HP’s New High-End Printer Bypasses the PC, Connects Directly to the Web
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the multi-user, multi-PC family,” Smith says. “The household is a busy place with a lot of demands on the central PC that’s usually connected to the printer.” With the TouchSmart Web printer, Smith says, it’s not necessary to boot up a computer to print out a map to your next meeting “when you’re running out the door and the laptop is in your bag, but you forgot to print out the directions.”
In developing the new printer, HP has obviously borrowed a few pages from the Apple playbook. For one thing, the printer’s 4.3-inch touch screen control panel bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the iPhone’s display screen. And HP plans to make additional Web-based applications from third-party developers available for users to download from an HP “App Studio” website.
Users will be able to download new apps from the HP App Studio as they become available via the “Get More” icon on the printer’s control screen. Apple users also can print borderless 4-by-6-inch photos on the printer from an iPhone or iPod touch by downloading HP’s iPrint Photo application, which can be downloaded for free from the Apple iTunes App Store.
Smith says the HP App Studio was developed at the suggestion of people who participated in beta and delta product tests. “They told us, ‘If you had an SDK (software developers’ kit) then we could write our own apps,’” Smith says. HP plans to have such applications available early next year “for business partners and even consumers,” although Smith says HP would still be responsible for filtering and approving the apps.
“We had to innovate across a number of areas—not just in connecting to the Internet,” Smith says. “We changed our electronics architecture, added a new microprocessor, developed a new applications layer for the user interface…
Smith says the team that developed the new printer consisted primarily of four or five members recruited from throughout HP’s imaging and printing group, a $29 billion-a-year business that encompasses inkjet, LaserJet, and commercial printing as well as printing supplies and services. The group has about 1,500 employees in San Diego and about 600 in Vancouver.
How successful the new product will be is another matter. At a time when desktop printers have come under significant pricing pressure, HP is selling its new, top-of-the-line model at a price—$400—that could drain the color from the faces of many consumers. Of course, Apple might have inspired the price as well.