Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mobile Printing 2013 - The year in review - We're getting somewhere!!!

Innovation in mobile printing in 2014 will include marketing!

Looking back on 2013, there were a considerable number of developments in the world of mobile printing, from players large and small. I have identified a few of what I consider both the key developments and remaining areas of opportunity.

1 - Narrowing down the printing process to the fewest possible steps! Users of both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets benefited from operating system revisions, specifically in KitKat (Android 4.4) and iOS7.

Android's ability to print directly to HP printers in essentially one step (in addition to the existing Google Cloud Print option) is a breakthrough in ease-of-use (as I blogged about here), and other printer OEMs will need to catch up. On the Apple side, basic WiFi printing has never been simpler with iOS7, and that includes a plethora of available AirPrint wireless printers (an updated list, provided by Sam Costello @aboutipod, includes hundreds of printer and MFP models, from over 20 vendors, current as of November 2013). And the new iOS version, in a nod to business/enterprise users, also offers new Mobile Device Management (MDM) configuration options, including the ability to "configure accessibility options and AirPrint printers", according to Apple. More on this coming in early 2014!

I had to wonder if we'd reached the ease-of-use tipping point just recently, when a friend (from outside the industry) asked me why it was so much more troublesome to print to his WiFi printer with his Windows laptop (with arcane steps for finding and setting up the printer in question) compared to how easy it was to print, essentially a "point and shoot" process, from his iPhone!

2 - The first significant "coming together" of printer industry players around mobile printing also took place in the latter part of 2013. The Mopria Alliance brings together Canon, HP, Samsung and Xerox, with "the shared goal of providing intuitively simple wireless printing from smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices", according to the Mopria website.

On my Imaging Channel "Goin' Mobile" blog - which also debuted in 2013, making for at least another minor milestone in the mobile printing world, I took my own look at the alliance and its prospects (see "Mopria Alliance Brings Traditional Printing Rivals Together for Better Mobile Printing"). This will be "one to watch" in 2014, to see what tangible results may come out of it.

3 - Get back to the marketing and economics basics in 2014! The general behavior and attitude in this part of the printing and industry, going back to the beginning of the explosive growth in mobile devices' innovation and popularity, which I conveniently peg as the first Apple iPhone in mid-2007, has combined denial ("this won't hurt printing"), opportunity ("they'll print more if only they know how"), and posturing ("we have the best way to print from mobile"). That last characteristic, posturing as "the best", is starting to crack, with the Mopria alliance, recognizing that "all of printing" is in this together, and I see this as big progress.

Better printing from mobile devices is probably not a long-term differentiator (albeit a nice first-to-market in the case of the aforementioned KitKat solution with HP.) And that "they'll print more" statement above, lacks any real understanding of customer needs and segments. With a billion-plus mobile-toting users around the world, there are so many different combinations of users' printing needs, and creative, targeted solutions need to start hitting the market. The photo up top, taken in a big box store on Christmas Eve this year, points to a beginning, with HP actually labeling one of their Officejets as a "smartphone and tablet printer". It is a small step but indicative of an important direction!

I look forward to much more innovation to come, especially on the marketing side. Happy 2014!!!

(Note - in addition to the companies mentioned here, my coverage in 2013 has included Breezy, Epson, OKI, Ricoh, and Thinxtream, as well as others, and I am grateful for their support and will be tracking their progress in the coming years with great interest!)

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