HP puts printing in the cloud

You love your new iPad. You're looking forward to your brand spanking new iPhone 4. Or maybe you hate Apple products and have fallen head over heels for Android. Whatever your affections, you must wish it was easier to print stuff from your favourite devices sometimes?

Printing is a real pain in the posterior. Sure, wireless printers have at least eliminated some of the hassle, but you still have to install drivers and check the printer that you've gone out and bought actually works with your operating system.

Wouldn't it be easier if you could just plug your printer in and then print stuff without having to take an afternoon off work setting it up? Well, that's exactly what HP must have been thinking because it has announced a range of printers that add a whole host of new functions that make printing a doddle.

Speaking at the launch of Internet Week New York, HP's executive VP of imaging and printing, Vyomesh Joshi, stated that the aim was to have the new web features on all printers that cost $99 or more from now on. We've since had confirmation that this figure will be £99 in the UK.

So what are the new features exactly? Well, the stand-out one is that all printers will have their own unique email address. If you want to print something on your HP printer, you simply have to email it and away it goes. This means it will work with any device that has emailing capabilities on board. Obviously, that's all your PCs and Macs, but also your smartphones and tablets too.

HP showed off a few demos on stage at IWNY, and we have to say that it all worked pretty seamlessly. Starting off with a Palm Pre (see what they did there?), a simple text email was printed almost instantly, and this was followed up with more elaborate prints like PDFs and screen grabs from an iPad. It was just a pity that the guys showing off the new kit were clever enough not to show the unique email addresses for too long. This Pocket-linter wanted to shock the assembled hacks by emailing a few choice pics from his phone. Alas, it was not to be.

The email address is set by default to be obscure and, during a briefing after the event, Joshi told us that spam prints would not be an issue as a lot of the processing is done via HP "in the cloud" and nasty spammers would be blocked.

The printers all contain the web apps functionality of last year's TouchSmart Web, albeit with a bit of a revamp. When you get your new HP printer, you register it online with the company's very own version of iTunes, the ePrintCenter, and from there you can download all the apps you want. At the moment they're a bit US-centric (USA Today, MSNBC and so on) but Joshi did tell us afterwards that his European team were working on some localised apps ahead of launch.

One of the best looking apps was the Yahoo one. This widget allows you to cherry pick all the news and features from Yahoo's network and present them in your very own unique newspaper. You can even schedule the printout to begin at a set time each day, say 7am for your morning commute, or at the end of the day for when you're relaxing at home and want to catch up on the day's events.

Yahoo's David Ko took to the stage to talk about this app and he also mentioned that Yahoo would be running a pilot advertising scheme for the service. When we asked Vyomesh Joshi if he thought people would be prepared to pay to print out adverts using their own ink, he admitted that it was a plan in its infancy, but said that he thought the potential for advertisers to specifically target individuals and, as a result, individuals to reap the benefits were huge.

Google is on board with HP for this launch as well. Sundar Pichai, Google's VP of product management, ran through a demo of ePrint working on an early version of Chrome OS. Google's involvement also stretches to a Google Docs tie-in. From the printers, you'll be able to scan documents and pictures and store them in the cloud and then access them using your Google log in.

The first printer to launch that includes these features will be the Photosmart e-All-in-One, which will be out in the States later this month for $99. Expect this printer to cost £99 in the UK. We'll let you know ASAP when we'll see it in Blighty.

This will be followed up by the Plus e-All-in-One, which is $149, and is out worldwide in August, and the Premium ($199) and Premium Fax ($299) which are due globally in September.

We had a little play around with the models that HP put on display and were pretty impressed. The touchscreen looks and feels just like a smartphone and none of the apps had any issues connecting to the Web. Printing was quick and the quality was good, as you'd expect from HP.

On paper (printed paper, obviously) this looks like a great bit of innovation from the guys at HP. No-one enjoys the hassle of printing at present and anything that can be done to make it easier surely has to be welcomed with open arms. Our only concern is that by simply emailing a file or some text, you won't have full control over the printout's formatting.

Be sure to check back on Pocket-lint for a full review once we've got hold of one of the new range and, in the meantime, check out the pictures below of the launch and a quick hands-on with a couple of the new devices.