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6/8/2010
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HP Drives Further Into Web Printing

Scheduling automatic printing of Web content, like the daily news, is among the services HP is launching with its ePrintCenter and e-All-in-One printers.

HP e-All-in-One Printer
(click image for larger view)
HP e-All-in-One Printer
Smartphones, netbooks, and other highly portable devices are making it easier for people to carry their photos, newspapers, and other content in their pockets or knapsacks. While this makes some people's lives easier, it means potential trouble for companies like Hewlett-Packard, which draws a major portion of its revenue from people printing out such material.

HP on Monday hastened its efforts to merge printing with the Internet by introducing a new online service called ePrintCenter, which lets people store content. In addition, people who subscribe to one of HP's partners can print from those Web services through ePrintCenter. For example, a person can schedule to have their morning news printed every day from MSNBC.com. Other HP partners include Google's Picasa photo service, Facebook, MapQuest, travel guide maker Arrival Guides, and ticket seller Live Nation.

HP is also working with Yahoo to eventually launch a pilot program that would make it possible for advertisers to embed ads in select content printed from ePrintCenter.

Later this year, HP plans to launch its own and third-party business services. They include Marketsplash by HP for printing customized marketing materials, such as brochures and flyers; Google Docs for document scanning to the Web for printing at a later time; Box.net for scanning, sharing, managing, and accessing content online; and business news from the Reuters news agency.

Key to ePrintCenter's success will be tied to the number of developers who build print applications that take advantage of HP's printer-connected service. HP is working with a "select group of developers to refine its beta software developers kit and to add hundreds of print apps by the end of the year," the company said in a statement.

HP also introduced Monday what it's calling a "new category" of Web-enabled printers.

The new printers mark a major expansion of the Web-connected HP Photosmart Premium the company introduced in June of last year. While the older printer got HP started on merging printing and the Internet, the new products, coupled with HP's new Web service, advance the company's vision.

The four new e-All-in-One printers for home and business range in price from $99 to $299 and are meant to be useful without a PC. For example, the printers each have an e-mail address that a person can send a document or photo that they want to print. The content can be sent from a smartphone, netbook, tablet-style computer, or other device.

For printing photos directly from a mobile device, HP offers a free application that works over a Wi-Fi network. The software is available for devices running the Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems, with a version for devices based on Google's Android OS scheduled to launch this summer. An app is also available for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

Given the importance of HP's printer business, the company is likely to launch many more Web-connected printers in the future. Last quarter, HP's printing business accounted for 29% of earnings, or $1.1 billion. The only business more profitable for HP is services.

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