Mobility is an important business strategy for many enterprises, and part of that approach requires that employees print from their tablets and smartphones -- a task that is much more complicated than it sounds.
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Just finding a printer is so annoying that sometimes I want to throw my iPad against a wall.
“Printing from a tablet is a pain,” said Adam Bookman, founder of Propelics Inc., a mobile consulting firm based in San Jose, Calif. “Just finding a printer is so annoying that sometimes I want to throw my iPad against a wall.”
Third-party mobile printing applications such as FingerPrint, AirPrint Activator and Printopia don’t work well because of network subnet limitations in large enterprises, said industry watchers.
But one digital print management company recently overhauled its on-premises printing application to specifically address the subnet limitation.
Electronics For Imaging Inc.’s (EFI) PrintMe Mobile printing app allows customers to print from any mobile device to any networked printer over a Wi-Fi connection.
“Cracking the subnet limitation was huge because organizations already own great printers and there’s no need to buy a new printer just because it has AirPrint baked in,” said Tom Offutt, EFI’s director of business development.
EFI’s app creates a bridge between mobile devices and enterprise printers to make printing from a mobile device much easier, he said.
PrintMe Mobile printing app features, limitations
*Once installed on a networked printer PrintMe Mobile uses Apple’s Bonjour protocol to find networked printers and make them available to mobile devices connected to the same network. IT can install link software on a network computer that resides on a different subnet to circumvent that limitation. The link software communicates back to the PrintMe Mobile app to make those printers available as well.
With the app, IT can require enterprise identity credentials for specific printers, which are then cached on the mobile device. This allows IT to track print jobs by user, or deny access to specific printers, such as the CEO’s printer.
An end user can send print jobs to encrypted cloud server which will hold the print job until the user is physically at a printer.
Those features and others are necessary for an effective mobile printing app because they address the on-the-go nature of mobile, said Bookman, who has used the app.
But even with all of its features, PrintMe Mobile doesn’t address the biggest obstacle to printing from mobile devices -- remote employees.
“When we talk about real mobile use cases, it’s for doing work outside the office,” Bookman said. “For example, if you’re a banker taking a meeting and you bring your iPad to another organization and that organization doesn’t have a print solution, you can’t print. It doesn’t matter if the organization you work for has figured out the problem.”
Until there’s standardization between mobile operating systems and printers, the problem remains, he said.
PrintMe Mobile can help employees while they are at the office though.
The printing app works for all major mobile platforms. Since it uses AirPrint, iOS devices can use its native print functionality without downloading a new app. Android device users will need to download a mobile app that creates AirPrint compatibility on devices and includes a print button within Android’s share function.
EFI has attempted to partner with Research In Motion (RIM) to create tools for Blackberry devices,but RIM declined, Offutt said. Reasons were not disclosed.
IT and users can use PrintMe Mobile on a trial basis for 45 days. After that, organizations can buy a one-time license for as few as two printers at $500, or license per printer as needed for $300 per printer.
*Information corrected after initial publication
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