Novell iPrint latest to answer mobile print challenge

Establishing mobile print in large organizations is still a challenge, but it's becoming easier thanks to several vendors filling the void.

Organizations using mobile devices need the ability to print from those devices. The options to enable mobile printing are limited, but they are improving.

Large organizations aren't looking to rip-and-replace existing investments in printer hardware, and enabling older printers to handle print jobs from mobile devices can be problematic.

"[Hewlett-Packard] and Xerox's answer to the problem is for me to upgrade to AirPrint-enabled printers," said Kevin Salisbury, head of marketing and information, services and technology for TWIN MRO Manufacturing, an aviation maintenance and repair company based in South Windsor, Conn.

"But our printers are only 5 years old. It doesn't make financial sense to roll out new printers. That's just not an option for us," he said. However, mobile printing has actually improved as Apple Inc. and Google continue to develop the native functionality of mobile printing through AirPrint for iOS and Cloud Print for Android, respectively. Print vendors have also released new hardware models with those capabilities included.

Most options, such as Mobile Print App for Dell Inc., Presto from Collabos Software, formerly known as the FingerPrint app, HandyPrint, formerly known as AirPrint Activator, or the recent partnership between Samsung and Hewlett-Packard, are purely consumer-focused and would work fine for small businesses that want to enable a handful of existing printers. But, large organizations are trying to enable hundreds of printers on different network subnets.

Any easier way to mobile print?

The latest entry comes from Novell Inc., whose iPrint product offers the ability to connect networked printers to mobile devices via a virtual appliance that sits in the corporate data center.

Last year's release of Electronics For Imaging Inc.'s PrintMe Mobile, and Novell's update to include mobile printing in parallel to desktop printing in iPrint, should make it easier for large organizations to enable mobile printing.

Novell's iPrint is a standalone virtual appliance that can be installed in a VMware Inc.-based environment, which allows users to install printer drivers from a Web browser and to submit print jobs over the Internet or over a local network through the standard Internet Printing Protocol (IPP). Support for Microsoft's Hyper-V is out later this year, said Kai Reichert, Novell's senior product manager for collaboration solutions.

The appliance discovers all the printers installed on a corporate network and makes it possible for IT admins to connect them to Windows, Linux and Mac desktops -- and now to mobile devices, as well. For organizations that only want the mobile functionality, IT admins simply need to copy over their existing printer setup to the virtual appliance. Further, IT admins can rename the printers managed through iPrint so users have an easier time locating the printer closest to them.

Users install an iPrint mobile application that acts as a bridge connecting the mobile devices to the printers. On iOS devices, users can use the AirPrint functionality or Open In to send print jobs to selected printers, while Android users can use the Share With function to send print jobs. Windows Phone and BlackBerry users have the ability to print via email through iPrint.

TWIN MRO began a plan to migrate away from Windows desktops in favor of Android-based tablets and smartphones because many employees work in the field repairing aviation equipment, and the total cost of ownership was significantly less. The ability to print on those mobile devices was on the migration roadmap from the get-go because there is no avoiding employees' need to print, Salisbury said, an iPrint customer. Mobile printing is as important to TWIN MRO's mobile enablement strategy as mobile device management or having proper mobile productivity apps for employees to use, he added.

Despite reducing printing output by half through the use of mobile computing, there's no changing user behavior for those accustomed to printing out PDFs, schematics, images and Office documents, Salisbury said. "Tablets are great, but sometimes the resolution just isn't as good as a high-color printer," he added.

iPrint offers two annual licensing models: a mobile-only option for $14 per user, and one that includes mobile and desktop printing for $36 per user.

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