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An Interview with Rob Houston, Product Marketing Manager - North American Resellers at Xerox

We have spoken a lot about mobile printing on our blog as watched as more and more developments have unfolded. Xerox has been a major player in mobile printing for some time, and we recently had the chance to speak to Mr. Rob Houston, Product Marketing Manager–North American Resellers at Xerox about an option that has been around for a while that some may not know about, Xerox PrintBack. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.

1) To be clear at the outset, how is this software and app different than previously launched Xerox mobile print offerings?
Xerox PrintBack was launched back in October 2011 to provide a free, personal printing solution for customers who wanted to enable printing from iOS and Android devices to the default printer they already use with their PC or Mac. Xerox has multiple solutions for mobile printing that address the needs of enterprise environments or mobile workers—PrintBack was specifically for individual users that just want to enable printing from their devices and to printers that don’t support AirPrint or Mopria.

PrintBack uses three components to enable printing:

    • PrintBack App – installed on the user’s device and is how print jobs are sent from the mobile device
    • Online service like Dropbox, Box or a web-based email service, the job is sent here from the mobile device
    • PrintBack Agent – installed on the user’s computer, the agent pulls the job down from the online service and sends the job to the default printer with the default settings (2-sided printing, application-specific settings like PowerPoint 2-up and 2-sided, etc).

2) Is this particular solution designed to be scalable? Can multiple people "print back" to the same printer? If so, is there a limit to the number of users that could share it?
PrintBack prints through the user’s computer — so it’s the same as any other environment where people are sharing printers. What is more "personal" is the agent — it is installed on the user’s computer and prints to that computer’s default printer using that user’s online service.

If multiple people want to share an agent on a shared computer, they can do so if they also setup their app to use the same online service that the agent on the shared computer is connected to.

3) How brand-agnostic is this solution? Does it have to be a Xerox-branded printer?
Sends jobs to the default printer for the computer the agent is installed on — brand/model do not matter.

4) If you can comment, how much did your membership in the Mopria Alliance influence the decision to develop this tool?
PrintBack pre-dated the Mopria alliance, which was announced in the September 2013 timeframe.

5) With the newest iOS and Android devices being among the largest released to this point, are there plans to release further updates in 2015 that are optimized for larger screens and have additional features?
We are pretty happy with the level of functionality PrintBack provides and how that fits into our selection of solutions.

6) Assuming the computer you are printing to is on, could you literally print back to your printer from anywhere in the world? Do sleep/hibernation modes on PCs and Macs impact printing ability?
Whether your computer is on or not, you can submit a job via the PrintBack app and the job will be held in the online service used to link the app and the agent. When your computer is turned back on, or you wake it back up, the job you sent will be printed.

The idea is that when you realize you have something you want to print on your mobile device, you can send the job right then instead of having to remember to do the print job later. The job will print when you get back to your office and turn your computer on or wake it up. PrintBack is not about printing on the go, or discovering a printer that you happen to be physically close to, or send the job to a cloud and pulling it down at a printer of choice.

7) What kinds of security measures are in place for PrintBack? Can you reach printers behind firewalls, or print to a device that requires authentication?
In terms of connection security, the job is sent like any other email or cloud-stored document. If a customer is in a corporate environment that does not allow connections to web-based email or cloud storage, PrintBack won’t work. In terms of print security, PrintBack jobs are printed like any other job from your computer to your printer.

8) Are there any limits to file/document size for printing via either the app or the software? What are the file type extensions currently supported?
No rated limit to the file size. File type support is listed on this page:

9) Is there any type of "Print Preview" available to users so they can get a sense of what the output will look like?
No Print Preview functionality.

10) This solution appears to be an ideal fit for most businesses and people. What other developments do you think we will see in mobile printing in the next 5-10 years? Will it advance to be as ubiquitous as printing from someone's desk?
We’ve already seen many changes since PrintBack launched — mostly around broader inclusion of embedded mobile-support (AirPrint, Mopria) within new printer and MFP models, as well as new features like NFC for convenient and easy pairing of mobile devices with printers.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile