Taking it straight from the web

The Web’s structure — amorphous and ever changing — makes keeping up to date a daunting task. Lexmark has introduced a new technology to its top-of-the-line printers to help deal with this issue.

The technology is called ImageQuick Web SIMM (single in-line memory module). It is a SIMM add-on that allows the Optra T and Optra W printers to print files directly from the Internet and corporate intranets. The advantage comes in the printer’s ability to interpret HTML and PDF file formats without having to open them in an application, such as Adobe Acrobat.

“It is a tool that allows you to have direct access from printer to the Web…to insure everyone has the latest information as fast as possible,” said Andrew Kiss, product manager, business products division of Lexmark Canada in Richmond Hill, Ont. He said there are many different uses for this technology. Kiss cited the example of a company that requires the use of up-to-date technical manuals that could be printed as needed. Changes in the manual could be stored on a corporate intranet and the printouts could be limited to those sections that have incurred change, thus avoiding the high cost of reprinting full versions every few months.

The technology is called Pull Printing. There are several ways to do this, according to Lexmark. A predefined bookmark can be selected from the front operator panel of the printer. Once it is chosen the file will be printed directly from the site. There is also the option to use the Drag’N’Print utility. This allows the user to drag a URL from a browser directly to a Web-enabled printer. The printer then gets the URL from the Internet and prints it directly.

The number of bookmarks that can be stored on the Web SIMM depends of the number of characters in the URL and the job attributes associated with it. Anywhere from 300 URLs to almost 600 can be stored.

Ultimately the technology is about allowing people to obtain information more effectively, Kiss said.

Angele Boyd, vice-president of peripheral research at IDC in Framingham, Mass., sees it along these lines. “The idea is to give the user ultimate flexibility,” she said. “The less converting you are doing, the more throughput advantage you should have. So for somebody doing a lot of Internet printing, this might prove advantageous,” she added.

Larry Jamieson, senior consultant with Lyra Research Inc. in Newtonville, Mass., sees it as the first iteration of this sort of technology, but definitely with potential uses. “It could be interesting for certain applications, like a kiosk that is providing certain types of information,” he said. He also sees potential use in banks and libraries and other untapped areas where up to date hard copy is needed.

But both analysts said companies will have to justify spending money for the SIMM. “At (US)$251 it is not going to be something people say, ‘just throw it in because I may want it,'” Jamieson said.

“I am not sure if the savings are substantial enough that it will justify to users paying extra for a SIMM,” Boyd said. “Users would have to see some sort of performance problem for them to say it is worth purchasing.” But she continued by adding that the technology has a future.

“I think long term…more and more vendors will put that kind of functionality on it (printers). The goal you hear a lot of vendors talk about is [making it] as easy as the green button on a copier,” she concluded.

The Optra T printers (www.lexmark.com) start at $1,779 and the SIMM is priced at $369.

Lexmark can be reached at 1-800-539-6275.