Dell is taking its printers to the cloud as people increasingly use smartphones and tablets to access remote documents.
The company says that it is readying new printers and related software tools designed to make printing documents from PCs, mobile devices and virtual desktops easy and secure.
The new printers include the US$329 E525W color multifunction printer and three monochrome printers starting at $179. They're targeted at consumers and small businesses, and will be released later this month. Later this year, Dell will launch F-series printers for larger commercial customers, said Orlando Lacayo, global product line manager at Dell.
All of the new printers are designed to be manageable via remote devices and tools. They will have Wi-Fi connectivity and support printing via Google Cloud. The printers also support direct wireless printing from Android mobile devices through Mopria Alliance's Mopria app.
Printers that can be managed via the cloud have been around for years, but Dell's printer portfolio has not been as cloud-ready or diverse as have offerings from Epson, Canon, HP, Ricoh or Xerox. However, Dell has recently been trying to differentiate its products by offering a cloud service called Document Hub, its own take on Google Cloud printing, through which documents can be remotely printed or digitized using OCR (optical character recognition) technology.
As it launches new printers, Dell will also be adding more features to Document Hub. The service is being expanded to manage remote printers, and to allow mobile devices to direct printing to either on-premise or remote devices.
For Dell, printing isn't a primary business, but more of an adjunct service to support its growing cloud-based hardware offerings, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"They are heading towards the cloud, where their customers are already going," King said. "The days of having customers hardwired to a computer are over."
Dell offers cloud computing with products like Wyse thin clients and virtual desktops, which will support the new printers. The printers will also let users print from Chromebooks, which are increasingly being used in offices and classrooms. Dell's Kace appliances can be used to manage the printers via mobile devices.
Dell is more interested in engaging small businesses and midmarket companies with its printers, rather than going after complex installations, company executives said. It won't try to match the size and scale of commercial printing leaders HP, Xerox and Ricoh, which have made printers, scanners and copiers integral parts of complex document workflow systems in large companies.