HP LaserJet MFP M476 Ready For Mobile Output

Paperless Printer

As the world edges ever closer to a paperless existence, Hewlett-Packard continues to find new ways to keep printers in the game. HP Tuesday unveiled the Color LaserJet MFP M476, which will be the first printer to support universal protocols for mobile device printing and the first in its class from HP to support management that goes deeper than monitoring and status reporting.

HP's latest multifunction printer for SMBs also improves scanning speed and paper handling, can leverage LDAP for directory lookups and access control, and has been called the first "truly cloud-enabled device" for its ability to directly access documents stored in popular online storage systems beyond HP's own. The company gave the CRN Test Center an inside look at the LaserJet M476, which will hit the channel March 1 and be widely available April 1. List pricing starts at $529, down from the $599 list price of its predecessor. The M476 replaces the M375 and M475 MFPs.

Mopria For Mobile Printing

Topping the news is the ground-breaking release of the first printer to be compliant with specifications developed by the Mopria Alliance, which permit the MFP to output from compatible tablets and smartphones without the need for special apps or setup. The nonprofit consortium was founded last year by Canon, HP, Samsung and Xerox and is dedicated to building a universal set of printing protocols and interfaces for wireless printing from mobile devices. "Mobile printing is something that people want to do," said David Laing, director of innovation of LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions at HP, during a confidential briefing last week.

Laing cited an IDC study from February 2013 that found 50 percent of smartphone users and 58 percent of tablet users print from their devices. "Smartphone printing is going to grow tremendously," he added. The Mopria protocol is already built into Android 4.4 Kit Kat, Laing said. As with its predecessors, the new printer also supports printing from iOS devices via Apple's AirPrint.

Direct Access To Box, Drive

For devices running neither Android Kit Kat nor iOS, the M476 supports HP's ePrint App and ePrint Enterprise service, which permit smartphones and tablets to output via Wi-Fi Direct or by sending email through the service to an email address corresponding to the printer. What's more, this method doesn't require the source device to join the network on which the printer resides. "It's our own short-range peer-to-peer technology that's only used for that," said Laing. "So it's really simple and hackers can't break into it." Devices with NFC simply tap their device on the printer's hot spot to activate printing that's encrypted and password-protected.

The M476 also can print documents in cloud-based storage completely on its own. "More and more SMBs are adopting cloud-based document management systems. So we now have connectors in the device for Box, Google Drive or [HP's own] Flow CM," said Laing. This enables the printer to connect directly to accounts in those systems and print documents.

Deeper Management

The M476 will now support Web Jetadmin, HP's fleet of management tools for networked printers, making the device more suitable in the enterprise for deployment in remote and branch office locations. "In the past, devices in this class were pretty limited in what you could do," said Laing. Functions such as installation and monitoring were the start and end of it. "Admins can now control functions remotely by groups of users. You can manage the fleet from an authentication aspect, with certain features available to some users and not others. For example, you can say that this group can print, scan and fax, while these others can only print," he said. Other administrative functions include remote diagnostics and firmware updates on multiple devices at the same time. "Previously, [non-enterprise devices] had to be updated one by one," said Laing.

Two-Sided Scanning

Scanning and copying speeds essentially are doubled thanks to a new two-sided scanning engine. The M476 now scans both sides of the page in a single pass rather than scanning, flipping and scanning the other side, said Laing. "That not only makes it faster, but it's less error-prone because you're not moving the paper around as much." The unit's 50-sheet auto-document feeder also has been updated to handle the faster flow.

LDAP Support

Further enhancing the allure of the M476 to the enterprise is LDAP support, which does more than simplify its introduction to a network. "Support of LDAP allows you to easily find email addresses within your company's directory," said Laing. This is useful for routing documents or scans and for generally improving document workflow. "When we think about our strategy, we want to make the best devices and build the best solutions around those to bring documents to the cloud and back down and keep it all secure," said George Brasher, vice president and general manager of worldwide LaserJet and enterprise solutions at HP.

The Bottom Line

With the Color LaserJet MFP M476, HP is demonstrating that enterprise printers can be manageable, capable, full-featured wireless and network citizens without being overly expensive. List pricing starts at $529 and peaks at $679 for wireless, wireless/NFC and auto-duplex bundles. The 21-page-per-minute printer is designed for groups of three to 10 people printing between 1,000 and 2,500 pages per day.