Pi.pe, the file transfer and synchronization service which emerged from San Francisco-based Pixelpipe, has previously served as one of the only serious utilities to move photos and other media files between all the various cloud services. Since its launch a little over a year ago, Pi.pe’s focus has been primarily on backup and sharing. But it was missing an option for ordering prints – something which most services focused on photo management today offer. Today, that changes.
The company is now launching Pi.pe Prints, which allows users to print photos hosted all over the cloud to locations like Walgreens, CVS, and soon Shutterfly, Tesco, and Fuji Film, too – the latter likely in about a month’s time. Pricing for Walgreens and CVS is the same as is listed on their own websites (e.g. 4×6 is $0.19), but through the integrations Pi.pe will earn 10 to 15 percent of the sale price from its printing partners.
At launch, the new printing service includes support for images stored on Facebook and Facebook Pages, 500px, Flickr, Google Drive (soon), Instagram, Mixi (Japan), MySpace, Trovebox (OpenPhoto), Picasa, Shutterfly, SmugMug, and VK (Russia).
And as before, photos and videos can also be exported to other cloud services including 500px, Amazon Glacier, Box, CX, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Flickr, Google Drive, Mixi, MySpace, Orkut, Photobucket, Picasa, Shutterfly, Smugmug, Sugarsync, Trovebox, VK, Walgreens, YouSendIt, and YouTube.
This new printing option places Pi.pe into a different category of services. Before, the startup’s primary competitor was something like IFTTT, as it too allows users to copy and automate the moving of photos from one service to the next. But unlike IFTTT, which offers ways to automate a wide variety of web-based tasks, Pi.pe has been singularly focused on moving and syncing files, generally photos.
The company still has plans to merge its earlier photo-only uploader service Pixelpipe into Pi.pe, to reflect its growth beyond “just pixels,” but that hasn’t yet come to pass. Pixelpipe and its accompanying mobile application lineup still operate independently. But CEO Brett Butterfield tells us the new Pi.pe Android and iOS applications are now just about completed, and both will include printing support at launch.
From the apps, users will be able to print from their phone’s photos, as well as the third-party services Pi.pe supports. That will make it one of the more robust options in terms of ordering prints from your mobile, as current competitors tend to limit themselves to bigger players like Facebook and Instagram.
Pi.pe may not have been the kind of service that users would turn to regularly – you would either use it during a large migration between services, or to enable scheduled syncs between cloud locations as a way to back up files – a sort of “set it and forget it” kind of thing. By offering printing, the company may see more regular engagement among its users who have now transferred over 50 million files to date, up from just 8 million last October.
Between the two services, Pi.pe has just over 1.2 million users, and the average Pi.pe user imports around 700 files and exports over 850, often backing up from Flickr or Picasa to Dropbox or Google Drive, for example. Over 35 percent of users are return users, Butterfield also notes.
That being said, though the service is powerful, it still suffers from a very utilitarian look-and-feel, and a user interface that’s lacking some polish. Scrolling through a large collection – like several years’ worth of Flickr photos, for instance – can be a little slow. Unless you have either a significant number of photos to print, or a fragmented library spanning a variety services, there are a slew of lightweight mobile app alternatives for prints, including things like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kicksend, Printic, as well as Walgreens’ own app, plus photo book, card, or gift options available through apps like Mosaic, SimplePrints, Sincerely, Magic Moments, and many more.
However, Butterfield says that the eventual plan is to expand Pi.pe’s lineup of print output partners and types, including adding support for options beyond photo printing for things like books, cards, documents, and even backup DVDs. If that’s the case, however “pretty” the app may be would be of a secondary concern, really, because it will be one of the few that can do this sort of heavy lifting.
Interested users can try out the new print option from Pipeprints.com now.