HP Planning Palm-Powered, Web-Connected Printers

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Hewlett-Packard is preparing a broad push to make it easier to print images and information from the Internet, building an iPhone-style apps market in the process, the head of the company's imaging group said on Wednesday.

HP late last year introduced its first Web-connected home printer, which has a touch screen, which can download applications so that a user could more easily print out for example, a daily crossword puzzle or children's coloring page without using a separate computer.

"The usage of that printer is going up by double digits," Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the Imaging and Printing Group, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco.

Joshi said a new Web printing initiative was in the works but declined to say when or what it would be. However, he said the first Web-connected printer would be followed by more. "We have launched it, we have learned, and now we will lead," he said.

HP plans to take advantage of Web OS software in its printers when it completes it previously announced acquisition of Palm Inc, he said. The initiative would not be limited to consumer products, he added.

HP has planned for years to make it easier to print from the Web, but Joshi said it was difficult to keep up with the pace of Internet growth.

"The Web is where the content creation is happening, the content explosion is happening and we want to capture that content," he said. However, he added, "It's not formatted for easy printing."

The company last year said it would roll out printer app partnerships with the likes of Walt Disney Co, CBS News and Yahoo Inc's online photo service Flickr.

Printing -- and the all important sales of ink -- are a key source of profit for HP. The imaging and printing group accounted for about a fifth of sales and a third of operating profit last year.

Joshi said his focus is on capturing a greater share of printed pages rather than simply selling printers, since a relatively small number of printers account for the lion's share of printing.

Web pages also tend to be in color and quite dense -- so they consume a lot of the ink supplies that help HP's bottom line.

Joshi also said the No. 1 printer maker was working on ways to serve the mobile Web -- cell phones, the iPad, and the like. "A lot of images are trapped in smartphones," he said.

Although HP is the largest PC maker, Joshi said that bundling printers and PCs was not good business. Many bundled printers were never taken out of the box, he said.

"We need to sell the printers that are going to actually print," he said.

Shares of HP, which reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday, rose 22 cents $47 on Wednesday. HP shares are down about 9 percent for the year. By contrast, shares of IBM are about flat, and Xerox has climbed about 18 percent over the same period.