HP to predict how IT shops use print devices

HP Co. unveiled a slew of new services from its Managed Print Services division on Wednesday, including an offering that predicts the behaviour of print devices and a business user focused BlackBerry printing tool.


Leading the list of announcements was HP’s Smart Decision Suite. The managed print offering, which is being offering by HP’s MPS division, aims to give customers the ability to report, analyze and predict on how they use their printing and scanning devices.


The service will be housed primarily out of HP’s data centres with only a small piece installed to the customer’s print server for data collection purposes. In addition to receiving reports on printing, device and cartridge usage, enterprises will also be able to compare themselves against printing benchmarks from the other customers in their industry using the service.


“Customers want worldwide consistency for their printing services,” said Bruce Dahlgren, a senior vice-president with both HP’s managed enterprise division and its imaging and printing group.


The reporting capabilities will offer IT shops insight into what’s going on, the analysis stage will interpret that information, and then the predictive element will be able to proactively identify changes that need to be made in the printing environment, Dahlgren said.


For example, based on over usage the service might determine that a printing device will have a problem within a few weeks, he added.


“The days of putting a piece of paper on the glass of a copier and creating a hard copy are about over,” said Brian Phillips, CEO of FedEx Office, which is a customer of HP’s MPS.


At least one analyst was encouraged over the move toward more intelligence in the managed print industry. “Without analytics to know where the usage of print is you’re not going to be able to reduce it, so anything like this release that gets more emphasis on the analytics is a good thing,” said Craig Le Clair, a principal analyst serving business process and application professionals for Forrester Research Inc.


Offered as part of its MPS packaged, HP said the Smart Decision Suite is not purchased as a standalone product and, therefore, pricing would depend on a customer’s MPS agreement.


Jeff Bane, vice-president of worldwide MPS service delivery for HP, stressed the company’s commitment to the print services market referring to the Smart Decision Suite as a “top three IT project within the company.” This comes just a few weeks after HP vowed to boost its investment in its newly formed Managed Enterprise Services business unit, which is seeing competition from Dell Corp. and Xerox Corp. in the print services space.


In addition to this on-premise service, HP also unveiled its Enterprise Production Print Solution, which can manage on-site or off-site production printing and copy centres. HP said it’s taking advantage of the EDS acquisition to tap into 50 printing centres across 19 countries.


Moving away from the IT organization, HP also announced a BlackBerry mobile printing service for mobile business workers.


The new offering, called HP ePrint Enterprise, will let BlackBerry smart phone users print documents to trusted network printers as well as HP ePrint-supported and FedEx Office locations. Users will also be able to print .PDF files, slideshows, images and spreadsheets via the service.


In terms of security, once a user identifies which printer they want to send the job to, they are sent a confirmation e-mail containing a passcode. “The job won’t get printed until you walk to the printer and enter the code,” said John Tomesco, vice-president of enterprise market development for HP.


The company said 1,300 Hilton hotel locations and 1,800 FedEx Office locations will be compatible with the service by the end of the year. The cost to users of ePrint will be determined by whoever owns the printer.


Mike Gruber, director of platform partners and global alliances for Research in Motion Ltd., said business users are demanding more from mobile devices and easy-to-use printing functionality is the next logic step.


The ePrint service is a result of last year’s HP and RIM’s strategic alliance.

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