HP, RIM plan wireless printing applications

HP and Research in Motion Tuesday said they are collaborating on applications that will allow enterprise customers to wirelessly print documents from BlackBerry handheld devices to HP’s networked printers.

The two companies were scheduled to demonstrate the first fruits of their efforts, the HP Mobile Enterprise Printing application, in the RIM booth during the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless IT and Internet conference from San Diego this week. Pricing and availability is not expected until early 2002.

Mark Guibert, RIM’s vice-president of brand management in Waterloo, Ont., said the application would offer improved connectivity for users who might be on a separate floor, down the hall, or in a boardroom away from their desktop.

Architecturally, the process is very similar to the existing BlackBerry platform, which uses server software that sits behind the company’s firewall. The application will allow users to print both e-mails and any attachments that come with them, he said.

“If you’re mapping the airflow here, the user goes to the application and selects ‘print,'” he said. “The wireless transmission then goes back over the air to the nearest bay station and then connects over the Internet to the server software and initiates the command. It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’re within BlackBerry coverage.”

Janet Lemare, marketing manager for HP Canada’s imaging and printing business, said HP has been trying to move away from products that simply print pages to platforms that deliver services.

“(This is for) anyone who is currently using the BlackBerry product, whether that be sales people or any professionals throughout the organization,” she said. “I think we’re fairly early to have a specific (vertical) target other than it’s for enterprise customers.”

Guibert said the software would help demonstrate BlackBerry’s evolution beyond the field sales people.

“BlackBerry typically gets used in a variety of situations; it’s not just people who are travelling,” he said. “The idea is that as soon as you step away from your desk or your office, you are out of that communication link and you are separated. This allows you to maintain that.”

Both companies indicated it was a non-exclusive partnership. “It’s not about locking the focus in on any one device or any one printer, for that matter,” said Guibert. “We’re not making any other announcements, but the solution — both on the client and server side– will apply to open standards.”

Lemare agreed. “We are working with numerous companies that focused on enabling mobility, including (for) our own HP Jornada,” she said.

Lemare said the application would work with any HP networked printer once it is released.

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