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Smartphones and tablets - an opportunity or threat for printing?
Louella Fernandes By: Louella Fernandes, Principal Analyst, Quocirca
Published: 13th March 2012
Copyright Quocirca © 2012
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A few decades ago, digital communications promised to sound the death knell for printing and the paperless office was predicted to be just a matter of time. Yet the paperless office has failed to materialise, with email and the internet actually leading to more printed documents. The popularity of smartphones and tablets in the workplace is now leading to similar warnings of less printing, with iPads and other tablets in particular expected to displace the printed page. However, Quocirca believes that this supposed threat to printing actually opens a new landscape of opportunity to printer vendors – but only if they can provide simple, reliable and secure ways to print from mobile devices.

Undeniably, the consumerisaton of IT is having a profound impact on the use of smartphones and tablets in the workplace. Today’s dynamic and mobile workforce is now relying on personal devices in their professional lives and expect anytime, anywhere access to corporate systems – including printing. Even in this era of smartphones and tablets, businesses continue to rely on printing – 75% of 125 enterprise respondents in a recent Quocirca survey indicated printing as playing an important role in supporting business activities. There is certainly an appetite for printing from mobile devices with 55% of respondents indicating that employees would like to be able to print from their mobile devices. Around 25% are already investigating mobile print solutions.

Given the diversity of mobile platforms and printer hardware, it is unsurprising that the mobile printing market is fragmented, characterised by an array of hardware, software and cloud-based services. Not only is the demand for mobile printing an opportunity for more hardware sales – HP, for instance, shipped over 15 million web-enabled ePrint printers in 2011 – but it also enables vendors to capture pages as they shift from the desktop to the mobile device. In many cases these are ‘high value’ colour pages that generate additional revenue opportunities.

Mobile printing usage scenarios can be broadly categorised as either public printing/guest printing services or printing across a corporate network. Public/guest printing covers 'hot-spots' such as hotels, business centres or airports that offer Wi-Fi connectivity, web access and print and copy services. Mobile workers can discover printers and use universal print drivers, web-based means of submitting print jobs or send them as an email attachment from their mobile devices. Public print locations should require an authentication code before users can release a print job from a designated printer to ensure that print jobs are not mislaid or stolen by passing employees or members of the public. Examples include EFI’s PrintMe service which is available at more than 3,000 public locations; HP ePrint public print locations such as FedEx and Hilton; and Ricoh’s HotSpot printing which uses PrinterOn’s public printing network. PrinterOn’s Mobile Printing Solution currently supports over 7000 PrinterOn print locations worldwide.

Printing from any device to any printer or MFP across a corporate network promotes user mobility across company locations. Printing may be direct from a mobile device or application, via an email attachment to a registered printer or through a web browser, using a public or private cloud. When deployed in the enterprise, it is critical that mobile print solutions are vendor-agnostic, use a private cloud approach and employ encryption and authentication methods to ensure document security and privacy.

The mobile printing ecosystem is broadly populated by printer/copier manufacturers and independent software vendors (ISVs).Hardware manufacturers may typically offer a mobile printing portfolio that comprises hardware, software and services. Printers may be cloud or web-enabled, as in the case of HP’s ePrint or Ricoh’s HotSpot range of printers. This allows devices to be registered for these vendors’ respective cloud printing services.

Most of the hardware-centric mobile print solutions are brand-specific, although some do offer multivendor support. Hardware manufacturers such as Canon, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox also offer mobile printing services as part of their managed print services (MPS) portfolio, enabling organisations to manage and track printing across both desktop and mobile environments. However, Canon’s uniFLOW platform, in particular, is currently the only integrated print management platform that tracks and reports on both desktop and mobile printing.

ISVs such as EFI, Cortado and PrinterOn all offer vendor-agnostic mobile print solutions. Solutions such as EFI’s PrintMe Mobile are particularly suitable for organisations operating a mixed fleet, avoiding the need to implement multiple solutions for each mobile platform and printer or MFP. In many cases, hardware vendors will partner with ISVs to deliver multivendor support where appropriate.

Currently the only mobile OS platform to offer direct printing support is Apple’s AirPrint. This offers wireless printing from iPad, iPhone (3GS or later) or iPod touch (3rd generation or later) devices to AirPrint-enabled devices. These include selected printers from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark. Google Cloud Print, currently in beta, offers printing from smartphones or tablets with Gmail for mobile, Google Docs for mobile and other supported apps to cloud-enabled printers.

Given the lack of standardisation around mobile printing, organisations are faced with a challenging task in navigating the range of solutions on offer. Whilst smartphones and tablets may diminish the need for a certain amount of printing, it is not going to eradicate it. Therefore, organisations should offer employees mobile printing capabilities that enable them to remain productive, whilst also ensuring mobile printing is tracked and secured in the same way as desktop printing. Quocirca believes that mobile printing will become a crucial part of an overall enterprise print strategy as pages gradually shift from the desktop to the mobile device.



Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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