Packard's new web-connected
ePrint printers are coming this month and should be able to
print email, documents, and photos remotely. While the prospect
of a webOS
driven printer alone is somewhat exciting, it was a bit hard
to figure out just why HP was so enthusiastic about the new
devices.We might have just received an answer to that
question. HP is apparently looking to use the platform partly
as an ad
delivery service. It has partnered with Yahoo's
advertising team to deploy ad-driven content.In
current trials the scheme works like this -- a customer can remotely
print certain "ad-free" content, such as personal emails.
However, they can also sign up for reoccurring content like newspaper
and magazine articles. That content would print along with a
set of ads. Users participating in the scheme
would, of course, have to pay the cost of ink to print those ads.
HP claims that people are very excited about the idea. Stephen
Nigro, senior vice president in HP's Imaging and Printing Group
states, "What we discovered is that people were not bothered by
it [an advertisement]. Part of it I think our belief is you're
used to it. You're used to seeing things with ads."HP's
staff acknowledges that there's a need to respect the customer. Nigro also points out that the printers have a unique IP
address and states, "Through IP (Internet Protocol) sniffing,
you have an idea about where those printers are so naturally it
allows you to kind of already target your offers."
Sniffing could allow for HP to target ads based on location, by looking up data requests and comparing those IPs to a list of registered users (with locations and gender, which could be used for targeting purposes). That raises an interesting point, though. If the printer is on a home wireless connection it may be discoverable. And that means that it could in theory receive unsolicited advertisements as well.The
idea of delivering ads via the printer may face legal challenges.
Consumer Protection Act of 1991 banned sending ads over fax
machines. The law was slightly relaxed by the Junk
Fax Prevention Act of 2005 [PDF]. The Federal
Communications Commission, which regulates advertisement faxes, also
passed additional modifications in 2006.Neither law bans the
receipt of solicited ads, which would be the case for newspaper
content. The law does not offer specific provision for
advertisements being sent over printers, but the FCC will likely soon
take up the issue once these devices hit the market.For now
buyer beware -- if you purchase an ePrinter, you are purchasing a web
connected device with its own unique identity (IP). That
identity could indeed allow for third
parties to utilize the provided protocols and send ads to
you, on your dime. You may however be able to block such
traffic, with sufficient savvy, including via filtering/firewall software.
quote: They used to have rock-solid products, but it went down the drain as soon as they started to compete for the cheaper-than-the-ink-refill-will-cost market.