HP introduces ‘printer apps’

Printers are the latest devices to sprout apps and an app store with HP following Lexmark’s lead in launching a series of printers which run apps on their colour touchscreens.

The printers pack a pared-down embedded Linux kernel which acts as a platform for apps for which HP will release an SDK and an ‘open API’.

Apps can be browsed and installed directly from the printers as well as online through the cloud-based ePrintCenter hub which is also the mechanism for printing documents by emailing them to the printer.

HP expects to offer a mix of free and ‘premium’ paid-for apps and will take a 30% revenue cut from the later.

“Our intention is to have a 70-30 model for premium services the same model as we see developing in the app world” said HP senior veep Stephen Nigro.

“It’s a little bit ‘chicken and egg’” Nigo says “but we will get to the scale where (paid apps) become attractive. The key to building a successful app ecosystem is scale and that scale is only possible when you have enough devices to build apps on. The printer market is a big market and when we get to tens of millions of Web-connected printers it becomes an attractive ecosystem for developers.”

However Nigro says that HP has no intention of equalling Apple in the app stakes. “We’re not trying to become just another app store like Apple or Android you won’t see beer-drinking apps like you have on the iPhone because that doesn’t have any relevance to printing.”

Many of the printer apps are more along the lines of clients for cloud-based services rather than stand-alone apps and Nigro said that HP would also apply some form of “certification and guidelines” for the approval (or otherwise) of printer apps edging the company closer to Apple-style control rather than the ‘free for all’ approach of Google’s Android Marketplace.

But Nigro was more hesitant on specifics such as what types of apps would be vetoed especially adult apps. “I don’t have an answer right now to that” he said although he added that there might be minimal need for such apps because “there’s already plenty of that type of content available on the Internet.”

Nigro also detailed how HP will prevent eprinters from becoming targets for the type of unwelcome spam content which used to see fax machines churn through rolls of paper.

“We have three three layers of protection for your eprinter. First the printer’s email address is quite long it’s kind of a random set of characters and numbers that we generate and is difficult to replicate.”

“As a second line of defence you can create a whitelist at our ePrint Center so that only certain email addresses can send content to that printer. The third level is the spam filtering we have on our ePrint service to detect and eliminate suspicious content.”

There are a few catches with this however. Users can’t create a simple and memorable address or alias for their printer and those who apply a whitelist won’t be able to ‘eprint’ documents sent from an account that’s not on the list.

David Flynn is attending HP’s Regional ePrint launch in Hong Kong as a guest of HP.