yARN: HP takes a bite of Apple and iPhonifies its printers

yARN: HP takes a bite of Apple and iPhonifies its printers

First there was Envy, now there's eprint and HP admits its Apple-inspired all the way

Apple changed the way that people perceive the possibilities of the mobile phone. HP is hoping to start its own era of techlightenment via the humble printer.

It took the creative design and simplicity of the iPhone and iTunes to create mass market appeal for touch-enabled mobile devices. Apple then parleyed this brand loyalty to create an ecosystem where software developers could create a new generation of technology, products and services.

HP is betting the same thing can be achieved with that most hum-drum of technological activities - printing – and the dream isn't as silly as it first may sound.

In fact, it has already won the endorsement of Apple, who reached out to HP to develop a printing experience that was on par with the ease-of-use for the iPhone.

The result was the Envy printer with eprint technology – allowing people to email documents and photos directly to a printer – and the move has paid off, according to imaging and printer group (IPG) senior vice-president Stephen Nigro.

Apple users are the biggest consumers of HP's sleek, Mac-esque Envy printers, he said.

The connection doesn't end there as HP has took a page straight from the Apple playbook by releasing a new version of the Envy printer in a very cool white finish.

HP is clearly trying to iPhonify the printer industry, and Nigro admits it's not a bad analogy.

“The thing that Apple have done well is that they create great products, they take a leading cloud solution and they put them together, creating a new use case,” he said.

“That's what we want to do, creating great printers and using our Cloud offerings, create new use cases.”

To achieve this it has again turned to the Apple 101 business textbook.

It is rolling out the eprint platform across a variety of platforms including iOS, Android and Blackberry, in a bid to connect consumers with the growing install base of eprint enabled printers (this currently broke the 10million milestone according to APAC IPG VP John Solomon).

It is hoping this ecosystem is attractive for app developers to invent creative new ways for people to use the humble printer.

“Apple has attracted all the users and it becomes attractive to developers to build on that platform,” Mr Nigro said. “That's exactly what we're doing and we want to create new use cases for the printer. We're very similar in that way.”

Indeed, at the recent Innovation for Impact event in Shanghai the slogan repeatedly chanted by the company's IPG chief, Vyomesh Joshi, was that HP is allowing atoms to be converted to bits and then back to atoms again.

The talk is extremely bold considering the company is still digesting the giant humble pie served up when it abruptly axed the TouchPad and webOS mobile computing operating system.

This came just weeks after the highly-celebrated device was launched with much fanfare as the champion of its tablet and mobile ambitions.

This may be the reason that HP execs were extremely keen to play down the likeness with Apple's disruptive effects, despite the obvious similarities.

This time could be different for HP. Instead of heading out into uncharted waters (tablet) it is playing in a market it already dominates (it has market share of 50 per cent of inkjet printers in Australia, an all-time high, according to local HP printer chief Richard Bailey).

It is simply building cloud services on top of this to connect existing users and properties.

Most importantly, HP is playing to win.

“This is a winner takes all game,” Mr Nigro said. “Apple has all the momentum and it's hard for competitors to catch up.”

“That's what we want to achieve.”

Mahesh Sharma attended the HP annual global Imaging and Printing in Shanghai, China, courtesy of HP

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Tags iPadcloud computingHPtabletsAppleiPhonePrintersprintingTouchPadmobile solutions

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