Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Drug printing

The headline on the wire, "HP printer to stamp out counterfeiting", didn't seem so new or different, as preventing currency counterfeiting has long been an interest of our industry, especially with the highly capable AIO's and MFP's of the last decade or so.

But the source of the article made me pay attention -- Outsourcing-pharma.com. The subject here, in the article by Nick Taylor, is HP (NYSE HPQ) and their Specialty Printing Systems, with a printing solution for pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Branding, dosage and security information can be printed onto individual pills and the machine is capable of printing at a rate of 500 feet per minute.

Alternatively, there is the capacity to print at a slower speed but much higher quality. In this mode precise, uniform printing of logos, barcodes and variable data can be added to pills and capsules.

Also covered is another packaging-printing firm, DataLase. (See above photo.)

According to the article, the pill printing inhibits counterfeiting by not only labeling the drugs, but also by establishing an additional barrier (the printing solution itself) to would-be counterfeit drug manufacturers.

eWeek.com features HP's (NYSE HPQ) 'Web Print Guru'

Andrea Orr of eWeek.com has posted an interview with "HP's Web Print Guru", Senior VP David Murphy, head of the HP (NYSE HPQ) Imaging and Printing Group's Web Services and Software group. The piece contains some interesting thoughts on HP's strategy around what it's been calling "Print 2.0", notably around past and potential future "growth" acquisitions, including January's Exstream deal.

Also interesting to note that while Murphy covers consumer as well as enterprise opportunities, most of the discussion seems to come back to either photo retailers and their efforts, including new photo printing technology for traditional prints, as well as in-store photo books and other novelty items, which may also available for home printing, as exemplified by their Disney/Hannah Montana concert photobook offering. (Interesting that this reminds us that PR value may be a fleeting thing...)

Blog printing is not mentioned. And while some effort continues at HP on this front, the blog printing experiment at TechCrunch that I blogged about last summer (see "TechCrunch getting hard copy") seems to be over.

PS -- Andrea Orr also had an interesting update on HP's Exstream acquisition earlier this month that I'd flagged and had been waiting to work into a post. See "HP Exstream Takes Printing Business in New Direction."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brijit.com offers reader summaries

Brijit, a magazine, newspaper, and digital content-abstracting web site that I've been following for about a month now, has been providing me with a great deal of enjoyment and education, and I wanted to pass it along, filed under the "general interest" category.

If you've read April 2008's Wired magazine, in print or online, you might have seen a multi-part section that falls under the umbrella title "The Upside of the Downturn: Wired Business Trends 2008", and includes a discussion of Brijit under "The Human Touch -- Algorithms Are Terrific, But to Search Smarter, Find a Person", a discussion of businesses tapping into the human element in conjunction with the power of PCs and the Internet. (Another business included in the Wired piece is ChaCha, featured in Walt Mossberg's Personal Technology column, as well as on CNBC, today.)

Of course, you can read the Brijit abstract on the Wired piece too -- 100 words*!

A smattering of recent abstracts of potential interest for readers of this column include:

Dugg Up: Ten Typographic Mistakes Everyone Makes

You Can Enjoy a Book on a Mere Cellphone; (Hit Spacebar Now)

Just Go to Helvetica

*in the full disclosure department, I am a contributor to Brijit and the Wired abstract linked to above is one of my winning submissions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

GreenPrint introduces TreeMail

In honor of this year's Earth Day, GreenPrint has announced (see iPaper window below) "TreeMail", a series of signatures for emails that are designed to convince readers to think twice before printing.

Readers may recall last month's post about a similar email signature message I'd been seeing. (See "Please Consider the Environment".) GreenPrint has gone an interesting step further with a tracking/linking connection, at least for users of Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Yahoo Mail.

Read this doc on Scribd: Treemail Press Release 4 21 08

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Free" Encyclopedia Britannica

Maybe it's a move inspired by the "Free!" movement that was the subject of my March 2008 Observations, or maybe not, but the Encyclopedia Britannica is now available to online journalists and bloggers, to share with their readers.

As a trial run, I searched the EB on "laser printer" (what else?), and found this. Please give it a look!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Top Tech Bloggers

This one's a admittedly far less relevant to printing and imaging than most, but just a quick note and link on an interesting post over at TechCrunch.

Who are the top tech bloggers? That's what yesterday's post tries to answer, with some interesting methodology. It's a work-in-progress, with 105 comments so far!

Amazon's (NASDAQ AMZN) CEO Bezos lighting a fire under Kindle

Amazon's (NASDAQ AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos uses nearly the entirety of his annual letter to shareholders to extol the virtues of the company's recently introduced (November 2007) e-book reader, Kindle.

I like his approach, drawing parallels to the origin of the Amazon.com business as a whole, and I particularly enjoyed this passage in the letter:
Lately, networked tools such as desktop computers, laptops,
cell phones and PDAs have changed us too. They’ve shifted us more toward information snacking, and I would argue toward shorter attention spans. I value my BlackBerry—I’m convinced it makes me more productive—but I don’t want to read a three-hundred-page document on it. Nor do I want to read something hundreds of pages long on my desktop computer or my laptop. As I’ve already mentioned in this letter, people do more of what’s convenient and friction-free. If our tools make information snacking easier, we’ll shift more toward information snacking and away from long-form reading. Kindle is purpose-built for long-form reading.

My December 2007 Observations (see "Amazon's Kindle Stirs Up E-book (and Printing and Imaging) Excitement".) offered similar thoughts, at least about the idea that Amazon took a stand by making their Kindle NOT a laptop, and NOT a PDA.

And speaking of reading books on the Blackberry, last week's Portals column by Lee Gomes in the Wall Street Journal addressed the very subject! "You Can Enjoy a Book On a Mere Cellphone; (Hit Spacebar Now)" is a fun, somewhat toungue-in-cheek read, that also contains some interesting thoughts and insights. I especially like how Gomes uses his own "street-level" marketing research to judge the popularity of Kindle, and like devices, in the face of "record numbers" claims:
Though not exactly screaming best sellers; [sic] while neither Sony nor Amazon discloses sales figures, and while Amazon reports a shortage of Kindles, one doesn't see a lot of either on trains or planes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Advising on the current and future role of paper

Maybe it is the season, but it seems that especially lately there's been a cacophony of print-reduction ideas and predictions.

I've commented on a few of them, as well as some reactions (see "A few HP (NYSE HPQ) thoughts on printing less" and "Please Consider the Environment" for examples.)

This morning's news brings a link from CNN.com's front page to "Lifelines for home offices drowning in paper", an interesting piece by Matt Ransford of Popular Science, or "PopSci.com" in Web parlance. Focusing on the home office, the article brings some sound advice that suggests corporate-standard practices like document scanning and electronic filing. I like the pragmatic approach, for example:
The key to the future of the digital home office is not so much a paper-free environment but rather one that is less paper-dependent. As technology grows more complex and intuitive, creating a digital office will increasingly rely on smartly managing paper with the technology at hand.

And another blog piece caught my attention recently. Alex Iskold at ReadWriteWeb has a provocative post titled, "The Coming Death of Paper as an Information Storage Medium" and dissects the role of printed paper in our daily lives.
The power of persistent information is awesome. If you have never contemplated what it would be like without it, just take a moment now to think about it. In a world where passing information is only done orally, information transfer is very limited and inefficient. The invention of paper and writing was perhaps as important and critical in the development of modern humans as the invention of language. Persistent information is responsible for both the rise of living organisms (DNA), and the rise of civilization.

Iskold goes from there to discuss different forms of print, starting with the difference in future prospects between books, newspapers, and transactional formats like printed receipts and statements (hint, his future view is good, not so good, and bad, respectively). Highly recommended reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Personalized travel guides

SharedBook, a "Demo" company I've covered since their debut at the Demo 2007 conference, announced an interesting new partnership with ProfessionalTravelGuide.com earlier this week. The utility of a "hard copy" travel guide, much like the portability and durability of printed driving directions, seems obvious, so combining professionally-provided travel tips and maps, with personalized content, makes this look like a natural.

On the virtual front, I'd noted a great post from about a month ago, in one of my favorite blogs, ReadWriteWeb.com, which covered "12 Future Apps For Your iPhone", one of which is "Personalized Travel Guides". Interesting convergence, and maybe one of those iPhone printing opportunities I can't seem to avoid!

PS -- For an example of the SharedBook personalized Guidebook, see this post at the SharedBook blog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Asus Eee PC printing

Maybe you've seen the Asus Eee PC around -- those tiny laptops that come in a variety of colors and are purported, by some, to compete with the One Laptop per Child computers. Priced between $300-$400 and up, that's really nowhere near, proportionally anyway, to the original $100 price point (now $400 for two) that Nicholoas Negroponte envisioned for the OLPC XO-1, and in fact nothing appreciably different from a low-low-end conventional laptop one might find at a number of outlets these days.

The trade-offs are not trivial, either -- the tiny screen and 2/3-sized keyboard, for example. And the standard Linux OS, while functional, especially for web-based users, lacks some of the niceties of other machines we might be used to (in my case, iPhone, and XP and Vista laptops). An annoyingly notable example, for me and others (e.g., see Walter Mossberg and Gizmodo), is the missing auto-connect to favorite wireless LANs.

Nonetheless, it prints! When connected (via USB -- wireless testing will have to wait) to a trusty HP (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet 1012, the computer automatically recognized it (not sure it's called this officially, but what I'd call "plug and play"), and quickly cranked out a test page (see below) and other hard copy as requested.

This "ultramobile" market segment seems destined to boom, with HP and Dell announcing their entries in recent days past, and printing will be at least an occasional need. With HP, like Asus,
announcing both Linus and Microsoft Windows versions (though Asus seems more Windows-focused all of a sudden), good customer printing experiences will be interesting to track.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Observations: iPhone Printing, Revisited

iPhone Printing, Revisited

One great thing about maintaining a blog (or really any Web site for that matter) is the traffic data that accumulates. For a data hound like me, having tons of accessible data for sorting and sifting can provide a real feeling of wealth and well-being, especially when it relates to a favorite topic (the printer industry) and a favorite group of people (my blog readers).

But beyond being satisfied with typical Web statistics (links in, entry pages, exit pages, time spent on site, user domain and geographic information), I think the most fascinating information comes from the summary of users who found my blog pages via keyword searches on search engines such as Google and Yahoo! These results speak to the effectiveness and interest in my blog and to the interest levels of the general searching public in specific topics.

By way of some background, the data from keyword searches is from only a subset of my visitors, who also come via links from other sites, from entries in their Web browser's bookmarks or favorites lists, or by simply typing my blog's Web address, www.jimlyonsobservations.com, into their browser's address bar. But visitors that result from keyword searches account for a significant subset of all visitors, commonly more than half the overall site visits. That number, of course, also has a relationship to the effectiveness of my blog's Search Engine Optimization (basically how well do entries on my blog "compete" with other entries that include the same key words).

But enough blogger background. Let's get back to the printer industry and some market research data that produces some rather astounding numbers. From a recent time slice of my blog's traffic statistics, the Top 10 keyword combinations that brought readers to the Jim Lyons Observations blog include the following: "iPhone printing" (#2), "iPhone print" (#4), "iPhone printer" (#5), and "print from iPhone" (#10). Clearly, of all the things I've covered in my blog in more than two years and 400 posts, the subject of iPhone printing is hot!

It is great to note that the industry has responded. I have worried that when Web searchers find my musings about iPhone printing, they are not very happy, even though I have addressed their subject of interest, because the thrust of most of my writing has been to stress how important I believe the iPhone is and how it represents a printer industry opportunity. Things have changed since my original mid-2007 post, however, and an update is worth reporting here and in my blog.

First, in August of last year, HP's (NYSE: HPQ) CloudPrint was covered by the press, and the technology established a Web presence with its own domain at www.cloudprint.net. CloudPrint promised to give users the ability to "Share, Print, and Store Documents with your Mobile Phone," and HP addressed the Apple iPhone opportunity specifically in press discussions. However, in the more than six months since HP's announcement, the solution remains about the same as when it was originally presented—not quite ready for prime time—and a search of HP's official Web site yields only a few older blog mentions for CloudPrint.

More current are a pair of Ricoh MFPs, announced, fittingly, at January's MacWorld show in San Francisco and covered in the February issue of The Hard Copy Observer. The Ricoh SP C410DN-KP and SP 4100N-KP are wireless versions of previously announced color and monochrome machines that the company is touting as "HotSpot" printers that enable "convenient access to reliable laser printing from Internet-enabled laptops, cell phones, or handheld devices without the need to download and install drivers or additional software."

Ricoh's partner in the solution is PrinterOn, a mobile print solution provider whose history goes back to 2000 and whose tagline is, "Print simply anywhere." Michael Cohen, vice president of business development at PrinterOn, describes the development of printing from mobile devices and depicts his firm's current solution as "no drag printing' that assists in streamlining and simplifying the printing solution and eliminates factors like client-based applications and page imaging prior to actually printing. How is PrinterOn doing in mobile printing generally? Cohen reports that in 2007, PrinterOn's PrintSpot processed and printed more than four million pages from thousands of locations. These figures are not on the same scale as the 53 trillion pages often quoted by Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group, but they are impressive nonetheless.

Cohen recognizes that the printing needs of mobile device users are different and do not involve fundamental document creation, as with conventional PC-based word processors, for example. But the ability to access and print Microsoft Office or PDF documents, perhaps after modifying them slightly, or print driving directions from the iPhone's Safari Web browser, do seem to constitute real user needs that my blog's keyword analysis would seem to reinforce.

So is the printer industry's interest in providing solutions for mobile phones a newfound interest? Actually, no, as evidenced by the results of a quick group of electronic searches of The Hard Copy Observer archives. In addition to PrinterOn's legacy, a search for "Nokia," for example, yields 58 hits, and "Blackberry" comes back with even more: 61 hits over 14 issues between 2001 and March 2008. As expected, most of these mentions relate to printing and document management from mobile devices. While looking back over that history does not necessarily produce "ahas" about finding the genesis of a solution that has already led to a huge payoff for one or more industry participants, the payoff may soon be coming.

Stay tuned on this one. I have a strong feeling that the "less is more" principle applies here. Capturing the relatively infrequent but still must-print situations may be the key, and understanding why and when printing makes sense for the millions upon millions of mobile device users, including iPhone owners, may lead to real business success for some of our more savvy industry members.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Kindred spirits

Two Kindle-oriented blogs have responded to the "lost Kindle" woes expressed in my recent "What's sadder than a lost Amazon (NASDAQ AMZN) Kindle?" post.

Kindleville's Joe Wickert sympathizes in "The lost Kindle saga" and suggests that Amazon might be able to help find it. In my comment over there, I noted that I'd been working the same angle, to no avail, so far anyway. The unit has been deactivated by Amazon, so at least I know I won't be getting charged for e-books that the new "owner" might want to order. But the tracking side of it hasn't panned out. (Which ties into one concern I've had all along, that the unit got inadvertently tossed by the plane cleaners.)

And e-BOOKVINE has simply linked over to my post, but their site is worth checking out for the poll they have running. They're asking their readers about Kindle and printing, no less! (See "Kindle Printing" and other more recent posts on this topic.)

BTW, so far the E-BOOKVINE poll is showing 65% regard printing capability from the Kindle as either very important or at least nice to have.

Congrats CradlePoint!

While no longer officially a part of the printing and imaging biz, friend and former HP colleague Pat Sewall has built and grown his Boise-based CradlePoint into an appealing acquisition target. It became official last night that Sierra Wireless (NASDAQ SWIR) will acquire Cradlepoint for $30 million. Congratulations Pat and Cradlepoint, and welcome to Boise, Sierra!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mike Feldman live-blogging at HP's Enterprise Printing Event

Just a quick note to follow up today's earlier post on HP's Enterprise Printing announcement.

Check out Mike Feldman's posts at the HP Enterprise Printing blog -- and appreciate the link back, Mike!

Live Blogging from Budapest

Customers talk about how imaging and printing transforms their business

More customer stories from Budapest

HP (NYSE HPQ) rolls out Enterprise Printing products, services

Affirming their laser-like focus (pardon the pun) on the Enterprise Space commented on here in the recent past (for a recent example see "More from HP on Q1 printer business"), HP (NYSE HPQ) today announced a group of new printers, an enterprise-level scanner (the Scanjet N9120, see above), and a variety of new services.

The products and services are aimed at the evolving needs of enterprises (or, as the press release spells out, "large businesses"), and while it's good to see at the core a group of printers and scanners -- always comforting as an anchor to the story for those in the press and analyst community -- in addition to the services, especially as related to security and "assessments", which are featured front and center as well.

Also integrated are updates on HP's Green Printing message (this time it's a new energy-saving toner formulation, after yesterday's environment announcement regarding cooperative efforts with the State of California); the Enterprise portion in the $300-million marketing campaign around "Print 2.0" (see "HP's $300 Million Campaign") which will feature "What do you have to say?" as the tag line; and the closing of the Exstream software deal (see "Exstream Printing").

Kudos to HP for not only pursuing the Enterprise Printing space with persistence and vigor, but also to their communications arm for pulling together the potentially disparate pieces into a cohesive milestone -- and especially for throwing in some hardware for some of us traditionalists!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kodak's "printer gets whacked" commercial and other celebrity fun

Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE EK) has been having fun with their connections to the Celebrity Apprentice TV show. With their EasyShare All-in-one inkjet printer featured as the object of one of the show's team competitions in a January episode, and exposing Gene Simmons' passion for "a Kodak world" (see "Show Biz and the printing and imaging industry"), the company has put together a Simmons-inspired "Kodak World" web site, including celebrity testimonials and a commercial where Vincent Pastore (above, center), reprising his The Sopranos role, "takes out" an older all-in-one from a "leading maker", and brings a new Kodak into the family.

Gizmodo featured the commercial in a recent post with some great printer-related comments, worth checking out.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What's sadder than a lost Amazon (NASDAQ AMZN) Kindle?

In my world, the only thing sadder would be a lost Amazon Kindle e-book reader that's not missed!

It's been four weeks now since my Amazon Kindle turned up gone. This was the Kindle I'd really been interested to use, paid the full $399 price, patiently waited for to arrive through Amazon's multiple-week backlog, and then shared with my wife, a much more avid reader (of books anyway). We both were enjoying, for a few weeks anyway, at least some of the advantages of the state-of-the-art e-book reader. But obviously, not that much!

Despite kicking myself for almost assuredly leaving it in the airplane seat pocket on a Friday afternoon flight, the truly interesting observational take-away is that I didn't notice it was missing for a full 24 hours. I can't imagine being unaware that my iPhone or laptop (or keys, or briefcase, or other vital possession) wasn't with me for a whole day!

With the airline lost-and-found process now exhausted, my ambivalence towards the loss can clearly only be put behind me one way -- another new gadget some day soon! (But not a new Kindle -- tried it, kind of nice, but not worth buying another one, this generation anyway. Too many of the well-documented flaws -- each in itself minor but adding up to a mostly unpleasant and even at times annoying user experience.) And btw my indifference towards the loss made it into my son's friend's Tumblr, so that was worth something right there!

New C-level job filled at Kodak (NYSE EK)

Of course, I'm referring to Kodak's new Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney. And judging by the comments over at Tom Hoehn's post about this new "C-level" position at "A Thousand Words", it's a popular choice.

Congrats, Jenny, and thanks for the tip, Tom!

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Zealand success story -- a blog to print (publication)

While we've discussed the ability to print from blogs here in the past*, a friend in New Zealand passes along this most interesting blog-to-print success story, with a whole different meaning, about a community-news-oriented blog, named, of all things, The Flying Pickle.

What started as a local suburban news blog became a print publication, in a fascinating "reverse migration" of sorts. A summary of the story is now available. And recommended!

*in fact it went by without comment some weeks ago, but I've implemented the Blogger version of HP's (NYSE HPQ) blog-printing tool. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pandigital announces new PanTouch frames

Pandigital today announced a new line of photo frames featuring finger-touch controls on the FRONT of the photo frame.

Crave's post, titled with the rhetorical "The iPhone of digital photo frames?", caught my attention earlier today, and looking at the potential of this usability enhancement has me intrigued. My personal photo frame (actually the one I "gifted" to a close family member this past holiday season) is generally satisfactory (scrolling images look great and definitely brighten the home atmosphere), but the control buttons, which are nearly hidden altogether on the back of the frame, along with a cryptic menu system, make "control" of the frame more of a euphemism than a reality.

I've covered photo frames in the past (see "Digital Photo Frames -- Printer friend or foe?") and I believe there's an interesting story playing out here relative to the printer industry, so stay tuned. Usability ALWAYS matters in the end...

So it's NOT an April Fool's joke!

Scribd, the self-styled "YouTube for documents" company I've followed here somewhat regularly, had a release yesterday that a devoted reader shot my way, and that I laughed off as an April Fool's joke. In fact it wasn't that much of a laugh because in my hectic scan, it seemed a little too much like last year's Gmail Paper joke.

Josh Lowensohn at Webware.com has a piece worth reading that indicates he shared my error, that it WAS NOT an April Fool's joke, so at least I wasn't the only one. (Thanks Josh.) Scribd's blog has a post by Jason Bentley stating the case that the announcement was real but it just happened to be announced on April 1st, so I guess I could have checked there too. I am developing a full piece on Scribd's file format (iPaper) as well as the company's growth, so I will leave further analysis of "Convert Your Paper to iPaper" for that.

And oh yeah, that Google Docs Airplane thing? Yep, April Fool's...

Microsoft's (NASDAQ MSFT) file format XML receives ISO approval

The news from Europe is that XML has been approved by the ISO organization. See "Microsoft Office 2007 file format is approved as ISO standard".

And the real question is -- does this matter? Obviously if you're in the middle of it, it matters, as the article indicates. But for those of us in the printer business, tangentially involved, do we care? The pending battle between PDF and XML drew quite a bit of attention a few years back, with some of us wistfully recalling previous Microsoft/Adobe (NASDAQ ADBE) battles. (See "Observations: Microsoft’s XPS—After All These Years, More Mumbo Jumbo?". That was April 2006 -- wow, I've been doing this awhile!)

While at one point, it seemed there was a high-stakes fight brewing, destined to spill over into our business. But now, are there any real printing or even document management issues involved? Something worth pondering...more to follow.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New Google Docs 'Airplane' function should boost printing

I've often covered developments in Google (NASDAQ GOOG) Docs and their suite of Google online office-suite competitors (for an example see "Google Docs now with enhanced print capability"), but I believe their enhancement announced today offers a big plus for the world of printing.

My first test airplanes printed nicely on both my wireless Lexmark X6570 inkjet all-in-one as well as on my HP LaserJet 1320. The Google logo is in color in the original design and it remains to be seen if this will drive most of the print volume to color printers, or if users will be willing to forgo the color for the potentially more weather-resistant durability of monochrome laser output.

Another trend to monitor will be the tendency to opt for "e-versions" of the airplanes, with users trading off the physical advantages of paper for "straight-to-PDF" versions.