HP enables remote printing for BlackBerry devices

BlackBerry mobile devices will be able to print documents at public locations like libraries, cafes and airports

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday added mobile printing to its enterprise services offerings, giving BlackBerry users a new way to print documents on the go.

A new services offering called ePrint will let BlackBerry users securely print documents from printers at public locations like hotels, airports or libraries, said John Tomesco, vice president of marketing and development for HP's Imaging and Printing Group. Users will be able to print e-mail messages, images, presentations and documents in file formats such as PDF.

HP is providing an ePrint application for BlackBerry smartphones to locate and select the closest printer, after which users can finalize printing of the document. An e-mail with a security code is sent that authorizes printing of the document. Users need to reach the print and punch in the code, after which the document is printed. Users will need a BlackBerry smartphone OS 4.5 or newer and a wireless Internet service to use the service.

To enable the service, HP is partnering with PrinterOn, a company that maintains a network of thousands of printers in locations like cafes, airports, libraries and hotels. For example, PrinterOn has printer "hotspots" in more than 1,300 Hilton hotels, and FedEx will add printers to the PrinterOn network to its retail stores later this year. The service is not limited to HP printers, Tomesco said.

HP is not reselling PrinterOn's service, a company spokeswoman said. The company is providing its own application for smartphones and middleware for installation on servers to facilitate printer search and reroute printing tasks to the PrinterOn network. HP declined to comment on pricing of the service, but said the "economic transaction" depends on the person who wants to print and the person who owns the printer.

There are more than 30 million BlackBerry devices in use that the company wants to dip into, Tomesco said. The service is a result of an alliance that HP and Research In Motion entered into last year to bring business mobility products to the BlackBerry platform. HP is also considering the inclusion of other mobile devices for remote printing features, but Tomesco declined to specify brands.

The service will be available as part of HP's managed print services offerings in June.

As part of its managed print services offerings, HP also announced the Smart Decision Suite, a software suite to manage and predict the behavior of printing and copying devices on a network. The software will be able to remotely configure and analyze device usage to effectively allocate printing and copying tasks. For example, based on the analysis, the software will also be able to reallocate printing tasks such as rerouting printing jobs away from printers with less ink, said Bruce Dahlgren, senior vice president of managed enterprise solutions at HP's Imaging and Printing Group.

The software can also optimize printer infrastructure by analyzing historical and real-time data, which could help conserve resources and cut costs, Dahlgren said. For example, the software can predict the life of a toner, which could help reduce maintenance costs. The software can also help determine the devices to be moved, changed or added to meet output demand. Having the right hardware at the correct location increases device availability, which keeps print tasks flowing smoothly.

The software is tied mostly to printers for now, but document management features will be added as the suite's capabilities grow, Dahlgren said. He couldn't say when additional features would be added.

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