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.