HP turns printer into Net device

Hewlett-Packard Co. last month introduced several Internet-savvy solutions to the company's network printer line and presented a new way to administer network peripherals.

The JetDirect 500X print server is the first HP product to feature the Internet Printing Protocol, which HP jointly created with Microsoft Corp. to allow printing over the Internet.

Using IPP, printers are assigned an Internet Protocol address or Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The IPP software at the client end uses that information to set the printer as a local device on the user's computer.

"It will be like giving out a fax number," said Dave Arndt, business unit manager for the HP Network Peripheral Solutions Division. But rather than producing an often hard-to-read fax, using the printer URL will allow people to send original paper copies of documents, he said.

"It is a first," said Grey Held, analyst at Lyra Research Inc., Boston. "You can print directly to someone's color printer, which you cannot do with a fax."

The IPP technology, which HP and Microsoft companies have submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force for standards certification, also has been added to HP's 300X and 600N printers, along with an embedded World Wide Web server and Web-based management. HP also introduced the 170X print server for small organizations, but it does not come with IPP.

"There's a lot of qualifiers with IPP because currently it is just a [Windows] NT 4.0 thing," Held said. Users running Windows 95 or 98 will not be able to take advantage of Internet printing, at least for now. Microsoft and HP plan to provide the function for Windows NT 5.0 users, and it will be built into the operating system, Held said.

"I think it's more of an evolutionary thing than a revolutionary thing," said Bob Fennell, an analyst with Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. "HP, in the printer area, is really pushing the market forward with these announcements."

HP also introduced Version 5.0 of its Web JetAdmin, which will be released Oct. 28. The new version provides centralized management of all networked peripherals— including those from other companies, as long as they are compliant with the common Management Information Base standards— from any desktop with a Web browser.

Web JetAdmin monitors all aspects of peripherals, from worn-out hardware to low paper levels, and the new version allows administrators to define who will receive e-mail alerts to address problems it finds.

"As more and more people put printers out there, they are going to want to manage them all from a central location," said Kirk Porritt, future products manager for HP.

The ability to access all of the administration capabilities through the Internet is a big advantage, Held said. "If an administrator is walking around the company and there is a problem, they don't have to hustle back to their station. All they need to do it sit down at someone's chair who is willing to give it up for a few minutes," he said.

"It can be a pretty critical tool and also a tool that can help administrators and make their lives a lot easier," Fennell agreed.

The software is available on the company's Web site and will be shipped with all products starting this fall.

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