HP Extends Mobile Printing Throughout LaserJet Line

HP's Wireless Direct printing FutureSmart device

HP’s Wireless Direct printing FutureSmart device

HP has introduced options to bring its Wireless Direct printing technology to a larger set of the company’s mobile printers, trying to cash in on the printing challenges introduced by BYOD and the exploding number of mobile devices.

Wireless Direct has been available in the company’s low-end printers now, but the vendor has introduced ways to introduce the technology to more of its workgroup and departmental printers. Put simply, Wireless Direct supports printing via a dedicated WiFi network that is isolated from the enterprise network, as well as even more direct printing for devices that support near-field communication, making it a “tap-to-print” application. David Laing, director of innovation for HP’s LaserJet and enterprise solutions business, said its a more flexible solution than HP’s ePrint technology, which requires access to the full network.

“It makes it very simple – even simpler than desktop printing,” he said, because it creates a direct device-to-device connection within the intermediation of drivers or other technologies.

For those who have purchased departmental printers that support HP’s FutureSmart protocol and expansion port technology, there’s a new plugin device that introduces the functionality, and for other customers, there’s a USB dongle that adds Wireless Direct capabilities to any HP printer with an on-board USB port. At $49.99 for the FutureSmart version of $69.99 for the USB connection, it’s a quick and easy upsell for the company’s channel partners, said George Brasher, vice president and general manager of LaserJet and enterprise solutions at HP.

“It’s a phone call to each one of your top customers – ‘Do you want to print from your smartphone? Great. I’ve got a device for you,’” Brasher said.

The explosion of mobile devices means it’s hard to find customers not interested in some sort of mobile printing capabilities, Laing added. Between FutureSmart and USB, partners can wirelessly connect some 40 million LaserJet printers in customers’ environments, he said.

One of the biggest challenges with mobile printing remains compatibility. While HP’s new technology will enable a fairly broad array of mobile devices to print to a number of HP’s printers, the concept of “any device to any printer” remains and is strengthened by the number of combinations and permutations between printer vendors and mobile device printers.

Last month, HP and fellow printer vendors Canon, Samsung, and Xerox announced the creation of the Mopria Alliance in an effort to solve that problem. The new community will work to create commonality and ultimately drive that any to any connection, but first has the challenge of getting a critical mass amongst both printer vendors and the exploding number of companies building and marketing mobile devices. Mopria will also try to solve the accompanying problems with customer perceptions about mobile printing.

“Some groups of customers tell us they don’t think they their tablet or printer can print, and among those who know they can, they think it’s too hard to do,” Laing said.