HP launches web-connected, touch-screen printers that don't need computers

Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it has created a touch-screen printer that can print images off the web directly, without the need to connect to a computer.

It raises the question: what’s the peripheral, the computer or the printer? Indeed, with the right apps, you may be using this kind of device on a daily basis a lot more than you do with your actual computer.

You can look at the touch screen on the printer and print out your Google Maps, Google Calendar, coupons, movie tickets or whatever. HP has cut deals with those web sites that allows them to be displayed and printed on the new printer, dubbed the HP Photosmart Premium with Touchsmart Web. The all-in-one printer costs $399.

Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of printing and imaging at HP, said using the printer to print out coupons from Coupons.com could save users enough money to offset the cost of the printer itself. About 327 billion coupons are printed each year, but overall coupon use is declining with the fall of newspaper readership (newspapers are the primary source of coupons). With this printer, you can go directly to a variety of sites, find coupons, and then print them out with a push of your finger (see image below). The same process works with movie tickets, printed from the movie discount ticket site Fandango.

Google says 30 percent of people who look at Google Maps will print a page. That’s about 30 million of the 100 million who visit Google Maps every day. Nickelodeon, meanwhile, will make children’s activity books available for the printer. You can also print out stories from USA Today.

Joshi said  new applications can easily be added to the printer, since HP will openly share the applications programming interface (API). It takes a few weeks to customize apps for the printer.

Consumers can add apps to their printers by looking at the HP Apps Studio and selecting the apps they want.

But even though the printer is quite functional, Joshi said users won’t be using the browser to surf the web. The usage scenarios should be simpler than using a computer, not more complex, he said.

He said he doesn’t expect the apps to cost money, since HP already makes revenue from selling the printers and ink.

Over time, Joshi said that even $99 printers will have this kind of functionality. You should also be able to print on mobile printers while you’re on the run, using the same touchscreen apps. But those are the subjects of future products.

The era of the web has arrived for the printer. Sure, it’s about 15 years late, but better late than never, right?


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