Wednesday, January 25, 2017

GIF Printing


Today brought to light a development in printing that I view as more fun than anything else. But since fun often places high on the interest list for me, I am sharing here.

The new-product site Product Hunt, one of my favorites, is featuring Print a GIF - and the interest is quite high. The solution - to "Turn any gif into a printable flip book" - is ranked in second place in today's listing, based on reader "likes" of the over-20 entries. As already mentioned, I mostly think of "fun" when I look at "Print a GIF", but it is tagged in five categories in PH, leading with "Productivity" and "Get Shit Done". Interesting!

"Print a GIF" holding a lofty #2 position among today's Product Hunt entries

Monday, January 23, 2017

Apps for your Printer - Remember when HP tried those?

Report - Problem with voice apps - stickiness
As an owner of Amazon Echo aka Alexa, and a gifter of Google Home, I was extra-curious about this morning's story in ReCode. Covering the market with a focus on "voice apps", writer Jason Del Ray looks at a new report by VoiceLabs and their analysis of the burgeoning market and the accompanying "Skills" (in Amazon lingo), or something more generically referred to as "apps". I recommend reading the article as well as the report summary.

The analysis also took me back to HP's "Printer Apps" which were announced in 2009 (hard to believe it's been nearly eight years). It was part of an overall launch of web-relevant printing-related products. From a post I filed on June 22, 2009, the day of the event in San Francisco (see "HP Reveals! Web-enabled inkjet all-in-one sets new industry direction"):

When it came time to unveil, at the Current Media studios in San Francisco, HP Imaging and Printing leader Vyomesh Joshi unveiled the "The HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web", a $399 inkjet all-in-one (available in September) that features direct Web access and provides a platform for application developers, with print-centric interests, complete with API's and an iTunes-like online app store dubbed "HP Apps Studio".
I remember talking to HP's then-top printer executive Vyomesh Joshi at the event, and suggested that his business was quite savvy in recognize the growth of apps for smartphones and tablets, and being a "fast follower" getting into their own apps. When I expressed that same sentiment to other HP attendees, also suggesting that it was a low-risk, worth-a-try endeavor, they argued that it was virtually guaranteed to be a success (this included that printer all-in-one with the multisyllabic name) and not a risk at all. that  I reported when their Apps Studio came online in September, and then visited and reported a few more times as the stable of apps, and reviewers, grew over time.

But the individual apps and Apps Studio never did pick up any real momentum, that printer model is now long forgotten, and the overall effort is only a memory for me, and I am betting that I am among the few who even remember "printer apps" at all. As to be expected, the old link to the app store from my post "HP's Print Apps Store update" gets hung up when I try to click through it, and the "home" site back then, the "HP Creative Studio", now takes me to Snapfish.com - quite interesting since that part of HP was sold off in April 2015 prior to the split into HP Inc and HP Enterprise. (See "HP Sells Snapfish - cites focus".)

That's probably enough looking back for now. And as I write so long here, let me say out loud, "Alexa play nostalgic music" and bingo, "she" says "Here's some music you might like", and serves up Van Morrison singing "Crazy Love", followed by America's "Horse with no Name" - love my Amazon Echo!

What the HP Printer App store (dubbed App Studio) looked like in October 2009





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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

HP Inc's Sprocket printer - a hot (make that scorching) holiday gift item!


Teddy Ruxpin was one of those highly desirable toys in short supply during the 80's
It started with toys, as I remember. The hot item that was in short supply during peak shopping season, and crazed parents would go to any length to get their kid the product of the year. I recall Cabbage Patch dolls, Furbees, and Teddy Ruxpin - the latter being the one I proudly "scored" for unwrapping under the tree.

Those feeding frenzies were before the widespread adoption of the internet and auction/shopping sites like eBay, which may have even upped the ante. The incursion of tech also played into the equation on the in-demand product side, too. It also became a not-particularly-holiday-driven phenomenon (I'm leaving out those pup-tent dwellers outside Best Buy for days before Black Friday). For a number of years (and mostly missing my demographic) the hot items were mostly things like the latest video game consoles. But I got back into it, at least as a very interested observer, when my Google Glass, purchased from the company as part of the Explorer program for $1500, and seeing those being offered for between $3,000 and $5,000 on eBay during the latter months of 2013. (See my post http://googleglasshalffull.blogspot.com/2013/10/google-glass-economics-update.html - note that was on another blog, which I had established as my personal contribution to the Glass hype of that year).

Snapchat Spectacles have a list price of $129
So connecting the dots from those early shopping frenzies leading up to Google Glass, one might conclude that Snapchat Spectacles would be the high-premium item this year. With their sketchy retail availability and "cool" factor, that was definitely true, as least a month ago, though eBay prices (bids and offers) have slipped significantly recently, down to a few hundred dollars.

HP's Sprocket printer is in high demand this holiday season, as this recent eBay buy-it-now listing shows

HP Shopping and other retailers are sold out!
And currently up there with the Spectacles' eBay-to-list-price ratio right now? It's the pocket-sized HP Sprocket Photo Printer, introduced early this year. I had posted about its appearance in the HP Q4 Earnings briefing deck in November as an HP Inc. Printing and Imaging highlight, and on further investigation which I had promised last week, lo and behold, it's a holiday season phenom!

More coming on its speeds and feeds in a future post, when I can get my hands on one!!!

Monday, December 05, 2016

My first "irregular" Observations

From HP Inc's Q4FY16 Results Presentation
Wow! Checking my last post (which announced the end of my regular monthly "Observations"), I was good to my word - nothing at all for the months of October or November.

But with the feeling that it's been too long, here I am with some reflections on HP's printing results for its fourth quarter, which ended October 31st and was reported a few weeks later. Overall, the numbers were not good, with a continuing decrease in quarterly revenues, as compared to prior years. A few glimmers of hope made it into the numbers (commercial hardware units and revenues ticked up a bit for example), but I was particular intrigued by what made it into a bullet point on the slide I have inserted above.

They included a final bullet as follows: "Innovation: Announced A3 platform, 13 laser and 3 ink models. Launched Sprocket, a mobile photo printer, and new Indigo platforms for Graphics", which got my attention and has had me thinking ever since! Perhaps it is the convergence with my own life? I have been spending much of my time lately (while I was not blogging) teaching a class called "Product Design and Development", and if there is a single key word to describe that class, it would be "innovation". Or maybe seeing a mobile photo printer named Sprocket make it to HP Printing's short list has been what's caused my curiosity to linger?

One thing I learned during my career actually involved in development projects is that, consistent with the old adage about "a watched pot never boils", stepping away from the action for awhile does have the effect of making those aforementioned projects seem to move along much faster! So maybe this is going on, but regardless, it seems the HP Sprocket is screaming for some investigation and reporting on my part. So as I so often ended my regular Observations, stay tuned!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

September 2016 Observations - The writing (printing?) is on the wall…

Getting ready to “file” my monthly “Observations” for the 130th time since its debut in December 2005 in the Hard Copy Observer, it dawned on me (actually after much thought) that it was time to announce a change.


To review a little history (always a sweet spot for me), I had a great career with Hewlett-Packard beginning in 1981 that stretched 25 years until the end of 2005, with most it affiliated with the incredible rise of HP and the LaserJet (and other) printers. At that point, offered an “Early Retirement Package” that fit well with the idea that there other things I wanted to do, I made the difficult decision to leave the friendly (most of the time) confines of HP, resisting the “retirement” part of the deal.


Those “things” have included teaching and consulting, but more relevant here, I also started writing my “Observations”, addressing topics in the Printing and Imaging industry - and I haved loved covering many of the developments since then.


My nascent activity as a blogger/analyst expanded to work with three respected publishing/research companies, and I am grateful for their support, starting with the Observer in late 2005 and my first column. It has turned into a great second career, and even with a sabbatical in 2015, I have continued to crank out something every month, with generally great enthusiasm.


As far as “retirement”, I have wondered what it would be that would trigger the feeling that I really am retired, at least as far as the aforementioned “blogger/analyst” role. Friends and authors told me that “I would know when it was time”, and that has finally happened. The “writing was on the wall” earlier this month with the announced acquisition by HP of the Samsung printing business.


Prior to the official announcement, I was unaware of rumors the week prior (which in retrospect told me a lot), but I did note the acquisition news in a blog post on September 12th, though it was of a historical nature. (See “HP buys Samsung's Printer/Copier Unit - the more things change...). And while reading that day’s HP release, watching HP CEO Dion Weisler’s comments on CNBC, and talking to a few industry friends, I realized the time had come - I really had no excitement or enthusiasm for the deal or the strategy behind it.

That, my readers, was the “writing on the wall” - I realized I am no longer interested in what goes on in the industry (that has been so good to me), at least not interested enough to crank out a monthly column. I will continue to post “Observations” from time to time, and they might even include things about printing and imaging, but my “streak” on monthly posts has ended - not bad, if I say so myself, at 130!

Monday, September 12, 2016

HP buys Samsung's Printer/Copier Unit - the more things change...


Breaking news this morning across the business world is HP's somewhat surprising $1 Billion acquisition of Samsung's printer business. The move is touted by HP as a path into the copier business, taking advantage of an A3 product line currently designed, manufactured and marketed by Samsung.

It is a time of long-term decline in the printing business and it is predictable that consolidation like this will continue to take place. This move brings to mind the HP/Samsung joint venture that ended in 1998. On my first visit to Seoul in 1985, our destination was "SHP" - as the logo on a large downtown office building read. I always will remember my education on the Korean economy of the times and the importance that HP work with a local business giant like Samsung. (Another one I learned about at the time was Lucky Gold Star.)

From HP's Measure magazine, 1995

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2016 Observations - Back to School with Chromebook

My beautiful new HP Chromebook 13 G1 is far from an invisible upgrade
 It’s that time of the year when the days suddenly seem noticeably shorter, the leaves start to show a little color, and neighborhood kids clearly exhibit different behavior patterns. Though it varies around the country, our area typically begins its school year the final week of August, including everyone from kindergarten to university level.

So what better time to get myself a new Chromebook? But what’s the connection? The Chromebook could be called the darling of educational computers these days – a search on Google for “Chromebook Education” returns nearly 600,000 hits, and CNBC reported in December that over half the computers sold to schools are now Chromebooks. The simplicity of Chromebooks’ hardware typically translates to excellent prices, and their connection to the Internet, with apps oriented to run in the cloud, means a level of sharing and collaboration that comes, more or less, with the Chromebook culture, and benefits the educators talk about.
But again, what does that have to do with me? One could assume my need for a new Chromebook is work-related, but not really, and actually on the contrary. I continue as the most active part of my second career these days in the education field, as a professor of marketing. My university’s standardization on Microsoft Office apps for online posts and assignments (including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) creates a pull in the other direction, to stay standardized on Windows machines. (Although working recently with Office365, the cloud version of Microsoft’s venerable suite, has made the bridge to Chromebook much easier.)

But for everything else in my life, computer traits of simplicity, thrift, and portability, which includes excellent battery life, are top priorities. And for these reasons, I was drawn to Chromebooks from the very beginning, and for well over a year, my favorite, everyday computer for home or travel has been a very simple HP Chromebook, which I bought refurbished from Woot, for a fantastic price.

Before continuing on with my Chromebook saga, I should summarize the feature tradeoffs/preferences which cause me to favor the Chromebook over the iPad for daily use, tablet computers being a category where I have been an early adopter too. At the very top of the list is a full-size (or near enough) QWERTY keyboard. Writing posts, sending emails, and keeping up on social media all require lots of typing, and for me there is no comparison between the two form factors for creating text, and it becomes the deciding factor without having to go down the list to tradeoff number two.

Tracing back to my interest in Chromebooks, my fandom no doubt has roots in following the bold assertions of Larry Ellison of Oracle, and his network computer aka “thin client” vision which goes back over 20 years. Also, I have been a user of Google products for many years, and adopted Gmail and then the Chrome browser as my go-to solutions for years now, installed on everything from my iPhone up through my Windows desktops. So I was a curious earlier adopter of Chromebooks, meaning my new one is the fourth Chromebook I have owned
.
To be honest, the first two were more novelties, though number two was definitely an improvement over number one, and I found a blog post from 2013 where I wrote about traveling with the Samsung (#2) as my only computer. For the most part, though, their sluggish performance too much to overlook. But number three was different, performance-wise, and soon became my favorite computer. Its turquoise case added to its charm. But it had recently shown signs of all that use, with a growing number of missing pixels and more-than-occasional freezes and crashes. So when I read some stories about the HP Chromebook 13 G1, released in late Spring, I was on my way to getting sold. This included a favorable comparison to the Apple MacBook in early August, then, a CIO listicle on nine reasons to buy a Chromebook, and then a favorable Forbes review comparing, favorably again, the HPChromebook 13 to Apple and Windows machines. (Truth be told, by the time the Forbes piece hit, I had already had my new HP Chromebook 13 G1 for about a week!)

My turquoise Chromebook pictured with color Kindle Fire and mouse
Conclusion

The new Chromebook seems like a great choice, and unlike my Invisible Upgrades this Spring, it’s a metal-plated beauty that is noticeably snappier and with a much better screen. I am very happy with my HP and the upgrade it offers over the faithful but failing turquoise model. In addition to a great price, like my previous Chromebooks, this one is fast to start up, easy to carry around, and very good on battery life. Just one thing has been bothering me…what about Chromebook Printing? I hear some good and not-so-good things and we definitely need to drill down in my next Observations.