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Is mobile printing the next big market opportunity?

Printer vendors look to increase speed in mobile printing solutions

New offerings from HP in the mobile printing space may signal an up-coming market opportunity for resellers.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) released the Officejet H470 mobile printer series, which the company is aiming at mobile professionals. Recently, Research In Motion‘s (TSX: RIM) director, product management David Heit told CDN that more company employees are becoming mobile by definition and that the demand over time is to have more capability provided to them such as printing and other productivity applications. In essence the handheld device or smart phone was transition into a laptop for users.

Michelle Warren, a senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, said mobile printing technology is still in its infancy and suggests this as an up and coming opportunity for both vendors and partners in this space.

“It’s a good way to offer as a bundled solution because it’s a niche-type product,” Warren said. “I think we’ll see a demand for them here in Canada but I just don’t think it will be widespread.”

According to Sahaja Sarathy, a research analyst of hardcopy peripherals at IDC, HP has been in the mobile printer market for a while now and has therefore been able to carve a strong presence and niche for itself in this space.

“HP had the H450 series and the H460 series in the past and the H470 is now replacing the 460,” Sarathy said. “I would say about four to five per cent of their overall shipments of printers are mobile printers. In the mobile printer market, HP leads with more than 60 to 65 per cent of shipments in the U.S. and Canada.”

The next closest competitor when it comes to mobile printers, she said would be Canon (NYSE: CAJ). She estimates that both vendors combined represent more than 95 per cent of shipments in the mobile printer market.

Kim Tanner, category business manager at HP Canada, said the company’s mobile printer line targets mobile professionals who need the flexibility to print documents and images whenever and wherever they are.

“These printers are great for real estate agents, contractors or anyone in sales because they can print receipts and are good for printing while in the car,” Tanner said.

“Mobile printing is seen as a way to present a professional and self-sufficient image and it’s good for people who use notebooks, PDAs, digital cameras or mobile phones and who need to print (from them),” she adds.

Sarathy also suggests demand for these printers may be hindered by those who are concerned with price.

“With the HP470, two things that catch your eye are its print speeds and its photo printing capabilities,” Sarathy said. “However, we haven’t seen prices fall as far as mobile devices are concerned so this is still an expensive proposition for a lot of users.”

For the channel opportunity, she suggests support and service are key for deployment because a lot of users, she said, aren’t familiar with how to use these devices. She said the channels which will see the most activity when it concerns mobile printers are consumer and office retail and online stores and resellers.

Tanner says HP currently has over 3,000 authorized partners who are licensed to carry HP products. She also said in order to carry a mobile printer, partners don’t have to be an authorized partner of HP’s, which therefore opens up opportunities for other partners as well.

“Partners have the opportunity to offer a complete solution to specific vertical markets where mobile printing is important,” Tanner said. “There’s also the opportunity to attach a variety of HP accessories to mobile printers such as the HP bt500 Wireless Printer Adapter with Bluetooth Technology.”

The Officejet H470 series includes three different models which range from $299.99 to $399.99. HP boasts they can print at speeds up to 23 pages per minute (ppm) in monochrome and up to 16 ppm in colour. There is also the option of purchasing a long-lasting lithium-ion battery, which HP says can print up to 480 pages per charge.