HP's first (and last?) Android tablet-printer does Apple's AirPrint

September 20, 2010: 4:48 PM ET

HP releases its eStation printer, a product that may have been too far in development to cancel when they bought the Palm OS.

This strange new HP (HPQ) Photosmart eStation Printer is a bunch of things in one.  It is an 7-inch Android tablet with lots of different wireless imaging functions.  The ta let docks in and controls a printer/scanner/copier which is wirelessly attached to the tablet and the Internet. Interestingly, one function allows it to handle Apple's (AAPL) iOS AirPrint and print straight from iOS 4.2 devices like the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Focusing on the tablet aspect, the device will likely be one of HP's last that runs Google's (GOOG) Android.  That's not to say a lot of work hasn't been done on Android in this product.  In the video below, you can see that HP has managed to put in a lot of interesting printing functionality in the OS.

But HP/Palm is already gearing up developers for HP tablets and printers that will be running PalmOS.  The following note was passed to Palm developers saying that HP was building iPad-sized tablet hardware that should be hitting the street by early 2011.

Now that we are officially part of HP, we are going full speed ahead with our applications initiative. Our proprietary operating system, webOS, is now the OS that will be used in HP's mobile devices. This includes mobile handsets as well as tablet-style devices similar to the iPad. We will accordingly leverage Palm's ability to innovate and the scale of HP's vast install base and distribution network previously unavailable to us.

Office Depot is the only place I could find currently selling the device for $400.  That's a pretty solid deal if you consider that seven inch, name brand Android tablets are likely to be selling for more than $400 alone.

So what does it mean for this strange device?  Is the low price an indication of a short lifespan?

HP could abandon the Android-based product as a one-off anomaly. (HP has a good record of keeping up with product warranties however.) It could also continue to develop it with the Android platform as a hedge against its webOS strategy going forward.  It could also sell off the Android unit to a competitor like Dell (DELL), Samsung or Canon who want to use Android in their printers.

HP could also 'upgrade' the device to a webOS software base at some point in the future.  There is nothing in this ARM powered tablet that won't run WebOS. HP has made no secret of the fact that it plans to use the webOS in its smart printer lineup going forward.

In any case, this device is likely to be one of the last of its kind -- a soon to be extinct, 'duck-billed platypus' of tablet-printers from HP.

Here's what's likely to be a rare sighting:

HP Press release follows:

September 20, 2010

HP Unveils Print Solutions, Including 10 Industry-first Innovations, that Transform Print Features into Digital Content Solutions

NEW YORK —HP today announced multiple innovations across its printing portfolio, including 10 industry-first technologies that significantly improve how customers interact with their digital content.

The new solutions are designed to help enable all customers – from consumers to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to enterprise organizations – to better manage and access digital content, convert information from paper to digital with one touch, and quickly unlock content repositories in the enterprise.

HP made the announcements from the stage of a global news conference, joined by prominent partners and customers, including Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!; Ivanka Trump, renowned entrepreneur, co-founder of the Trump Hotel Collection and founder of the Ivanka Trump Collection; Rob Lips, vice president of QuickBooks Product Marketing at Intuit; Ed Febinger, vice president of Inventory and Manufacturing Strategy at Pearson PLC; and Matias del Campo, founder and principal at SPAN Architecture & Design.

"HP is unleashing innovation and has once again made the future a reality," said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president, Imaging and Printing Group, HP. "We have transformed the flow of content for all customers letting them access, share, print and manage content virtually anytime or anywhere in the world."

Highlights include:

* Disruptive new category of printers powered by the web and empowered by the cloud spanning the HP Photosmart, Officejet, LaserJet and Designjet lines starting at $99 for consumer models and $149 for the office(1);
* Unlocking billions of pages by giving people the freedom to print photos, documents and more from mobile devices;
* Breakthrough technology with HP FutureSmart Firmware and HP Open Extensibility Platform that enables SMB and enterprise customers to use current and future third-party and workflow solutions on hardware that dates back to 2005.(2)

Offerings for the digitally connected consumer

HP introduced two content devices designed to serve the access and print needs of digitally connected consumers. In addition, the company has simplified the print experience from mobile devices by offering HP ePrint(3) on all new HP Photosmart devices as well as direct printing from Apple iPad, iPod touch and iPhone devices with iOS 4.2.(4)

* The HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One combines the full features of an HP All-in-One with web browsing and access to HP print apps and widgets – plus a detachable, 7-inch, full-color touchscreen for mobile freedom in the home.(5,6) Additional features include access to Barnes & Noble's expansive eBookstore with more than 1 million digital titles as well as one-touch access to customized content from Yahoo!, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Weather direct from the display. Customers also can fax without the need of a phone line.(5) The ENERGY STAR® qualified HP Photosmart eStation is currently available in select countries for $399.(1)
* The HP ENVY 100 e-All-in-One is a sleek, slim-line printer designed to complement modern home décor and features a high-resolution touchscreen display, whisper-quiet operation and a retractable paper tray. The ENERGY STAR qualified HP ENVY 100 e-All-in-One is the planet's first PVC-free printer(7) and is expected to be available worldwide next month for $249.(1)
* New print apps(8) available this fall on HP eAll-in-One Photosmart Printers include: Delta Air Lines to quickly print boarding passes; NBA.com for access to game schedules and information; Sesame Street eBookstore for stories and learning activities; Bing Maps for maps and driving directions; Martha's Everyday Food™ from Martha Stewart for quick and easy dinner recipes; LeapFrog for kids' educational activities; Photobucket, SmugMug and Facebook® for easy access to personal photo albums; Howcast for how-to content for daily life and enjoyment; MyRecipes.com for recipes from magazines such as Cooking Light, Southern Living and Real Simple; and DailyCandy for daily lifestyle news and offers.
* Snapfish by HP, the No. 1 online personal publishing service, is building a rich assortment of unique card designs after adding 130 new designers and more than 3,000 new designs to its recently launched Snapfish Publisher platform. Snapfish also is working with a selection of developers who will introduce their own range of merchandise for this holiday season, including custom lunchboxes and puzzles.

More information about the HP Photosmart e-All-in-One portfolio is available at http://www.hp.com/go/innovationsummit. HP printers are backed by HP Total Care, the company's award-winning service, solutions and support, both in and out of warranty.

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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