By Ian Sherr
Hewlett-Packard Co. (>> Hewlett-Packard Company) is planning to release its first mobile all-in-one printer at about half the size of a normal desktop printer, in an effort to woo business users who still rely on printed paper for their work and don't use Apple Inc. (>> Apple Inc.) mobile devices.
H-P's device, called the "Officejet 150 Mobile All-In-One," was designed to print, scan and copy on the go and is due to begin shipping in June. It weighs 6.6 pounds, roughly half the 12.35 pounds of its closest cousin, the Photosmart 6510 e-All-in-One. Its height and depth also come in at about half, allowing the device to be more easily carried to conventions, for example, or kept in a salesman's car.
"Our designers do a lot of human engineering and form factor design to make it as usable as possible in such a small package," said George Alonso, who heads up H-P's marketing efforts for the printer.
Customers can connect to the printer through a traditional computer, or a myriad of mobile devices including those using Google Inc.'s (>> Google Inc) Android operating system, older Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Windows Mobile software, as well a Research In Motion Ltd.'s (RIMM) BlackBerry or H-P's old Palm division. The printer still doesn't support Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software and Apple's iPhone or iPad.
That's an oversight that could hamper the printer's success, said Jon Reardon, analyst at InfoTrends, an industry research firm. The sheer size of the iPhone market in particular, and the speed at which employees are adopting and using the device, makes it a potentially large missed opportunity.
"If they don't somehow address that realm, I'd say they're missing a big chunk of the market," he said.
H-P's latest printer comes as growth in the printer industry is drying up. Once a cash cow, sales in H-P's printing division were flat last year at $25.8 billion. Operating profits declined 10%, to $4 billion.
In addition, tablets--primarily led by Apple's iPad--have become darlings of many c-suite executives, as well as the sales force of many companies. The tablet's relatively similar size to paper has made them a popular replacement for typical paper-laden binders at some conferences, as well as folders in board meeting rooms.
H-P admitted that trend will likely continue, but many mobile professionals still need access to a printer today. In particular, H-P said this mobile printer will likely be even more popular among traveling and mobile professionals who need access to printers to produce quick estimates or contracts on the spot. Now, H-P said customers will be able to print, sign, scan and send documents to their offices using one device.
"At the end of the day, at least in the near term, our customers tell us business runs on paper," Alonso said. And now, with scanning and copying added to the mobile printer's capabilities, Alonso said customers will be able to transition between print and digital easily.
Those technologies will likely draw customers to H-P's printer, Reardon said. He added that mobile scanning has become popular with customers and is growing as more employees work outside their offices.
"I think they may strike a chord with folks who might not necessarily print while traveling because of the inconvenience of it," he said.
Having easy access to a printer and scanner would likely be appealing, he added, noting that the number of mobile employees continues to grow. "There's no doubt that more work is being done while mobile."
-By Ian Sherr, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6455; firstname.lastname@example.org