HP Moves Aggressively into MFP Apps with an Entire Ecosystem
We’ve been talking for several years about the “appification” of document imaging software: The emergence of MFP-resident apps that use the device’s underlying (and increasingly powerful) embedded software platform to deliver enhanced functionality and, in some instances, eliminate the need for traditional “middleware” workflow solutions. And while HP had its share of on-board tools and connectors developed for it OXP embedded software architecture, it lagged competitors such as Xerox (with is App Gallery) and Konica Minolta (with its bizhub Marketplace, now just called Marketplace) when it came to an app portal where apps reside for resellers and/or customers to download to compatible MFPs. Which made us wonder: What exactly was HP’s plan for the Printing App Center and Smart UX Center infrastructure HP snagged in its acquisition of Samsung’s printing business? We now have our answer. Late in October, HP officially unveiled a complete ecosystem for the development, deployment, management, and monetization of apps that can run on select HP MFPs. Here’s a quick look at the various pieces and how the puzzle seems to be coming together.
HP Workpath Platform and Supported Products
The underlying platform that runs the new family of apps is HP Workpath. (HP watchers may know it as JetAdvantage Link, which was the name the company used when it previewed the concept to developers and dealers.) Not to be confused with the HP OXP platform (which will co-exist), the Workpath operating system is a proprietary, hardened OS containerized into HP FutureSmart Firmware v4. HP does not say that the OS is Android-based (so neither will we), but the company does note that Android Studio can be used to develop Workpath apps.
While much of the groundwork for what would eventually become Workpath was laid by Samsung as part of its Smart UX app architecture, the supported models go well beyond the former Samsung A3 portfolio. Nor is the supported device list a direct overlap of HP’s OXP-enabled portfolio—since again, Workpath apps run on a separate OS platform. However, right now, Workpath apps are supported only on HP “managed” SKUs, typically placed as part of an MPS contract.
The Workpath platform runs on select A4 and A3 MFPs (not standalone printers), including both laser and Pagewide ink models—about 70 models as of this writing. The devices must have an 8 inch or larger control-panel screen and be running the latest FutureSmart v4 firmware (either v4.6 or 4.7, depending on the model). The firmware section that enables the Workpath features is set to “off” by default, but can be turned on by partner resellers to enable Workpath features.
HP says the compatibility goes back about 3 years on its Enterprise and Managed portfolios, and notes that some A4 devices may need a 2GB memory upgrade. The company is adding support for the HP Digital Sender portfolio in January 2020, and is evaluating how to bring devices with only a 4.3-inch display into the fold while still maintaining a satisfactory user experience.
App Catalog and Developer Support
HP reported that it has more than 300 developer partners officially registered for the Workpath program. Notably, the list goes beyond the expected document imaging software vendors looking to get their OXP applets and connectors to run on the new platform. HP has actively recruited developers beyond our industry to envision apps that have nothing to do with printing, scanning, copying, and faxing and everything to do with “information liquidity” and other workflow within an organization.
At launch, the Workpath environment will boast more than 50 available apps, which includes both those developed by HP as well as by third-party developers. Examples include basic apps (scan to email, scan to folder, scan to FTP), connectors to popular online storage/collaboration services (Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, and so on), integrations with back-end and line-of-business software platforms (iManage, Clio, Sage Intacct, SAP Concur), and productivity apps (fax over IP, cloud pull printing, document capture).
HP Command Center and Business Model
While the OS-platform and app-development puzzle pieces were being worked on, on a parallel track HP was readying the ecommerce system so partner resellers could deploy, license, manage, and pay for the apps delivered to customers: HP Command Center. Not a customer-facing “app store” (a model adopted by Xerox with its App Gallery and initially Samsung with its Printing App Center), the Command Center is a cloud delivery platform where the service provider can provision apps. Via the portal, partners can browse apps, license them for customers (and manage those monthly licenses), push them to the target devices, monitor the apps’ status (should an app stop functioning, for example), and pay for the licenses their customers have in use (for non-HP apps, HP passes the payment along to the third-party developers, freeing resellers from having to pay multiple developers). HP claims that north of 1,000 partner resellers in the US and EMEA are actively using Command Center as of this writing.
The HP Command Center portal (shown here in beta) allows partner resellers to browse, provision, monitor, and manage apps placed on customers’ MFPs.
As for pricing, some HP-developed apps (mainly basic apps) will be free of charge; other apps will be billed to the partner reseller at a rate of $2 per app license per month, billed on a monthly basis. (HP plans to add the ability to pay up front for a yearly license in 2020). The partner sets the price for customers, and bills the customer directly. Again, since these models are placed as part of an MPS engagement, the price for apps is likely to be rolled into the monthly nut. HP has plans for Workpath and Command Center to expand beyond contractual engagements. Eventually, HP hopes to enable direct access for (and billing to) customers purchasing hardware on a transactional basis. But for now, the Workpath/Command Center/developer ecosystem is an impressive opening salvo, and indicates that HP has no intentions of being left behind in the battle for app supremacy.