HP launches Web printers for iPhones, Droids and other smartphones

After dropping wide hints over the past few weeks about "Web printer" plans, HP started to get a lot more specific today with the launch of three new smartphone-enabled printers. Some questions still remain unanswered, though, including exactly when the WebOS mobile operating system of HP's newly acquired Palm will come into play.

HP actually rolled out its first Internet-enabled printer about a year ago, noted Vyomesh Joshi, speaking at an HP launch event today that also kicked off New York Internet Week.

"The new world is all about Web printing," Joshi contended. "You don't need to worry about the driver. You don't need to be in the same room."

Going forward, HP will now provide capabilities for remote and local Web-based printing to all of its new printers for consumers and businesses priced at $99 or higher, Joshi said today, as the company rolled out its three latest models.

The Photosmart e-All-in-One inkjet printer, priced at $99, will ship later this month, and a new ePrint application for the printer will become available at around the same time.

Supporting on demand printouts from iPhones, Droids, and virtually all smartphones available for sale in 2010, the new app will also work on the new Photosmart Plus e-All-in-One, priced at $149 and the new Photosmart Premium Fax, priced at $199, both slated for release in September.

Users will e-mail the printers from their mobile phones to request printouts. The new ePrint app will also let users pre-schedule printouts, automatically printing out reading materials at breakfast time to be brought along on the morning train ride, for instance.

In a widely publicized conference call a little over two weeks ago, HP CEO and Chairman Mark Hurd told financial analysts that HP is planning an entire series of Web-connected printers, and that these printers will sport WebOS, a mobile OS developed by Palm for use on Pre and its other phones.

However, although Vyomesh and other HP officials today filled in the details about which HP printers will be Web-enabled, Palm's WebOS wasn't even mentioned by HP, except in a question raised by Betanews during the Q&A.

Meanwhile, HP did bring a bunch of printer partners to the stage, including Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google.

Pichai told reporters that he regards HP's Web printing initiative to be mutually complementary with Google's CloudPrint project to enable Google Chrome OS-based Web printing from all printers and other devices, including legacy printers.

HP is also eyeing Web-based printing across multiple types of devices, Joshi said, adding that HP foresees working with many other partners beyond Google.

Initially, HP won't use WebOS in its Web-based printers, said Louis Kim, director of product management, Worldwide Inkject Consumer Solutions, speaking with Betanews during the event. But, he predicted, some time over the next few months, HP might start moving toward replacing its existing printer operating systems with WebOS.

Kim told Betanews that HP could start to achieve this kind of convergence by some time this fall, with the introduction of new two-way Web-based printing capabilities which let users upload and download documents for printout through HP's Web cloud.

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