By Louella Fernandes, Quocirca
There is a continual need for printer vendors to innovate and ensure their products remain relevant in today’s fast evolving mobile and digital world. At its recent press and analyst event in Barcelona, HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group (PPS) discussed the “New Style of IT” and how it is addressing the shift in IT landscape that embraces mobile, social, cloud and big data. HP’s announcements relating to mobile printing and digital workflow aim to improve the mobile print experience as well as drive productivity improvements through digitising paper-based workflows, as more businesses operate in a hybrid environment of paper and digital documents.
HP’s Touch to Print Enterprise MFPs
So far mobile printing has been anything but easy, due to a complex range of solutions from different vendors. Quocirca’s research amongst organisations with over 1,000 employees revealed that just 20% of organisations had implemented mobile printing with a further 70% indicating they would like the capability but had not yet deployed mobile printing. Certainly the lack of mobile printing standardisation across printer manufacturers has created some confusion in the market. The new Mopria alliance, announced in September 2013, of which HP is a member along with Canon, Samsung and Xerox, seeks to address this by creating standardisation between both printer vendors and mobile OS vendors.
To date, HP has had one of the broader range of mobile printing offerings through its ePrint platform. HP has now showcased its first MFP to support secure mobile printing using near-field communications (NFC). The HP LaserJet 800 Series supports wireless direct printing and NFC printing through a short-range 802.11 built-in network capability. An NFC enabled smartphone or tablet can now discover the printer, enabling a user to “touch and print” at the MFP. This means there is no need for the user to find the correct printer on the network.
HP demonstrated this with the HP TouchPad Elite, and is working with mobile OS vendors to integrate the NFC print capability. Although this mobile print approach requires an NFC-enabled mobile device, Quocirca was impressed with the simplicity of the approach which is what is needed to drive further mobile print adoption. The Mopira alliance will undoubtedly see more NFC enabled printers hit the market – other vendors offering this capability include Samsung and Dell.
HP is also making this capability available to its installed base through a new print accessory product that will enable wireless direct and NFC printing to older LaserJets. This will cost $69.99 or €40 and can potentially be a cost-effective approach to enabling mobile printing whilst leveraging existing investments in HP devices. HP also continues to offer ePrint Enterprise for mobile printing, which is particularly suited to multi-vendor print environments where print usage tracking and reporting is needed.
Paper to digital workflow
Paper and digital documents continue to co-exist in most business processes. More and more printer vendors are promoting the MFP as a document hub rather than a peripheral device just for printing or copying. The buzz around big-data often focuses on the explosion of digital data that businesses are coping with, but overlooks the huge amount of data residing in paper format. By utilising the MFP beyond print to support digital workflow improvement, businesses can reduce their reliance on the paper trail and improve productivity, enhance security and ultimately gain better control of document processes.
General awareness and use of scanning is on the rise, as users become more aware and used to scanning paper documents and storing them either in the cloud (such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive) or through connected ECM platforms such as SharePoint. More MFPs now offer scan-to-cloud capabilities directly from the MFP panel. For instance, HP’s Flow MFPs can connect with cloud services as well as HP Flow CM Professional 1.2, the latest update to its cloud content management offering.
Meanwhile, HP Embedded Capture is a new server-less content capture and route capability, with custom pre-defined workflows integrated in the MFP front panel. Quocirca believes that this effectively enables “business-process automation under a button”, and expanding awareness and usage of these capabilities will be fundamental in driving better use of MFPs as document workflow and productivity tools.
Since bringing its PC and print divisions together under its new PPS group, there was always the danger printing would become de-focused in the wider PPS picture. However, HP has worked hard to develop an integrated strategy that makes the most of its strong heritage in both market spaces.
Its new enterprise MFP range with broader mobile and document workflow capabilities positions HP well to expand its share of a relatively flat market. HP also sees good opportunities in emerging markets and hopes its latest MPS offerings will drive further mindshare.
Nevertheless, competition in the market is intensifying, particularly around value solutions such as document workflow. With demanding mobile users have high expectations of their access to corporate networks and applications, printing must be easily enabled otherwise it represents a lost opportunity for all printer vendors.
HP is certainly developing the right capabilities to ensure that the MFP remains a part of the equation in the “New style of IT”, but so are its competitors and the future of print certainly lies not just on what is on the printed page but how that page is integrated into business processes in today’s mobile and cloud-centric digital world.
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