This could have significant implications for mobile printing applications. GSMA, the association for the mobile industry, make their prediction based on the huge numbers of mobile devices sold of late and the 6.8 billion global connections in 2012 that are set to grow to 9.7 billion by 2017. Mobile broadband had 1.6 billion connections in 2012 and is set to reach 5.1 billion by 2017. This is good news for the likes of EFI and HP both of whom have invested in mobile print.
EFI’s PrintMe Mobile is now available in the US and Europe, with plans for Asia in the pipeline. This server-based software lets you initiate printing from any sort of mobile device to any networked printer, regardless of brand or model. The technology turns the printer into a WiFi device and has the scope to support thousands of users across multiple wireless subnets. HP’s e-Print technology initiates document production via remote instruction to the printing device. Currently this is via email but there is no technical reason why this couldn’t be adapted for direct communication with the output device. HP has been embedding web technology into its printers for a number of years in order to develop its position in mobile document production.
If GSMA’s numbers are right, there is a massive opportunity for these manufacturers and for their print service provider customers to capitalise in all markets. Brazil for instance has over 260 million active mobile connections and is the fourth largest mobile market in the world. By 2016, half the world’s 3.4 billion internet users will be in Asia Pacific and account for half of the world’s 19 billion network connections. Smartphones are already set to be the largest source of global IP traffic and are expected to overtake laptops by next year. By 2016 GSMA expect that tablets will drive 10% of IP traffic. And the money part of the picture is especially juicy: the mobile ecosystem will be worth $9.1 trillion by 2017 and mobile data revenues are expected to exceed voice revenues by next year.
How much of these revenues the printing industry might capture is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that print is no longer a purely static business and that the mobile data industry offers opportunities for all sectors. It’s a whole new dimension to the ecofriendly on demand digital printing model. Whether it’s photobooks sourced from a social network via tablet, or images from a mobile, there’s no lack of mobile print models. Can creative printers take the photobook business model and extend it to documents and other applications? Who knows. But what we do know is that consumers will want to store all that data somewhere, so why not in print?