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HP Print Apps – An Alternative to Assessment Books?

Once in a while, a good idea would come along and transform the industry. In many cases, the idea can be very simple but yet so obviously useful that it leaves others wondering why they did not think of it.

Hewlett Packard’s newly launched Print Apps collaboration with the local powerhouses in providing academic content – SAP and OnSponge – is a potential game changer in how content is created and delivered in Singapore. At a time where many publishers are embracing the digital medium as their primary channel, HP Print Apps provide a refreshing approach of marrying both digital and print media to deliver customised content to consumers.

HP Print Apps are supported on  HP’s web-enabled printers with ePrint.  These printers are not only able to print content directly from smartphones – apps can actually be installed directly into the printers just like a smartphone.  Once installed and configured, the apps will automatically connect to their respective content providers at scheduled times to download and print the content.

The home printer is therefore transformed into a delivery centre which content providers can use to distribute print content direct to consumers!  Unlike a facisimile machine, customers can choose and customise the type of content that is relevant to them.

Now, you might wonder what is the difference between this and a normal subscription-based web service that lets you download and print content using a computer.  For one, the scheduled delivery eliminate the need for a computer, and removes a number of steps from the process.  This allows you to simply set it up once and leave the printer powered on, so that it can print out customized content for you as soon as it becomes available.  You do not need to spend effort searching, downloading and initiating the printing of the content.  It provides an additional element of anticipation, making you look forward to what’s new and upcoming every day!  Another difference: all of these Print Apps are free, and the content is only available through HP’s Print App channel, and no where else.

The potential for such a channel is huge.  You can check out HP’s ePrintCenter to get an idea of the large number of applications that are already available, spanning a spectrum of business, lifestyle and education categories including daily news, comics, motivational quotes, horoscopes, sudoku and crossword puzzles, greeting cards, recipes, and discount coupons.  If you are a Tony Robbins fan, there’s even a Print App that allows you to print weekly advice from the guru on how to improve yourself.

Of course, the apps of most interest to parents with kids would be the content from big name providers such as Disney, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, Leapfrog, Playmobil, National Geographic, Hot Wheels and Sesame Street.

You would be able print out colourful art and craft material which children can use for painting, or to build actual 3D models of cartoon characters or airplanes.  That should keep your little ones fully engaged for hours every day.

Sample printout from Awesome Airplanes Print App.  Note the folding instructions that are provided to guide the child in making the plane. Sample printout from Dreamworks Print App.  Here, we have a door sign that every kid would love to have!

Other than the fun and play, parents also benefit from content by Starfall, and the newly added local providers SAP Education and OnSponge.

The SAP Daily Worksheets Print App is already available for all Primary levels for English, Math and Science.  The worksheets comprise questions compiled from the best selling assessment books on each subject, with full guided solutions that students can follow when checking their answers.  Every day, there would be between 5 to 10 questions in the work sheet for students to try.  An online forum is also available for students to post their questions if they encounter problems while working on the more challenging questions.

On the surface, this may seem not very different from simply buying an SAP assessment book to be used for the entire school year.  However, the unique daily delivery of the work sheets allow students to take on bite-sized challenges, where the completion of each worksheet is an accomplishment by itself.  This approach is quite similar to the pedagogy of enrichment service providers such as Kumon, where kids get to work on a set of worksheets per day, allowing them to gain knowledge and competency through a consistent regime of small, 15-minute daily practices.

The other difference is that the service is free, and costs you nothing other than Internet connection charges and printing costs!

The OnSponge Print App will be made available later this year, and this would be something of great interest to parents who love the OnSponge techniques for solving problem sums.

To summarise, HP’s Print Apps do add significant value to the ubiquitous, but rather bland home printer.  On the flip side, I feel the current set of Print Apps are just scratching the surface of the technology.  If content can be further customised to the needs of each child through some kind of feedback mechanism that tells the content providers exactly how well the child is performing in specific topics or concepts, the Print App can become a personalised trainer that can help pace and guide the child.

Also, I’m not sure how long the content can remain to be free.  No business model can survive in the long term without a clear revenue stream.  If Print Apps take off in a big way, I can see content providers coming out with premium services which require subscription to access.  This may actually be a good thing as it could increase the quality of the offerings, but it will mean that consumers may have to fork out money for it.

Perhaps the day would come when my printer will have all my family’s readings for the day neatly printed out, removing the need for me to check my mailbox, or buy more assessment books for my kids.  In the meantime, I know what printer I would buy when my venerable 5 year old inkjet finally bites the dust 🙂 .

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