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By | Clay Ryder 18th June 2007 09:40

HP hails Print 2.0

Bridging the gap between paper and the net

At Hewlett-Packard's annual Imaging and Printing Conference recently, the company unveiled "Print 2.0" and described how it would seek to capture a significant share of the 53 trillion digital pages estimated to be printed in 2010, an opportunity valued at more than $296+ billion.

The three key focus areas of the Print 2.0 strategy were announced as: making it easier to print from websites and bring new printing capabilities to online properties; extending HP's digital content creation and publishing platforms, e.g. Snapfish and Logoworks, across customers from consumers to enterprises; and delivering a digital printing platform with increased print speeds and lower cost of printing for high-volume commercial markets.

In an effort to broaden and improve the web-printing experience, HP is creating technologies to make it easy to print content from the internet in a useful format. It has teamed up with weblog software and services company SixApart, Ltd, creator of Movable Type, an advanced blogging platform, to enable bloggers to add a "print" button on their blogs to allow readers to pick and choose only the posts they want to print.

HP also plans to introduce the Tabblo Print Toolkit, an embeddable website widget and corresponding web service that enables web designers to incorporate print functionality into websites.

The company added eight imaging and printing solutions to its enterprise portfolio targeted at higher education, public sector, retail, transportation/logistics, and financial services industries. Among these are four HP Campus Advantage Solutions targeted to institutions of higher learning; the HP Common Access Card that enables secure imaging and printing network authentication for government and public sector customers; the HP Retail Marketing Automation application which transforms the manual, labor-intensive in-store promotion and communication process into an industrial, automated one; solutions for financial services customers; and HP Compliant Document Capture for SEC17a meeting the needs of capturing regulated fax, email, scan, and couriered mail documentation quickly and easily at the point of creation.

In addition, HP announced the new HP Handheld sp400 All-in-One, which is aimed at industries such as transportation/logistics, manufacturing and retail, to simplify workflow and operations with a portable printing solution that applies an image directly to packaging or other surface, eliminating the need for labeling. The company also announced several other printing products and services targeting SMBs as well as that HP Halo Collaboration Studio's telepresence now circumnavigate the globe.

The depth of this announcement is considerable not only in that it listed far too many products, services, and technologies to be covered here, but more so for the strategic direction given and the many vertical specific offerings announced.

A few years ago competitors would often mock HP as basically being "a printer company" and not much else. However, the company's considerable rebound of the past couple of years shows an IT powerhouse that happens to be rather expert in imaging as well. The results of this we see evident in this Print 2.0 announcement.

As basic as it may seem, we believe the efforts targeting web pages are well founded. websites and paper, despite exceptions such as downloadable PDF files, are two disparate and largely incompatible information systems. Web pages are the equivalent of old Teletype paper rolls where output was not set in size or format.

Anyone who prints a web page invariably feels this mismatch as the margins do not align or important information is paginated in an awkward fashion. Likewise, if the desired information is in a text box in the middle of the web page, being able to simply print the desired portion is often frustratingly impossible.

HP's efforts with SixApart and its own Tabblo technology are the genesis of what we hope will be a broader effort to map the virtual realm of web pages and other electronic information with the physical realm of paper in an intelligent and useful manner. Once perfected, the approach would be broadly applicable to myriad websites which have become useful information resources but which by their web nature have proven more challenging to incorporate into the printed world.

The vertically focused solutions announced represent to us a convergence of communication, storage, and delivery technology across multiple media. The HP Handheld sp400 All-in-One is an interesting case in point as it may be a spray-on labeler but its use implies a bevy of IT and vertical expertise.

Just consider the packaging label that may be applied. Its application could be driven by an inventory control system, which connects to a CRM app, a database or two, some business logic, supply chain interactions, and some raw processing and networking agility as well.

The point is that being able to label represents a serious degree of infrastructure backing its use: an infrastructure that only few vendors, HP being one of them, have the breadth and depth of ability to deliver. The imaging/printing delivery would be almost trivial by itself, but is made possible by many invisible and highly valuable IT investments.

In a very different yet analogous way the HP Compliant Document Capture for SEC17a represents a coalescing of disparate communication parts such as fax, email, scanned documents, and couriered mail. Being able to provide a regulatory compliant documentation store is a solution that we believe will only grow in importance over time. The technical acumen necessary to integrate and manage multiple communication media far exceeds that of what a "printer company" would possess.

Overall, we believe it will take some time to fully understand the implications of HP's Print 2.0 on the marketplace. Although this is about printing at one level, it implies much more.

This is about making information available to be printed, which is a far more complicated task that involves integration of digital content as well as physical world content. Add to this the need for access controls, information management, regulatory compliance, and a host of other industry-specific and generic business operational issues, and we can quickly see that the opportunity could be great.

HP, through its considerable investments in computing, imaging, and networking technologies, is one of a very select few vendors who could make an announcement such as this with any credibility. It will be exciting to watch just how much transformation the company will be able to bring to bear on integrating the still often segregated worlds of electronically stored and printed information.

Copyright © 2007, The Sageza Group

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