorks Jeffrey Katzenberg joins the launch to promote HP's upcoming movies and the DreamWorks app for the printers, which allows users to download fun paper-based activities based on the company's properties such as
Glittering printers emerge at HP's Hong Kong printer launch. We're informed that they shouldn't emit this much smoke in operation, although our hands-on time later in the day wasn't without its quirks.
Executive VP, HP Imaging and Printing group, Vyomesh Joshi and senior VP, Imaging & Printing Group, John Solomon show off the new printer range. We're not sure what the difference between an executive VP and a senior VP is, although we're pretty sure they're not often called in to be printer display models.
Each printer will have its own email address, although it'll be a long and possibly incomprehensible string of characters to cut down on printer spam. According to HP's Stephen Nigro, senior VP of Inkjet and Web Solutions Business, "We have three layers of protection. First off, your email address is long and a random set of characters and numbers. That makes it difficult to replicate. The second layer is at the ePrint web centre, where you can set security whitelists or blacklists. The third level involves HP's in-built spam filtering on the service."
The interfaces vary from printer to printer, but touchscreens abound.
There's only so much you can do to make a printer look better, but we'll give HP points for trying with the patterned effect on the top of this printer.
HP will act as a gatekeeper for app development, but won't be drawn on whether certain types of application will or won't be allowed. No matter how many times we ask Stephen Nigro (pictured) the question, he remains resolutely steadfast, saying nothing.
HP held the launch at the famous Shaw Studios in Hong Kong. Sadly, we couldn't sneak onto the set of a Hong Kong Kung-Fu thriller, and had to settle for watching the paint peel off these discarded wooden props outside instead.
Later in the day, we got some hands-on time with a selection of preloaded apps. One of those icons looks very familiar indeed...
The sample Web Sudoku app draws down a number puzzles from the web and presents you with printed puzzles to perplex the mind. Especially if you choose the "Evil" setting. Note also that like all touchscreens, it's an absolute fingerprint magnet.
Give a product to a group of hardened product testing journalists, and it isn't long before the cracks show. Testing only our second application, we encounter a hopefully rare crash that also takes the app down with it.
One of these things is a fully functioning model. The other one is a printer.