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Hewlett-Packard improves printing from mobile phones

Issue #0905/2 – Hewlett-Packard has made the task of printing photos directly from a mobile phone a little bit easier – for iPhone and iPod touch customers anyway – with the launch of its new HP iPrint Photo application.

Mobile phones have incorporated cameras for years and yet printing those photos, to all practical intents and purposes, has required the photos to be downloaded to a computer rather than being able to print directly from the phone. In 2004, Hewlett-Packard demonstrated the capability of printing photos directly from a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone to a Hewlett-Packard portable photo printer. So, this concept is not new but it is still a much-needed extension to mobile phone capabilities.

HP iPrint PhotoHP iPrint Photo application

HP iPrint Photo is a free application for iPhone and iPod touch products, available from the Apple App store, alongside thousands of other applications covering a wide variety of categories – the most popular of which appear to be the inevitable games but more useful apps include books, business utilities, educational software, etc., etc.. HP iPrint Photo currently appears ranked at No. 6 in the Photography category.

This is certainly an obvious application for Hewlett-Packard to produce, further promoting not only its own printers and supplies but its desire to be involved with consumers at whatever level it can.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of this application is the simple fact that photos can now be printed easily from these portable devices. iPods, iPhones, other mobile phones, MP3 and MP4 players are increasingly being used for the portable storage and display of photographs as the worlds population becomes increasingly mobile.

There are, however, a number of downsides to this application as it stands – apart from the fact that it is only applicable to the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.

Firstly – it requires a Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer that is connected to a WiFi network in order to be of any use to iUsers (sorry, my terminology!). There is no capability to print to any other brand of printer and, because the printer has to be network connected, even most of the Hewlett-Packard’s own inkjet printers currently in the installed base will be eliminated. No doubt, Hewlett-Packard is hoping that releasing this app will stimulate sales of its wireless printers.

Secondly – one of Hewlett-Packard’s tag lines for the HP iPrint Photo is that it allows photos to be printed “anytime, anywhere”. This claim is highly contentious when the printer has to be part of a wireless network, which means that the ’anytime, anywhere’ claim only applies where iUsers can carry a Hewlett-Packard WiFi portable photo printer around wherever they go (a combination not available in the current line-up!!).

Thirdly, printing is limited to 4×6 (10×15) format. Three-quarters of Hewlett-Packard’s speciality compact photo printers handle 5×7 (13×18) papers, let alone the capabilities of A4 format printers to print at larger sizes.

Fourthly – what about printing documents from mobile phones? There is massive potential for print from mobile office documents, agendas, notes, schedules, text messages, emails, web pages or downloaded PDFs. Although there are a few print solutions available for Pocket PCs and Palm PDAs, this is still an underdeveloped area and surely must have high potential as a target for Hewlett-Packard.

Despite these perceived downsides, HP iPrint Photo is a good step forwards in mobile phone printing capability and we can hope that it will be followed by a document printing utility and a bit more flexibility of printers supported.

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