Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cloud Printing Service Provider. Is it a term we should embrace?

I think the Cloud is here to stay, and I think Cloud is a term that has been embraced far and wide, but it must be used correctly.

The test I would put forth for whether your service or platform is truly "Cloud" is if I can contract for the services you offer without speaking to a human being, and activate/deactivate them when I want to stand them up or tear them down.

There is no "overhead" or startup costs for me to become engaged with you-- I literally can take advantage of the services when I need them, and only pay for them as I am using them.

That's what differentiates Cloud from "ASP" or "SaaS" or just the "plain old Internet". This is a nuance that I think a lot of non-technical people miss and it's driven by a combination of technology and business model.

Companies that use the term Cloud without fulfilling this promise could easily be seen as jumping on the hype bandwagon, and further confuse the market. Mimeo has been called a Cloud Printing Service Provider by Gartner, and we do fit the definition I've provided here. However, we are still very careful to only use this term with audiences we are sure will "get it."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HP Web Print Roadshow Hits Hong Kong

Reuters and several other news agencies are covering the arrival of the HP Cloud Printing/Web Print roadshow in Hong Kong. I found a good interview with VJ by Yun-Hee Kim on the Wall Street Journal Blogs (read it here)and Reuters reported that HP plans an App Store focused on printing apps. The only thing I would take issue with is the characterization in the WSJ piece about this initiative being a "gamble" for HP, maybe it's just a language thing but I would say that these printers and even more important the ecosystem HP is creating, are a sure thing.

HP APP STORE (Clip from Reuters, their whole Reuters piece can be found here).

Like peers Nokia and Apple, Palo Alto- headquartered HP will launch its own version of an app store designed to work with its printers, enabling customers to print directly from the app.

The company will take 30 percent of the revenue gained from the store, with 70 percent going to the software developer.

"If we try to develop all the software from the U.S., it's going to take years," said Joshi, who has been with HP since 1980. "Because we are making it open, there'll be some smart young kid in college who'll figure out what is the best thing for printers."


Joshi also rubbished talk that the printer was on its way out as more people begin depending on computers for their communication and learning needs, and amid concern that increased use of paper was causing deforestation.

"Do you think this computer is more green than that?" he said, as he waved a piece of paper. "It is not. People are missing the whole point. This (paper) is more green than anything else."

-- End Reuters clip

I can tell you that my company, Mimeo, is very likely to put some exciting applications into that HP App Store over the next year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Internet Week NYC- HP Web-Print and Google Cloud Print

Great video on the Chromium Blog from an HP event streamed live during Internet Week in NY on June 7th, click here to watch, featuring Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) from HP, his team and Google product managers responsible for Google Cloud Print. HP called their new stuff "Web-Print". They talked about their new printers, and guys from Google did a demo of Cloud Printing. Super cool. The actual presentation starts a few minutes in, so be patient or advance the video.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This Week in Internet Printing - HP and Apple

HP continued to march forward with more announcements (and a press conference scheduled today), regarding their ePrint initiative. You can read coverage by Adam Ostrow from Mashable at Forbes blogs. It's awesome to see so much coverage emerging on this topic, especially from traditional media outlets like Forbes. There's also a great article from last week by Louella Fernandez, a Principal Analyst at Quocirca Research, here.

In a nutshell, the Forbes article says HP is enabling printing from devices like iPad via email to new web enabled printers (picture above), and can connect directly to Google's nascent Cloud Print. Ostrow describes several connection initiatives HP has created, including Google apps like Docs and Picasa. He sort of cynically suggests that HP is doing this to sell Ink. But then adds that emailing files to printers opens doors to new applications-- honestly, I don't think email is going to be the vehicle by which printed news is going to be delivered. Email is OK, and it is fairly robust, but it isn't super reliable as a delivery mechanism for content, nor is it particularly secure. But it is interesting!

Both articles touch on the fact that Cloud Printing removes the need for drivers and updates, which is sort of the least of its advantages-- drivers haven't really been a big issue for users for about the last five years. That is, at least for individual users. Drivers have continued to be a problem for enterprise users with many different vendor's printers, dispersed geographically at many locations. The HP printers featured in this announcement aren't really targeted at the enterprise, and Google's Cloud Print isn't ready for enterprise prime time, though.

The timing of the Quocirca article couldn't be better with this week's Apple World Wide Developer Conference. The article mentions that in the iPad support documents, it refers to printing as "not currently supported", leaving the door open to future development.

I have wondered since the iPad launch if the reason printing support is absent on the iPad today is intentional, due to the fact that the device is completely focused on delivering media to users via the screen -- or if the iPad tech team just did not have enough time to get the printing working the way they wanted to before the launch.

I'm kind of hoping at the moment that as coverage continues this week of WWDC 10 in San Francisco, we'll see some announcements from Apple about how they plan to directly support printing. Apple has some amazing printing technology built into MacOS X and it would be a little shocking if they didn't leverage at least some of that to support printing from the iPad.

Since Google and Apple have been at odds lately, it seems unlikely that Google Cloud Print will be the mechanism via which iPad and other Apple mobile device users print. Although HP ePrint could be a contender (at least until HP comes out with their competitive tablet computer), it seems that we're likely to have several competing Internet printing initiatives emerge. Let's hope they all land at least close to a standard way of doing this, or at the very least, an interoperable one. That isn't email, that is.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cloud Enabled Mobile Printing

There’s a recent Verizon Wireless commercial in which a hip, creative-type guy rolls up to the front of a big office building in a cab. He pays and gets out, and as he does, he accidentally leaves his thick, color, mechanically bound presentation book sitting on the seat. As the cab drives away, the camera pans to the sad look on his face. He’s going to blow the pitch. As he breaks out his phone, the narrator explains how his Verizon Smartphone will allow him to recover by printing the presentation upstairs (presumably at the client’s office), in color. Cut to the phone’s screen, and a fantasy app allows him to print the document in an amazingly user friendly way. The meeting will proceed, and our Creative’s career has been saved!

The commercial shows a fictionalized application, and its purpose is to sell Smartphones. The coolest thing about it to me is that a major carrier like Verizon is advocating Cloud Printing from mobile devices as a serious business application, on TV! I’ve seen this spot quite a few times now, so apparently the company believes this application is compelling enough that they are spending significant sums of money on airtime promoting the idea.

Cloud Printing can be used for a wide variety of applications, as we’ve discussed here in several posts and, as David and I have discussed in some papers we’ve authored together. Honestly, I think most people don’t really think much about printing from their phone. With the release of the iPad, though, much attention is now being made to the fact that mobile and network-centric devices (representing a new, non-traditional computing paradigm), may be missing or have limited printing capabilities. Mobile devices like Tablets, and Smartphones with bigger screens and faster (i.e., 4G) Internet connections, are already changing the landscape and will drive the need for print capabilities.

It is not such a stretch to envision walking into a conference room, spotting a printer, locating your presentation “in the Cloud” from the phone’s browser or an app, using Cloud Printing software (also accessed from the phone) to direct it to that local printer. Then, since some phones now have built in projectors, too, you pass out the handouts and set the phone down on the board room table to project that same preso! In reality, the document in the Verizon commercial was a complex, bound document that couldn’t be produced on a local printer; it would more likely be produced by a Cloud Printing Service Provider, like (which, in fact, can be accessed today from your web browser and if you are in New York, we could deliver the document to the prospect’s office on the same day—anywhere else, it would be overnight). But I digress.

There are quite a few exciting companies working on these things and enabling this new printing world. I will talk about several of them here over the next few weeks. One of the most important companies developing solutions in this area is HP. Their new solution, called HP ePrint, is the result an alliance between HP and Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry people.

HP ePrint Enterprise is a cloud-based solution that makes it possible for BlackBerry Smartphone users to send a print job to a network printer. HP says the solution is printer-agnostic, and driverless.

Using HP ePrint, Enterprise users can print e-mail and e-mail attachments, including documents (similar to what was depicted in the Verizon commercial), presentations, reports and photos generated using Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF files, Images, HTML, Text and XPS from their BlackBerry to “registered” printers in their enterprises’ networks. Eventually, HP plans to make ePrint available at public locations in hotels, airports, coffee shops and other spots.

Most mobile devices are already quite good at accessing business applications. But as we’ve discussed, printing is an important function that is missing. Just like in the Verizon commercial, printing ahead from a remote location so documents are available on arrival could be a fantastic productivity enhancer and super convenient, too. According to HP, once the solution is deployed, the user experience is simple: “Hit print” on your Blackberry, choose a printer based on descriptive, relevant qualities and click to select it. GPS-enabled BlackBerries allow searches by location. The user sees a full description of the printer, reviews the selection of e-mail messages and attachments, and clicks Print again to initiate the job.

HP says they are making a three-front attack on the Cloud: collaborating with cloud providers, collaborating with existing cloud users, and offering its own cloud services and cloud-enabled products. Their big vision for HP’s cloud research is focused on delivering an application and computing end-state of Everything-as-a-Service (see a previous blog post and link here on RichInternetPrinting. )

Cloud Printing is here, and the applications are virtually endless. Pun intended!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cloud Printing Becomes a Reality with Scribd and Mimeo

Scribd describes themselves as the largest social publishing and reading site in the world. They make it incredibly simple for anyone to share and discover content on the web and mobile devices. Scribd welcomes tens of millions of readers every month, who pick and choose from tens of millions of documents available, in over 90 languages. Scribd is used by individuals, as well as institutions and corporations like Harvard University and Ford Motor Company. Some of the largest companies in the world are using Scribd to enable document sharing with their global constituencies, and they are using it instead of legacy content and document management systems or building their own web document sharing architectures. Corporations and institutions are able to choose a solution like Scribd because standing up a cloud computing environment to serve very specific applications is becoming a "best practice", versus spending millions on IT resources and software. Scribd itself is a great choice, because it is so easy, flexible, and available, and their reader is become ubiquitous across the web and mobile devices.

Mimeo and Scribd recently announced a partnership to allow Scribd readers to order printed (and, if desired, beautifully finished) versions of millions of documents available. Trip Adler, CEO and co-founder of Scribd said, “With the Mimeo open platform, Scribd was able to quickly implement a solution that offers our readers a convenient, easy to use and cost effective solution that makes printing a seamless experience. Customers can request a printed version of any eligible document in minutes and have it delivered to their doorstep."

If it wasn't clear before, our experience at Mimeo since David and I starting writing this blog (and creating Cloud Printing applications), that there are complementary applications for reading on the web and printing documents. I won't go into much of the details of why here, but if there's interest I will cover it in a later post. Because of this, we've been talking here at RichInternetPrinting, and in other venues like TAGA, for some time about the need to create an environment in which printing can occur when content is created and lives on the web.

Scribd is unique compared to some other applications we've discussed, because the content may or may not originate "in the cloud", it could originate in desktop applications. Scribd is a user generated content repository for documents. Unlike blogs or other web-based UGC, Scribd lets you upload richly formatted text, so documents preserve layouts, fonts and graphics. Because you get unlimited storage (same as with Mimeo), you can manage all your documents online. So then you need a robust way to print them.

Now, the need has never been greater, with the advent of new mobile devices like Tablets-- none of which have any real printing capabilities. So the answer until recently is to somehow email your document to a place where you can download it and print it. Obviously, depending on where you are, there could be a lot of obstacles in the path to success with that approach. Little things like bandwidth and network security policies can ruin your day. With Mimeo and Scribd, you can use your mobile device, and have finished documents delivered to you, in whatever quantity you desire.

In the screenshot above, I was reading a Scribd document entitled, "Arizona Immigration Lawsuit", and I simply clicked on Scribd's Print button on the menu bar at the top of the document. I can choose to print to my desktop computer (assuming I am on a desktop machine, with the ability to print from my browser, with a printer attached on my LAN)-- OR, I can choose "Premium Printing" from Mimeo.

If I choose "Premium Printing", I see this screen, which lets me choose how I want my "book" delivered to me. This is the technology that Mimeo and Scribd developed and deployed together. It uses a combination of Scribd's APIs to get the document, and Mimeo's APIs to send the document and describe how the user wants to have it Manufactured.

Because the interface is embedded in Scribd, and it is user friendly, all the user needs to know is what they want their document to look like (based on some simple, constrained choices we've given them-- for example, the size of the book, one of two binding choices, and what to put on a cover we will provide.) Mimeo and Scribd handle the rest once I check out and place the order the twenty, 12 page double-sided perfect bound "travel" books that I am asking for containing the text of the Immigration Lawsuit!

This is only the beginning, but we've already produced quite a few documents and had a couple thousand people click in to take a look at the possibilities. We're looking forward to feedback from Scribd's 50 million readers per month about what features they want in the system. If you've been following this blog, you know we've been working on the technology underpinnings of this for a couple of years now, and it is really coming together-- continuing to evolve as we work with partners like Scribd and develop new ideas.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Google Cloud Print Announcement- Exciting Stuff!

Google has announced Google Cloud Print, check out details from Google here. This is an incredibly important step in creating the ability to print from a variety of new applications, and devices. TechCrunch covered this announcement, too. It's very notable in light of (and in contrast to) the Apple iPad introduction, which doesn't actually appear to have a hard copy strategy. For the moment at least, printing from the iPad is dependent on some relatively primitive printing apps available from third-parties. I think this technology and approach could be far-reaching, beyond the Chrome OS; Google also needs a great printing strategy to complement Google Docs. I'm hoping that this will follow in short order; my company is in the process of adopting Google Enterprise Apps, for document collaboration. Robust printing is certainly something that we get from Microsoft Operating Systems at this point. As we transition to Cloud applications, especially for office productivity and document management, there is a great opportunity to do much more. I'm also hoping that commercial print can benefit from Google Cloud Print. My investigation is just beginning.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Everything as a Service (EaaS)

Some very exciting stuff going on at HP, as usual. I found this recent quote (March 19, 2010), from CEO Mark Hurd, "Services now account for 38% of Hewlett-Packard's total operating profit, more than any other segment of the firm's business. The news from one of the world's biggest PC manufacturers reflects a transition seen across the industry as computing firms away from their traditional business models. CEO Mark Hurd says the firm's acquisition of major business outsourcing firm EDS and developments in other parts of its operation have wrought significant changes. Hurd went on to say, "It's very different from how it was four or five years ago where imaging and printing group was over 80% of HP's profits," Hurd told HP's annual general meeting. "So it's a big change in the company's position and segments."

This might seem somewhat obvious, with the acquisition of EDS. And it also might seem very similar to the moves of other tech titans over the years and their services approach, notably IBM and their acquisition of PWC several years ago.

But unlike other technology or services companies, HP also owns a big piece of the imaging and printing space, an ecosystem in which they have been incredibly innovative and successful. The difference between what they are doing, and competitors, is that they have, and will continue to, move very "traditionally conducted" activities in this area to the cloud. This could be very disruptive over the next couple of years.

Visit HP's page dedicated to their Everything as a Service theme, here.

"There’s been a great deal of confusion in the industry about the cloud. In simplest terms, the cloud is the next stage in the evolution of the internet. Through the cloud, everything will be delivered as a service, from computing power to business processes to personal interactions.

At HP, over the past several years, we have executed a strategy that puts us in an ideal position to capitalize on this trend. We began with Compaq to establish ourselves as the leader in hardware, as that segment steadily moves toward open systems and architectures and always connected devices. To differentiate our hardware, we expanded our software portfolio and acquired 11 software companies in 4 years, including Mercury, Opsware and Peregrine. We then acquired EDS and put a services arm with global scale and expertise at the head of our enterprise business.

In short, we have laid the groundwork to offer an integrated cloud ecosystem — or any of its parts as discrete components — to all of our customers. At the same time, we have developed cloud services adjacent to our core businesses. From digital printing to IT infrastructure itself, we have offerings as broad and varied as HP's portfolio. "