Q & A WITH HP's ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ
Q & A WITH HP's ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ
2009-04-03 at 12:47:53 pm #21992
HP plans reign of ink from the cloud
company wants to move consumer printing away from PCs and onto the web,
shedding drivers along the wayHP has radical plans for the future of
consumer printing, promising an end to printer drivers and the
introduction of devices that just don’t care what you’re printing from
— Windows, Linux, iPhone or your washing machine.ZDNet UK talked to
Antonio Rodriguez, the chief technology officer of HP’s
consumer-printing division, about the fundamental changes it wants to
make to low-cost output.
First, what do you define as consumer?
we’re finding enterprises buying ‘consumer’ equipment.That’s an
interesting dynamic. For me, it’s a question of: who’s buying it? If
the people buying it use it, it’s consumer. If it’s being bought by
people three stages away from the people who use it, it’s enterprise.
What’s the thinking behind what you’re going to do?
years ago when the inkjet was invented, it looked fantastic compared to
the quality of screens and nothing else could touch it. Now, lots of
people have caught up with inkjet technology, and screens are a lot
better. It’s an incredible technical process squirting a billion
droplets onto a sheet of A4, but it’s commonplace.There’s a move to
authoring and editing digital content, so we want to focus on ways to
do that which keeps printing relevant. And we’re excited that while
people are used to thinking of printers in terms of feeds and speeds,
they’re forgetting that printers these days have networked computers
built in. We’re going to make a lot more use of that.There’s going to
be a change in the way printers are named, too. Today, if you go to the
store, there are more characters in the model number than there are
letters in the alphabet. That’s before you get into driver hell.
What does that mean in practice?
take your printer home from the store and plug it into your network.
It’ll register with our servers over the internet and you can link that
registration with your various accounts.We have ways to make that easy.
When you print, you print to our servers and those send the output to
the printer. Or you’ll be on a web service, tell it what and how to
print.It doesn’t matter what you want to print from, it’s a web
service, so you can print from your computer, or your iPhone, or
whatever. If you’re printing from Google Docs, for example, it really
doesn’t matter what you’re using to access the web service. It could
easily be a post-PC device.
But you can print locally if you want?
will be able to use it locally too: we support local discovery via
Multicast DNS.Are people going to be comfortable with this change to
web-based printing?The way that I see it, we have to deliver on a set
of core printing experiences. People print as keepsakes, photos,
collage, on-demand printing. They want to keep a memento. We know
that’s a base human need.Where will it take place? Ten years ago, it
was all desktop clients — Adobe, Office, etc. Now the data collecting
is taking place on social networks. What we’ve done is gone to people
like MySpace and said: “We will provide a set of web services that lets
you expose more complex products”, so users can select photographs and
have them delivered as collages, or formatted as cubes you can cut out
of the paper. Then there’s utility printing — a map or a recipe is
going to be……more useful on paper than on a laptop. And
communication, printing out office documents for others to read.We’re
looking at all three as digital workflows. That’s going to be a
critical part of the future of printing as we progress along rich
Won’t the dependence on web services lock
people into your servers, or could I build a web service that’s
entirely independent of you?
The architecture we’re designing,
printing from the cloud, should let people deliver the services they
want. Going wholly outside our system isn’t possible right now. We have
to make sure our device works out of the box, and for that to work it
has to be seamless. We won’t charge for these services, so there should
be no reason for people to damage their ease of use by switching to a
non HP-server.We don’t want to build an app store, as Apple has for the
iPhone. We’re going to build in a plug-in infrastructure that others
And the same’s true for inputting documents?
of course, so you can feed in documents to the cloud or services as
well. There’s lots you can do with that. If you think of our devices as
all-in-ones — scanners as well as printers — then you can use them to
inject analogue documents into the digital workflow.
How is this going to make you money?
business model is closest to that of Amazon’s Kindle. They make a bit
of money on the initial sale — money on the content, not on the
connectivity. We want to delight our customers with what they
get.Printing has had an explosive growth in the past, so it has been
fine leaving the users to decide what to do. The advantage to us to
going in this new direction is that it is a differentiator that makes
our printers more attractive.Our services are better tied in to our
output devices, like iTunes is to iPod, only we can work without a PC
in a middle. No drivers, no software. We’re entering the era of the
driverless printer, and we want to be in the lead of that.
But you will have a very good idea of what people are printing when, every page and drop of ink…
getting involved with the privacy people to make sure we’re OK there.
We will know a lot about how the product is being used, the
consumables, of course. In terms of security, we’re going to have the
right thing, full strong encryption from client to printer. We’re lucky
in that there are a lot of online storage services who’ve solved this
already, so it’s a known problem.
When will we see these new printers, and have you got a name for all this yet?
fruits? End of the year, beginning of next. We have been experimenting
online under the name CloudPrint, but we’ll have to wait for the
marketing people to come up with the real name.