New product opportunities for the Internet of Normal Things

We sent out a bunch of Little Printer for Business evaluation kits yesterday. Lots of parcels!


These are the Berg-enabled receipt printers made by Martel Instruments. More details here. It’s the easy-to-hack-on Little Printer back-end, in robust off-the-shelf housing for commercial use.

We’ve had a ton of interest in these receipt printers with a web API. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why.


My question: Why – given there are ten thousand networked receipt printers on the market – do customers want the one that you send HTML through a web API?

Here’s my take…

Businesses used to be built around Windows PCs.

You’d have a Visual Basic app that tracked stock. You’d use it for data entry. It would generate pro formas for ordering. It would print tickets on a receipt printer, connected by serial or USB or something, and the tickets would go down to the stock room or warehouse to give a paper trail. The printer would come with a special print driver. The system would have been built a decade ago and worked okay. It would never get touched.

Businesses don’t run on Windows PCs anymore.

The back-office is an intranet. On the web.

You can’t install print drivers on the web. The intranet doesn’t have a USB port to plug a printer in.

So with our Berg-enabled printer, our HTML cloud-renderer is the print driver. The web API is the USB port.

It’s easily integrated, so companies can simply print from their intranet direct into known locations. With future dashboard features, they can check prints have actually be done, and monitor for Out of Paper warnings.

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Which leads me to a thought.

In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.

The Internet of Things, by allowing devices to connect directly to the web – using platforms like Berg – takes the PC out of the picture, and lets us create products directly on that platform.

Wherever there were Windows PCs in businesses, there’s now the web.

Wherever there were peripherals connected to that PC, there’s a need for a new peripheral… just the same, but with a simple web API.

Every time you see a dated PC, only running the back-office because of the peripherals hanging off it, there’s a product opportunity.

Nothing crazy, nothing ocean boiling. Very normal.

But huge.