Sunday, September 30, 2012

Berg's Little Printer delayed - this is the hard part

The Berg Little Printer, Social Media’s “most favorite printer ever”, has hit a delay in shipments. Through emails and a blog post the London-based firm explained some of the issues in the way of shipping the product that was announced with such a splash late in 2011. (See “Lessons From the Little Printer That Went Viral”)

It was then over a half-year of waiting, leading to Berg’s announcement that they were taking pre-orders (see Little Printer BeginsPre-Order Phase – Social Media’s Most Favorite Printer Ever?”, ). On getting the word, I immediately ordered one, for expected delivery in October. But alas, reality set in. From Berg’s email:

Following extended rounds of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing, we are regretfully unable meet the original shipping date of mid-October, and now expect to ship the first run in the last week of November. We are very sorry for this significant delay.

I’m still on the pre-order list, and am excited to get the product, and will try not to get impatient. Having worked on the design/development side for many years, I know how it goes!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Observations - How Boise, Idaho Became a Printer Capital

also published in Photizo io360

How Boise, Idaho Became a Printer Capital

Observations: How Boise, ID Became a Printer Capital In debating ideas for the theme of my September Observations column, I had many choices. With each coming month, the drumbeat seems to quicken, with the future of printing itself in play and so many current developments on top of mind, including great product and services strategies and innovations coming from industry players both large and small. So I was not faced with “What to write about?” but rather “Which story?”

But there was one longer-term, historically significant event that would not escape me and helps to answer an important question, for many of us at least, of how Boise, ID, of all places, became a very important place in the printing and imaging world.

Unlike PC and software companies, for example, that are concentrated in more populous areas like Boston, MA, California’s Bay Area, and Seattle, WA, printers reflect a more far-flung geography. Just in the United States, we have locations like Rochester, NY, Lexington, KY, Boulder, CO, and many of the well-known Hewlett-Packard sites like Vancouver, WA, Corvallis, OR, and San Diego, CA, which are of historic and in most cases current interest. But I would argue that none of them can boast more great history and a continuing large concentration of printing and imaging talent and innovation than Boise. Without going into the “why” of the others, I have some special insight into “Why here?” having lived in Boise for 31+ years and having participated through most of that period in the printing and imaging industry, along with myriad friends and colleagues who also happen to be my neighbors.

The Definitive HP chronicle includes much on Smelek and Boise
The triggering event for my column was a sad one: the death of long-time technology executive Ray Smelek on September 3. The news of this long-time Boise resident’s passing reached me while I was traveling, much like the news of Dave Packard’s demise did years ago, and triggered a cavalcade of personal memories of Ray and our paths crossing many times. And notable in the memories, of mine and others, is Ray’s biggest overall claim to fame, business-wise at least, of his instrumental role in bringing the HP printer division to Boise, ID in the late 1970’s.

Working for HP in the firm’s Bay Area headquarters, Ray’s efforts with the city of Boise and the state of Idaho led HP to plant a foothold in “the Gem State” in the mid-1970’s. Boise became home to HP’s line of impact and eventually laser printers, and by 1984 was well established, at least as a “captive” supplier of hard copy devices (“captive” meaning that HP used its own printers for the firm’s line of technical and business minicomputers). That was the year that the mavericks in Boise “broke the mold” and offered a revolutionary $3,500 laser printer for the masses with common PC interfaces with a sales outlet in the PC channel. The rest as they say is history, and I’ve done my part in past blog posts to help document the LaserJet legacy (see “Happy 25th Anniversary LaserJet” coverage from 2009 and “25 Years of LaserJet”). In the interest of remembering Ray’s business contributions, as well as many of his wide-ranging community and philanthropy efforts, nicely crafted tributes followed his death in the Idaho Statesman and on the Idaho Technology Council website, an organization that made Ray one of its two inaugural inductees in the Idaho Technology Hall of Fame in 2010. (Ray’s co-inductee was another HP legend based in Boise, Dick Hackborn.) I encourage my readers to seek out those tributes, in addition to numerous mentions of him and the Boise move, in the 2009 book, The HP Phenomenon, by Chuck House and Raymond Lane. Ray himself authored a memoir in 2009, titled Making My Own Luck.

I also wanted to document several personal memories of Ray. As a young(ish) HP recruit to the Boise Disc Memory Division in 1981 (the “other” division on the young Boise site at the time), I was aware who Ray was from nearly day one, as the general manager of the Printing and Tape division next door. But I had little day-to-day contact with him, except being aware who he was through very occasional site-wide gatherings, where once an even younger colleague of mine swore he was seeing Lee Iacocca, a famous business leader of the time! (I had to be the one to inform him that it was actually Ray Smelek.) A couple of years later, that same colleague and I (still on the disc storage side) enjoyed visiting with Ray and other printer division folk, in the HP booth at Spring Comdex 1984, where the original LaserJet was introduced. So while he looked like a classical CEO, Ray did booth duty, too!

But, already, through his community contributions, it turned out I was not the first member of my family to meet Ray. My wife was employed during our early Boise years as a grant writer for the College of Idaho, where Ray headed the board of trustees, so she came to know him personally, before I did. As he had heard she was in the Boise area because her husband had been recruited by HP, she came home telling me that Ray wanted to know a little more of my story, too.

After that, I had more occasions to be around Ray, but as mentioned previously, we were merely crossing paths, as about the time I went into printing, Ray was heading off for a long run on the storage side of the house. But going back to that curious encounter with my wife, I was always impressed of his knowledge and interest in the organization and the people, even the newbies of the time. Others who knew Ray better confirmed to me that was a special trait he possessed, that of being highly-tuned to individuals and possessing a broad people knowledge and awareness—a good trait to emulate.

Many individuals have been cited as being the key developer/thinker/designer/inspirational leader in terms of the LaserJet and its 25+ years of success (all directed out of Boise I might add). But more than taking a village, the LaserJet’s dimensions and duration actually required more like a sprawling city of contributors to raise it—internal to HP and among many partners, including notably Canon. But Ray Smelek was the most instrumental person, bar none, in establishing an HP presence in Boise, going back to the 1970’s. And I want to be a voice in thanking him and remembering him for that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mobile printing and SEO - "Can I use a printer with my Nexus 7?"

As I get a little more re-engaged with my coverage of mobile printing, it's fun to think back how important the whole space has been for me. Going back to my first post on iPhone Printing, which appeared in July, 2007 (see "iPhone Printing"), I have continued to be fascinated in the development of printing solutions for smartphones and tablet computers.

And the work has also been a great way to learn about Search Engine Optimization! Often in those early days, as I'd scour the web for news on iPhone printing ideas (remember that the first iOS apps were a year away at that point), I would find my own blog posts were rising to the very top of "Page One" of my organic Google searches. A few friends and colleagues, dealing in more trafficked subject areas, were quite impressed!

Which leads me to the subject line of this post - this blog post does not cover, literally, how to use a printer with the Nexus 7, but instead is the literal search term (phrase) which has caused one of my posts (see "Nexus 7 Printing") from July of this year to make it back to #1.

I am back to #1 with "Can I use a printer with my Nexus 7"
And kudos to web-metrics tool Statcounter, btw! That measurement tool that I got started with back in the early days of my "Social Media career", which included blogging and not much else, has continued to evolve for the better, with oodles of useful information, including, on the "Recent Keyword Activity" page, the search term ranking for the subject keyword combos. In my case, today anyway, "Can I use a printer with my nexus 7?" is #1! (See screen shot above!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

My iPhone 5 upgrade - "for the want of a nail..."

I found myself awake at 2 AM mountain daylight time this morning, Friday September 14, 2012, and though not totally by design, I was compelled to try to get my planned Apple iPhone 5 upgrade going online. It was one hour after the midnight PDT commencement of pre-ordering for the phone (which was announced on Wednesday), so I was not by any means among the first to be attempting this, getting going a bit after 2. And I found big trouble, even in just loading both the AT&T and Apple e-commerce sites. As the time ticked away, I also found numerous tweets and blogs indicating the pre-order allocation of product was already gone. (see “Apple’s iPhone 5 pre-orders sold out”.)

But during the couple of hours or so of attempting to order, interlaced with keeping up on others’ experiences with the situation via Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media, got me reconsidering my decision. The Lightning connector that is included in the new iPhone got me thinking. I am from an extended family of many iPhone and iPad users, so whether at home, in a car, or visiting, it's almost always easy to find a good-old 30-pin power adapter. And so far, I would be alone in making the switch to the new and no doubt more efficient and smaller Lightning plug. And it’s not a pure Apple environment as we are also managing Kindles and Androids in the extended family mix as well, so adding in one more “standard” connector just seems like a complication I want to really consider if I am ready to do. (And given that the waiting time now for an iPhone5 has been pushed at least two additional weeks, I can use that “thinking time” wisely.)

I couldn't help but think it was interesting that a friend and I were just reminiscing about the old HPIB connector that came on all HP instruments and computers along with their peripherals back in the 1980s, and how that standardization was an advantage, while it lasted, when something was better enough to disrupt things and force the change. It really is classic “innovator’s dilemma” stuff.

So for now, I'll be happy (as I have been with my iPhone 4) for at least a few more weeks, and continue to consider my next move. And there's also hope for an adapter, but as of this morning, there was some confusion over whether or not Apple will include a free Lightning-to-30 pin adapter or not (see “iPhone 5orders shipping with free Lightning to 30-pin adapter [Updated: Maybe not]”, and after all, adapters are adapters – remembering back to the hassles with the original iPhone and its nonstandard headset.

It all reminds one of the old saw about losing the war the lack of a nail. Or at least it does. now, in my sleep-deprived state!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Capturing memories, PastBook style

Print lovers have to appreciate this headline!
It was great to see news this week on $250,000 of venture funding going to PastBook. They are an Amsterdam-based startup featuring a service to allow users to store photos from their social media sites into a more permanent, organized format, including hard-copy books.

The Insider, part of The Next Web, has a great story on the company, including their brief history and future plans, by Robin Wauters. (See "PastBook raises $250,000, helps you capture your digital memories.") The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Clayton, in their TechEurope Blog, offers a summary of the Insider coverage, and a great headline (see above, and “PastBook’s $250,000 to put Digital Memories in Print”.)

As part of TechCrunch's coverage (see "PastBook Raises $250K To Help Preserve Online Memories,Instagrammers First In Line"),
Steve O'Hear described the company's offering, which features Instagram integration as its first platform, with Facebook to follow. O'Hear offers the following:

The cloud element is reminiscent of things like the latest pivot from Jolicloud or services such as memolane, and there are a plethora of on-demand printing offerings that will turn your Instagram or Facebook photos into a physical book.

We've covered photobook-making and the tie-in to sites like Instagram here, for several years, and if the number of services offering this service qualifies as a "plethora", that must be good news for print, right?

O'Hear goes on to state the company plans to go well beyond print in the future, and also points out the (beta) availability of web browsing and PDF printing in PastBook's current offering.

Those additional formats include producing a PDF file, which I tried (with great results) with my recent Instagram photos. As a Beta user, it was offered as a freebie, though in the future, there will be a charge for creating a PDF. This charge represents an interesting revenue opportunity beyond that built into the photo-book pricing.