Move Over, Smartphones: That Copier is App-Savvy, Too

Today’s MFPs (multifunction printers) go beyond basic print/copy/scan/fax capability to enable users to perform a broad range of tasks. This includes converting scans to editable and searchable files, routing scans to electronic repositories, requiring user authentication before use, tracking usage behavior, and connecting with cloud services.

And thanks to the software platforms that underpin these and other MFP functions, that “copier” in the corridor can also run downloadable apps. So just as with a smartphone, an MFP can be custom-configured after purchase to perform the tasks a customer requires.

The purpose of most MFP apps available today is to streamline a common or repetitive chore to save workers time and reduce the possibility of mistakes. So, for example, instead of having to scan a paper document to a network folder or email, return to one’s desk, and move the file to an online storage/collaboration service, a “Scan to Google Drive” or “Scan to Evernote” app on the MFP will let a user send a file to the desired online folder with just a few button clicks.

And while scan capture/route apps are the most widespread, there is plenty of other functionality available in the growing universe of apps. One developer offers an editor app that lets you make quick edits to a Word or PowerPoint document right at the MFP before you print it out (handy if you catch a typo in a presentation on the way to the meeting), and there’s even a translator app that lets you scan a document in one language and receive a printout of it in another language while you wait.

And developers are just getting started. Given the relatively powerful computing hardware built into many MFPs, plus the shift to ever-larger touchscreen control panels, there’s no telling what types of apps we’re likely to see over the coming years.

So by investing in an MFP that offers an embedded software platform, you’ll have the option to extend its features and usefulness as new apps become available. This will keep your MFP from growing obsolete.


Many office workers may not realize that office MFPs are capable of downloading and running apps to help improve a wide spectrum of document-related tasks. The types of apps that are available depends on the specific MFPs you are using, but some of the most popular offerings streamline scanning workflows. To see how you can benefit from the MFP app universe, speak with your business technology provider today.

Will Apps Let You Say Goodbye to Server-Based Applications?

Once armed with a control panel full of document-centric apps, you may be tempted to pull the plug on that expensive, cumbersome server-resident document imaging software. Well, can you? Well, it depends.

As with smartphone apps, MFP-resident apps (MFP is short for multifunction printer) tend to offer more limited functionality than does a full-blown PC- or server-resident application. So if your organization relies on an existing document management or line-of-business application, you’ll want to look for a “connector”: an app that resides on the MFP to capture and route documents to that larger application.

For instance, connectors exist for destinations like:

  • Blackboard Learn
  • DocuWare
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Hyland Software OnBase
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Microsoft SharePoint
  • RightFax
  • Worldox

That said, if your workflow needs are less demanding, you may be able to find an app that delivers all of the functionality you need, without having to spend a lot of money on a more fully featured application.

Put another way, two or three well-chosen apps may handle only 80% of what a given customer may have on their wish list. But given the lower cost and complexity, some customers may opt for that over a traditional application. MFP apps exist for purposes like:

  • Document storage
  • Template creation and access
  • Custom one-touch scanning
  • MFP usage tracking
  • ID card copy
  • Print job release
  • Document editing
  • Document translating
  • Toner ordering


In many cases, MFP apps are simply connectors designed to route documents to already existing business software tools—including document management systems and cloud storage sites.

In other instances, MFP apps exist largely on their own to perform a specific functionality. Whether or not these apps can replace full-fledged business software is worthy of investigation, given potential cost savings that can be achieved.

MFP Makers Take Different Approaches to Getting Apps to Customer

How will you get the apps to customize your MFP (multifunction printer)? The answer depends on which brand of MFP you choose.

Different brands of MFPs

Unlike as in the smartphone world, where the two dominant players (Apple and Google) follow pretty much the same development and distribution model when it comes to apps, in the MFP world there are more than 10 players—each of which is taking a slightly different tack.

On the one end of the spectrum are vendors that are fostering an open approach to development, letting partners develop apps and deliver them directly to end customers. A few OEMs have set up “app store” portals where certified apps can be searched and downloaded.

But even that model has variation: Some OEMs require dealer partners to be the “gatekeepers” of those app portals, while other MFP makers allow customer IT personnel or even end users (with the proper permissions) to download apps to their MFPs without dealer involvement.

And more conservative MFP makers are maintaining a circumspect approach, allowing app development only by authorized partners and tightly controlling which apps are offered and by whom.

Pricing, too, is all over the map. Some apps are free; some are free to dealers but carry a list price that the dealer is free to charge or not as the sales situation warrants; some apps are priced at $9.99, while others are priced as high as $999 per license.

Clearly, in these relatively early days of the MFP app paradigm, there’s a long way to go before there’s any consensus on a go-to-market strategy. And with so many MFP makers, there may never be a common approach like we see in the smartphone realm.


Businesses interested in MFP apps to improve their workflows should find out how these apps can be accessed. For example, they will want to know if they are able to download the apps themselves, or if a technician must be involved. Print technology providers are a great resource for this information.

MFPs Apps are Appealing to Potential Customers

Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends research shows that customers are generally aware of MFP (multifunction printer) apps and, more importantly, are poised to base their purchasing decision on the availability of those apps.

In a recent survey of technology-purchase decision makers, almost three-quarters of respondents indicated they were familiar with MFP capabilities and applications beyond basic machine functions of copy/print/scan/fax.

Figure 1: How familiar are you with MFP capabilities/applications beyond the typical copy and print functions?

Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends researchKeypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends research

Source: Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends research, 2017

Respondents were presented with a list of seven buying criteria for selecting an MFP vendor. Among respondents from medium-sized companies, the availability of MFP apps ranked second in importance after service/support. For small companies, apps ranked third (after service/support and brand).

When asked about the importance of MFP apps in the purchasing decision, 100% of respondents from medium-sized companies said they played an extremely important, very important, or important role compared to 78% of those in small companies.

How does your company feel about MFP apps?

While many companies recognize the usefulness of MFP apps, you need to think about your company’s specific circumstances. One key question is whether your company handles a good deal of hardcopy documents over the course of the day. If this is the case, MFP apps for streamlining tasks around print, copy, fax, and scan might make sense.

For example, scan-to apps enable organizations to route documents directly into a wide range of desired locations—including network folders, PC desktops, and cloud services. As another example, an ID card copy app simplifies the copy of double-sided ID cards onto a single page.

Over time, dozens and dozens of MFP apps have been developed to help companies save time and boost productivity. That said, representatives from your organization will need to speak to your business technology provider to determine which specific apps are compatible with your print devices. Other important questions to ask your provider are how the apps can be installed and whether a fee is required.

Key takeaways

  • MFP purchasers are familiar with the functionality MFP apps can deliver beyond the typical print/copy/scan/fax features of most devices.
  • In a few short years, MFP apps have gone from being non-existent to being one of the most important factors considered when weighing which MFP to purchase.
  • The portfolio of apps a device make/model supports can be an important differentiator that separates one MFP from a competing product in the minds of purchasing decision-makers.