The digital world and the physical world have merged in tremendous ways over the past three years. Computing power has become nearly ubiquitious, mobile phone usage is often more pervasive than access to clean sanitation in the developing world, and technologies like Sixth Sense, GPS, and Red Laser are moving us that much closer to eliminating the line between what’s digital and what’s physical. They are also making us that much more dependent too, with many formerly tangible services (phone books, travel agents, journals, and even financial transactions) being moved completely online.
But one connection that still hasn’t mobilized or changed in a meaningful way is printing from computers or mobile phones. Dominated by large, public, dominant companies of the early 2000s (HP, Compaq, etc.), printing hasn’t changed much. Color printing, laser printing, and wireless printing have all happened within the last 5 years, but the actual hardware has remained the same: large, stagnant, and immobile.
Beign able to take laptops and iPhones on trips and into meetings are revolutionary, but if we need to print something and aren’t in our home or office, they are pretty useless. Often, the only time college students, who study all over campuses, need to come back to their room’s desk is to plug their USB cable into their laptops to print.
We need laptops or iPhones with the ability to print small amounts of paper directly out of the laptop or phone itself. Although this may slightly bulk up the design of laptops and be impossible in products like the Macbook Air, I bet cartridges and other components could be designed cleverly enough to make the change hardly noticable.
Mobile printing could be a small addition that could disrupt the printing industry completely. In fact, it could almost eradicate it like cell phones have done to landlines.