HP recently invited me to a talk about its Indian strategy for Image and Printing Group (IPG) and the various initiatives the company was taking to deliver seamless, secure, context-aware print experiences to both consumers and enterprise users, thereby accelerating its business growth in the region.

Web-connected printers

HP stated that it sold around 3 million units in India during Q1 2011 and has captured 90% market share in the wide-format printer category and 55% market share overall. The company anticipates sales to reach the 20 million mark this year.

Stating that India is a very important market and key to the company’s digital growth worldwide, Vyomesh Joshi, Executive VP, HP Imaging and Printing Group said:

Our business is accelerating with India as a key growth engine. We are more committed than ever to growing our business in India. India’s printing industry is transforming and we are driving it from the front with our innovation. I am proud to say that some of the critical innovation around web-connected and cloud printing are being done by our engineers in India.

He said printers are no longer the dumb machines we’re used to, instead they are evolving as a web service platform which is connected to the cloud and has the ability to print from anywhere, anytime. Further, printers will soon transform into content consumption devices, thanks to their cloud capabilities.

With many publishing houses adopting the digital medium in recent years, HP wants to be a trendsetter in book publishing with its Web Press. Digital media offers the ability for publishers to print books and magazines as per their needs.

Vyomesh Joshi said this press can print 25-50 million pages a month and the book publishers who have already tried it out, are stoked about the publishing speed and the ability to print limited quantities as per their current requirements. He said  HP has already printed over 1 billion pages on 30 Web Presses across the world this year and he expects the number to grow further in future years.

The company is also bolstering its geo-expansion programs as a part of its three-year strategy to nurture growing and young consumer opportunities in non-metro and upcountry markets. It is investing heavily in the education sector, which HP feels will be a key growing area for its IPG division.

HP India’s R&D team significance

Vyomesh Joshi stated that the company’s Indian R&D hub has been responsible for the majority of the innovation happening around HP’s web and cloud printing services.

This includes developing its email printing capability, popularly known as ePrint, which was introduced in July 2010, and creating an ePrint and PrintApp ecosystem on most new HP printers.

It has worked with industry giants such as Apple to launch Airprint for iOS and the forthcoming iCloud integration; and Google to introduce Cloud Print to its Chromebooks and Android smartphones. This enables users to scan important documents into Google Docs directly from a printer and print these as per their needs, nullifying the need of a printer driver.

The team was also involved in developing the initial Web platform and the first set of printer apps including Disney, Flickr and CBS for low-end consumer printers, enabling users to carry out paper-related Web tasks. Vyomesh Joshi said:

Innovation at HP is today allowing consumers to leverage the Web and e-commerce applications to simplify transactional activities, increase productivity and enriching lifestyles.

HP App Marketplace

And now for the real deal! Although HP officially announced The printer App Marketplace in 2009, app development was limited only to HP and a limited set of partners until now. There are 112 apps for US printers and 27 apps for Indian printers, at the time of writing.

HP App Marketplace HP on the new generation of Web connected printers with their own app store

However, that is going to change soon, with HP releasing an SDK which is currently in the beta form, to third party app developers ranging from web app developers to e-commerce companies to media outlets, in forthcoming weeks.

That being said, the company wants to restrict the apps to print-centric activities only. Hence, we can safely assume that you wouldn’t probably see Angry Birds on the printers but hey, who am I to stop the pig destruction madness?

The App Marketplace will consist of both free and paid apps and will feature a mixture of global apps such as Sudoku, Facebook photos and Google Calendar, and country-specific apps such as travel guides, recipes, local news and more. The revenue of paid apps will be shared between the app developers and HP in a 70:30 ratio.

One of the features worth mentioning here is the relatively unknown “scheduled delivery” feature, which allows you to schedule automatic print jobs to your printers on the date and time you choose.

So, for example, you can have the weather forecast printed out at 8 am, appointments at 9 am, stock report at the closing time of the stock exchange and end the day by reading articles from your favourite blogs or playing daily puzzles such as crosswords, sudoku and word puzzles etc.

Here is a quick demo of the scheduled delivery feature: