(Mashable) -- HP has announced a major new initiative and a slew of new devices that enable users to print from any device to a web-enabled printer by simply using e-mail.
The idea -- which builds off the Google Cloud Print announcement we saw back in April -- starts with giving each printer its own unique e-mail address.
That printer's owner (and their designated family, friends, and colleagues) can then print documents by sending it an email from a smartphone, from a tablet, or any other device that allows it. Called HP ePrint, the technology eliminates the need for installing drivers and enables a variety of new apps and services.
Putting Documents in the Cloud
The new printers that HP is unveiling today along with ePrint can connect directly to Google Cloud using their touchscreen interface. That means users can print Google Docs directly from the cloud without using their desktop computer, as well as scan documents directly to their Google Docs account. Other Google services like Calendar and Picasa for photos are also supported. Similarly, Box.net and Docstoc users can also retrieve and push documents to and from the cloud through new print apps.
A New Opportunity for Publishers
Another area HP is exploring with the ePrint concept is scheduled delivery. This allows users to get content printed at specific times -- for example, getting a customized daily newspaper printed out every morning that they can take with them on the train. MSNBC has signed on as a partner to pilot this concept, and HP has teamed with Yahoo to sell the ads, which, you can imagine could include a mix of contextual advertising and locally relevant promotions and coupons.
Another Platform for Developers
Beyond productivity and news, initial apps include Facebook for printing photos and events and MapQuest for printing maps and directions. HP also sees a big opportunity for providing different types of activities for parents and kids, and to that end has signed on Crayola for coloring pages and PBS for a variety of education-driven printing. As for the market size for developers here, HP says it expects to ship, "tens of millions of web-connected printers" by the end of next year. Currently, developers interested in building apps need to apply for access to HP's SDK.
Why's HP Doing This?
Beyond selling printers, HP needs to sell ink. With more and more types of documents getting digitized and smartphones replacing former functions of printers (think coupons and tickets), HP needs new ways to drive printer usage.
Web-connected printers fill this need in a few ways. First, they connect to the ever growing cloud for business users and make their lives easier. Second, the email-to-print concept clearly has the potential to drive new kinds of usage, both from business users and consumers who do things like print photos and news. Finally, there's also opportunities for developers to create sticky apps -- perhaps not on the scale we've seen in mobile, but with HP betting the future of its printers on web connectivity, you can bet we'll see some big winners emerge from the developer community.
HP will dive into these topics at apress conference this morning to kick off Internet Week New York, where I'll be moderating a panel with a number of the players involved in the new ePrint initiative. We'll try and bring you video of the discussion later on.
Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of Mashable's Internet Week New York channel.
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