Review: Hewlett-Packard Universal Print Driver and the New Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer
As detailed in our first-look evaluation of HP’s new Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer, one of the printer’s most significant features is its compatibility with standard PCL 6 page control and PostScript Level 3 page description languages rather than the line-by-line PCL 3 GUI print driver used by most other HP Officejet imaging products. As stated, this required a significant memory and processor upgrades over other Officejet products.
You may be thinking, how can these print drivers be significant? Here’s how:
Deployment—It’s the final step in the printer-installation procedure. Picture yourself as the IT guy who has been ordered to install 10 workgroup printers to be shared by 30 users. The un-boxing and setup of each unit is the easy part (approximately 10 minutes for the Officejet Pro 8000 in our evaluation). The hard part comes when IT has to ensure that the print drivers and any required software is installed and operating on all of the designated users’ desktop workstations.
The typical installation program can be run from the CD or from a network share. During the 20-minute installation process, the installer must remain alert and readily available in order to advance through a series of four to six dialogs screens by clicking the “next” button. Once the software is installed, IT then must customize the print driver from the printer folder, and set defaults for print quality, media sources, duplex printing, grayscale printing, etc. And, if the print driver’s user interface (UI) differs from that of any other devices, this adds to IT’s training and support duties.
However, with the Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer, there are two standard, traditional methods that IT can now use to greatly shorten the time it takes to customize and deploy print drivers, deploying print drivers and software in just a few minutes, not 20 minutes, in the traditional manner that they’ve used to deploy LaserJets, for instance. (Previous Officejets’ print drivers were not compatible with the following deployment procedures.)
Point and Print – The printer is attached to a print server, and the print driver on the server is configured accordingly (for instance, specify default duplex and grayscale, and specify installed media types and sources, etc.). IT instructs users to search for their assigned printer on the network. Once found, the user simply clicks on the printer’s icon and they’re presented with a dialog box asking whether they wish to connect to the printer. If the answer is yes, the pre-configured print driver is automatically installed over the network on the user’s workstation.
Automated Driver Deployment – Although several vendors provide this capability, we know for a fact that it’s included on HP and Xerox installation CDs, or prominently featured in the installation routine. The central component is the Driver Deployment Utility. This utility allows IT staff to create and distribute an executable printer-installation package that can be preconfigured and non-interactive. More importantly, it allows for the creation and distribution of print drivers with features such as color printing locked out for instance. Using this scenario, users (or installers) can be directed to a link that will launch the installation process. Additionally, a Driver Configuration Utility conveniently lets IT staff open, modify and “save as” in order to quickly create new packages from the precompiled package.
The Universal Print Driver (UPD) – Here’s where the Universal Print Driver comes in. The Officejet Pro 8000 is also the first Officejet compatible with HP’s Universal Print Driver. As mentioned, if the driver’s user interface (UI) differs from that of any other existing device, this adds to IT’s training and support duties. While this can be expected from brand-to-brand, it’s not to be expected when the models are of the same brand. Ultimately this means that companies that have standardized on, or provide support for primarily a single brand of device, face the same problem (but to a lesser degree), as companies that use a hodge-podge of different-brand equipment–another unwanted deviant UI that requires additional training and support.
A more recent solution to this conundrum in the development of the Universal Print Driver. However, since nobody to date has yet to develop a truly universal UPD that’s universal for all brands, many vendors have quasi-UPDs that encompass their entire line of “office” (dealer) products but not necessarily their models that are distributed via the B2B or retail channels. We are aware that HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox have “universal” print drivers—universal as long as all your printers are recent models from the same vendor AND from the same distribution channel.
We reviewed several UPDs a while back and thought that with the new capabilities provided by the new HP Officejet Pro 8000 Printer, now is the perfect time to revisit: