It’s in demand. As mobile devices become more capable, users want the ability to print from them. Imagine an executive visiting a remote branch office and getting e-mailed a PDF of an important document to review. Which do you think he’d rather do: Ruin his eyes trying to read it on his 3-inch BlackBerry screen? Or send it to the nearest multifunction printer? Mobile devices are everywhere, and users increasingly expect to have the option to print when it’s convenient.
There’s no easy answer. Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, often aren’t designed for printing. A solution that depends on loading printer-driver software on each device is likely a nonstarter. There may be no driver for your printer available on a phone’s operating system. And getting access to a secured local wireless network can be awkward for someone who is just visiting and doesn’t have the right security code programmed into their device.
There may be workarounds. Least-common-denominator protocols, like those for Web and e-mail, can serve as a gateway to printing. For example, an enterprise mobile print solution that Xerox developed in partnership with corporate customers like Procter & Gamble works by allowing employees to e-mail documents to an address associated with its enterprise print services. An automated system opens the documents and prepares them for printing.
You have to plan for printer changes. There has to be a way to select the right printer for each job. In the Xerox solution, the document output doesn’t start until whoever requested the print job walks up to a given printer and punches a code into its control panel—a code that gets sent to the user in an e-mail response to their print-job submission. This method of holding print jobs until someone is there to pick them up also saves ink and paper.
Wi-Fi presents challenges. Ernest W. Lehmann, CIO at Bryant and Stratton College, has a problem when visiting lecturers want to print because the college’s printers are on secured networks, for faculty and student use only. If they were on the open network, “somebody could pull up in the parking lot and print to our internal printers,” he says. Still, he is piloting a solution where a printer on the open network would be available under the supervision of a receptionist or librarian.