The booming popularity of mobile devices is fairly good evidence that a lot of people find the idea of computing on the go to be attractive. One of the things that has been a bit of a stumbling block is the difficulty of getting hard-copy output from many mobile devices. Apple’s iPad™, for example, does not have any native printing capability. Even with a conventional laptop, finding a printer that is available for use, and for which your machine has a driver, is not always easy.
Last week, Hewlett-Packard announced that it was introducing a new feature with selected printer models. In conjunction with a Web-based facility, the HP ePrintCenter, the system allows a mobile device user to submit a print job to a compatible printer by sending a document to a special E-mail address associated with the printer. The E-mail is delivered to one of HP ePrint servers, which then formats the print job appropriately for the target device, and prints it. (The target printer must be accessible from the Internet.)
The service will also include a new capability that will allow users to schedule printing of selected content on a regular basis.
Following a successful pilot study in two major cities, HP has announced a new service called Scheduled Delivery, which allows customers to choose content to be pushed to a printer at a designated time each day or week. For example, they might choose a customized news feed from msnbc.com to arrive at 7 a.m. for picking up on their way out of the door, or they might choose fun kids activities from Disney to be ready when the children get home from school.
Somewhat more ominously, the announcement also mentions that the system has the capability to allow “selected content partners” to provide premium content with embedded advertising.
This leads me to wonder whether the ePrintCenter might become just another conduit for spam. The idea of using E-mail as the submission mechanism is clever; E-mail is a very familiar application to most users, and it uses protocols designed for reliable delivery. Using it, however, also gets you E-mail’s disadvantages: mainly its general lack of security, and susceptibility to spam. There is not a lot of information available about security with ePrint (after all, it has not yet been officially released); let’s hope that HP has figured out a clever way to protect the system against abuse.