For more years than I often care to admit, I was the global account leader for the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet and LaserJet businesses while I was working for a large public relations agency. During my tenure with HP, I was fortunate enough to work with some very smart people, ranging from visionary executives, brilliant scientists, creative product development and marketing teams, as well as some very strategic communications professionals.
Together with that team, I had the opportunity to help bring to market some of the most innovative technology products of the past 20 years, including the industry's first color inkjet printer, and later the first color laser printer, as well as the first all-in-one product (printer, copier, fax and scanner). I was part of the team when HP made its foray into the digital imaging market with a line of digital cameras, printers and scanners.
So I wasn't surprised earlier this month when I learned that HP was again breaking new ground on the printing frontier. Just a couple of weeks back, HP announced a new initiative, and a number of new products, that enable people to print from any device to a web-enabled printer using email.
Called HP ePrint, this new technology allows the printer's owner, and anyone they designate (such as family members, friends, work colleagues, softball teammates, etc.) to print from it via their smartphones, tablets, or any other device that allows it.
HP's ePrint builds off of Google's Cloud Print project announced a few months back. The new HP printers connect directly to Google Cloud using a touchscreen on the printer and enable people to print Google Docs without having to use a desktop computer. They can also scan documents from the printer directly to their Google Docs account, again, without the need of a PC.
Not only does ePrint make life simpler for people wanting to print documents, it opens new doors for publishers. MSNBC has signed a deal with HP whereby people can use the new ePrint technology to have customized "newspapers" printed for them each morning, for example, to read on the train during their morning commute into the city.
Application developers are also eyeing ePrint for new opportunities. HP already has entered deals with Facebook and MapQuest, as well as Crayola Crayons and PBS for coloring pages and educational materials for kids.
As we've discussed numerous times on the blog, the Cloud is changing the way people interact with technology, and with one another. HP and Google, and their partners, are now tapping into the power of the Cloud to make printing faster, easier, and more convenient.
Keep your eye out for other printer manufacturers -- from Canon to Lexmark to Kodak -- to look to the Cloud as a way to expand their market position and take advantage of the myriad of new Cloud-based applications.
No, I was not surprised to see HP view the Cloud as its next big opportunity. After all, they've been defining printing for longer than anyone else in the business. And they're willing to admit it.