Web guru Anil Dash had some fun on Twitter this morning by suggesting that Facebook make a printer.He was joking. But actually, a Facebook printer is a great idea—a far better idea than making a phone.
And there’s an obvious company to make such a printer: Hewlett-Packard.
New HP CEO Meg Whitman needs to reverse the slide in her printer division’s profits by making it dead-simple to print photos. Facebook is getting the blame for the trend of consumers looking at photos online rather than printing them.
She also needs to show that the company can do something—anything—useful with its WebOS operating system, which HP has long promised to put in its printers.
Just as he did with his Instagram deal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg needs to guard his dominant position in photo sharing by making its photos ubiquitous and convenient.
In fact, HP already makes Facebook-enabled printers. Some of its touchscreen printers have a Facebook “print app.” Of course, no shock, it’s not very good. For the rest, HP suggests we download photos to our desktop and print them from there. Fantastic, thanks for the suggestion, HP—that never occurred to us.
So the solution seems simple: An HP printer with prominent Facebook branding, and input from Facebook on the design of the app and the integration with its social network.
Imagine a printer-optimised version of Facebook’s Camera app that lets you print not just your own Facebook photos but your friends’ photos, too. Grandparents would snap these printers up—if they’re easy enough to configure.
As a bonus, how about a personalised, printed newspaper of articles your friends are sharing on Facebook? And you could entice people to print them — ads and all — by giving them an option to take full-page printed ads in exchange for free ink and paper. (A typical page with a mix of text and images costs between 8 and 30 cents.) Advertisers want large-format, hard-to-miss advertisements on Facebook. A Facebook printer could be a killer way to deliver them. And HP doesn’t mind who’s footing the bill for its high-margin ink cartridges, as long as someone’s paying.
(Conveniently, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen sits on the boards of both Facebook and Hewlett-Packard, though that has nothing to do with the logic of such a deal.)
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