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The web-fuelled renaissance of imaging and printing

The imaging and printing industry has reached a tipping point. Today, we are not and we cannot just be about paper, ink and toner. We are and must be about innovation, about enhancing the lives of people using our printing technology, and the businesses they support, and about bridging the narrowing divide between the physical and the virtual world.

We understand the need for instant gratification, and we get it. We understand the need to be mobile, and we are. We understand the need to make your mark on the world, and we can. Every day you wake up, connect, learn, share, communicate, tell stories. And our devices let us do that now, more than ever.

We expect technology to fulfill all our desires – even the ones we didn’t know we had yet. We expect it to drive our businesses, to make our lives easier, to make us more efficient, productive and successful. To that end, HP’s Imaging and Printing Group is about creating technologies that enable us to do just that. That doesn’t just mean that we’re making printers faster, less expensive to run, improving quality and introducing new features – though we’re doing all of that too. It means we’re focused on innovating to fuel and leverage this rapidly growing online world and the ecosystem that supports it.

Our innovation engine has submitted over 14,000 patents since its inception and in the past three years most of these have been for software and services. This signifies a huge shift in what people and businesses are looking for and how we’re delivering it to them.

Our customers – whether it’s consumers or businesses – are looking to technology to simplify life’s complexities. So, we’re innovating by creating tools that take business productivity to a whole new level, that exemplify the future of the imaging and printing industry. Devices that use all the potential that web-based technologies have to offer: the cloud, wireless connectivity, remote access to name a few.

Content digitisation

More than 10 years ago, Bill Gates said that “content is king”. Well that’s true now more than ever. A fundamental part of running a business is about sharing information or content about your product or service to demonstrate what you do and what you can offer your customers. This sounds simple enough, but part of having our lives and businesses in a virtual world is the process of taking it there.

As such, “content digitisation” is a major focus for us. Bringing web-connectivity to printers has been one of the single biggest evolutions that the printing industry has seen in over 20 years. Today our customers have 10 million web-connected printers around the world and by 2012 this will be 15 million. This addresses the changing needs of our world – the capacity of which will be realised with HP’s suite of industry leading new technologies that leverage its potential.

If the internet is a busy information highway then we’re in the business of creating information “on-ramps” and “off-ramps”. Devices that take content from the physical world and transfer it online and devices that take online content and bring it back to the physical realm – all without turning on a PC.

How does this help businesses? Building in content digitisation into a business workflow not only reduces costs such as paper and consumable consumption but can improve productivity by streamlining the way a document flows through an organisation.  And, imagine a printer that can take a 3D image of an object and upload it online instantly. For the thousands and thousands of Australian small businesses who now have online stores, that means they can offer customers a 360-degree view of their products using one device and within minutes of it being delivered from their manufacturers.

That’s the reality of our latest innovation coming to Australia next year – the HP TopShot Scanner, which takes six quick photos of a 3D object and produces one, seamless, high-quality image for immediate use in printed materials or on the web.

All that the web has to offer

Web-connectivity has enabled HP to launch two major web-based developments into the industry. Firstly, HP ePrint, a technology that allows you to print your documents or photos from virtually anywhere just by sending an email. And secondly, HP Print Apps, content-based applications that allow you to access the latest information from the web directly from your printer, without needing to turn on a PC. These are technologies I use at home with my family all the time, technologies that let us create and share together. My children could be anywhere in the world and take photos on their smartphones and ePrint them instantly home for us to see where they are at.  I will also often print the daily news using HP Print Apps to keep up to date on the headlines and the weather.

But these innovations are not just for the home. This year we’ve launched business evolutions to these two technologies. HP ePrint has evolved to meet SMB needs with the ability for users to connect and print directly to HP printers without a network or internet connection. ePrint Wireless Direct Printing offers instant printing, as soon as you walk into an office, with a simple peer-to-peer connection on a Wi-Fi enabled mobile device.

Further to that we’ve created a new suite of Print Apps specifically for business requirements. Often SMB owners find themselves performing multiple roles in the business – marketer, business development manager, finance director. We’ve created Print Apps to make various aspects of these roles, particularly the administrative ones, more efficient. There’s Print Apps that scan business cards and turn them into a digital contact sheet and Print Apps that allow fast printing from a range of operating systems and devices including iPhones, BlackBerrys and more. There’s even a Print App that scans your receipts and automatically saves them for future reference – no more lost invoices! These applications solve day-to-day problems that we believe shouldn’t exist, and now they don’t have to – they’re all accessible at no additional cost with HP’s web-connected printers for businesses.

We’ve found new ways to create, share and “digitise” content, but we haven’t stopped there. Storage being a fundamental business requirement is becoming increasingly important as SMBs move their content and transactions online. Our web-connected printers utilise the cloud as a virtual storage and processing nucleus that enables our web-based technologies (such as ePrint and Print Apps). We’re also introducing key partnerships to streamline HP’s solutions with products already used by many small businesses. As an example, HP’s Printer Control Mobile application is like an app on steroids. Specifically for Apple iOS devices, the application lets you access your printer wirelessly and upload onto Google Docs for instant storage. It can also let you monitor your printer and supplies status so that you’re never caught in a situation where there’s an urgent meeting and no ink.

Where are we headed?

No longer are we centralised, localised, stuck in our offices. We’re on the move and our technology needs to move with us, ahead of us, towards the future of business.

Already in less than two years, web-connectivity and innovation has propelled us into a new world of imaging and printing. Our devices are no longer bound by paper and ink but rather they enable a fluid movement of information, a cycle of physical to virtual to physical. And it’s just the beginning. The huge consumer and business uptake of our ePrint and web-enabled devices has created a new category of connected users, fuelling a renaissance in an industry that some thought would move towards obsolescence along with fax machines and CD players. It’s quite the opposite and we’re excited to offer this new world of imaging and printing to our customers and partners to help them operate their business every day.

­–Richard Bailey is Vice-President, Imaging and Printing Group, HP South Pacific.

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