Printed mat­ters

HP’s new ink tech­nol­ogy reaches the of­fice

Finweek English Edition - - Com­mu­ni­ca­tion & tech­nol­ogy - FRIK ELS

WEB 2.0, THE CATCHALL PHRASE FOR user-gen­er­ated web­sites such as Flickr and MyS­pace, isn’t just mak­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and search en­gines rich. Web 2.0 is also boost­ing, of all things, the printer mar­ket.

So says Michael Hoff­mann, chief of HP’s Europe, Mid­dle East and Africa imag­ing and print­ing group (IPG). “There’s an ex­plo­sion in dig­i­tal con­tent world­wide and Web 2.0 is the ma­jor driver. More and more con­tent is be­ing cre­ated by non-pro­fes­sion­als and at least some of it’s then printed.”

For ex­am­ple, the con­tent pro­duced by non-pro­fes­sion­als in­cludes the users of Web 2.0 sites that print their dig­i­tal cam­era pho­tos and small com­pa­nies that, with cheap soft­ware and cheap hard­ware, can now pro­duce full-colour mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial such as brochures them­selves. “Mar­ket­ing col­lat­eral is a ma­jor growth area – all small busi­nesses want to look like big busi­nesses,” says Hoff­mann.

HP, the world’s largest printer man­u­fac­turer, es­ti­mates that in 2005 some 46 tril­lion (that’s 46 000bn) pages were printed world­wide. That fig­ure in­cludes ev­ery­thing from in­dus­trial print­ing to an of­fice A4 copy. HP says by 2010 an­other six tril­lion pages/year will be added. “We all know the pa­per­less of­fice turned out to be a myth. Pa­per pro­cesses still dom­i­nate within com­pa­nies and for many work­flows have be­come un­man­age­able,” says Hoff­mann.

HP’s IPG di­vi­sion turned over US$27bn (R190bn) last year, rep­re­sent­ing growth of 7%. It’s the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to HP’s prof­its and the com­pany man­aged that growth de­spite a de­clin­ing world­wide printer mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm IDC. That sounds con­tra­dic­tory to the ex­pected in­crease in pages printed, but 3,7% fewer print­ers will be sold through to 2010 only be­cause so-called MFPs – or mul­ti­func­tion pe­riph­er­als, that func­tion as scan­ners, faxes, copiers and print­ers and are net­work-con­nected – are can­ni­bal­is­ing sales of the sin­gle-func­tion printer.

“Copier” com­pa­nies such as Kon­ica Mi­nolta, Xerox and Ri­coh have long dom­i­nated of­fice print­ing. How­ever, Hoff­mann says like with other IT hard­ware, such as stor­age or servers, com­pa­nies are look­ing to con­sol­i­date their print­ing in­fra­struc­ture to save costs. Here HP’s com­put­ing and net­work­ing ex­per­tise stands it in good stead. HP also of­fers soft­ware to man­age printer fleets.

HP is best known for desk­top inkjets and lasers that cost around R1 000 but is now mov­ing ag­gres­sively into of­fice print­ers for what it calls the en­ter­prise mar­ket (com­pa­nies that have more than 1 000 em­ploy­ees). These high-speed, high-vol­ume ma­chines can sell for around R100 000. That’s if you could buy them.

HP’s lat­est top-of-the-range en­try into the en­ter­prise mar­ket is called Edge­line. HP is of­fer­ing Edge­line print­ers only on a con­tract and pay-per-page ba­sis with no out­right sales. In SA, re­sellers Mo­tion and Tar­sus have been ac­cred­ited to of­fer man­aged print ser­vices on the Edge­line MFPs. HP also of­fers full out­sourc­ing of print­ing func­tions and the likes of Voda­fone and Bayer now make use of such ser­vices on a global scale.

Edge­line is a prod­uct of the com­pany’s $1,4bn spent on re­search and de­vel­op­ment of scal­able print­ing tech­nol­ogy. Edge­line ink tech­nol­ogy was in­tro­duced last year as photo-print­ing kiosks in re­tail out­lets. Edge­line doesn’t rely on inkjet (not fast enough) or laser (res­o­lu­tion not good enough) tech­nol­ogy but uses pig­ment-based dyes with a bond­ing agent. Those ma­chines are for com­pany de­part­ments that print be­tween 20 000 and 50 000 pages/month and can print 50 colour and 60 mono­chrome pages/minute.

HP says the new tech­nol­ogy used in Edge­line en­ables it to pro­vide bet­ter mar­gins to re­sellers and ex­pects the new ma­chines to prove as dis­rup­tive to the mar­ket as its smaller scale MFPs proved to be. In just three years HP went from ac­count­ing for 1% of sales in that seg­ment of the of­fice MFP mar­ket to 18%.

Els at­tended the launch of Edge­line in Europe as a guest of HP.

Web 2.0 and MFPs – a match made in heaven. Michael Hoff­mann

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