HP (NYSE HPQ) answered the weekend's second-most-mystifying tech world story (I'm granting the Steve Jobs secret-liver-transplant #1) with a Twitter-inspired press announcement in San Francisco Monday morning.
Under the "hash code" of #hpreveal, buzz had been building over the end of the week and weekend (including in this blog -- see "Mystery HP Print Announcement - #HPReveal"), over what HP might offer up, with teases like "introducing a whole new platform" and collaboration with "some of the Valley's most renowned companies"
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".
The company's press release (see "HP Introduces World's First Web-connected Home Printer") positions the new product/solution as follows:
HP is bringing the power of the web directly to the printer and combining it with HP’s TouchSmart technology to give people quick, easy, touchscreen access to popular digital content.
But IPG chief VJ, in tracing back the history of the original all-in-one (incorporating printing, scanning, faxing, and copying) creating a new printing category with first products in 1993, describes this new first-of-category model as the "ultimate AIO". Joshi's other effective historical reflection, positioned to see the future as well, as the HP printer business's first 25 years "riding the PC wave", and now looking ahead to see the Web as its driving force for content.
In addition to HP, the announcement was strengthened by the presence of four of the announced HP partners in this new endeavor. Representatives of Coupons.com, Fandango, Google, and Nickelodeon talked about application development that's already occurred in their organizations, and all seemed very pleased that HP was committing to provide a superior printing solution for their coupons, movie tickets, maps, and kids' activity pages, respectively.
With the Twitter action blazing during and after the morning event, it was easy to get at least bit of a handle on user and pundit reaction. Of those squeezing editorial content into their 140-character tweets, many seemed impressed and repeated the superlatives, e.g. "first-ever", while at least a few others saw little new in a web-connected printer that will continue to print Internet content that's currently being printed (profusely in some cases), sent down printers of all stripes via traditional browsers and web-connected PC's.
The attempt to define a new web-connect printing platform is a bold move from the industry leader, and is to be commended. The glass-half-full-or-empty argument may continue, with the market casting the final vote in the coming months and years. Going back to the HP positioning in the first paragraph of the release and excerpted here, the key word in it all is "easy", in my opinion. If a large enough segment of the market votes with their dollars for an easier, simpler approach to printed web content, HP may indeed have today planted the first flag in a new category, something that doesn't come along very often!