HP aims to bring some colour to print market

Printer giant HP has unveiled a whole raft of new printing and imaging products to reaffirm its leadership in the market. Its not-so-secret weapon will be colour.

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  May 22, 2005

|~|main_hp_01.jpg|~|HP Middle East’s Thomas Valjak sees a significant shift happening from monochrome printing to colour printing within enterprises, with targeted marketing strategies as the main drivers for printing in-house.|~|Colour is the new trend in printing, says HP, which has recently launched an array of new colour laser and inkjet printers targeting consumers, small and medium-sized businesses, enterprises and graphic professionals. According to Thomas Valjak, category manager, Imaging and Printing Group, HP Middle East, sales and marketing activities drive the need for colour print campaigns, while the need to target specific market segments is what drives companies to resort to in-house printing. In this interview, Valjak discusses the cost benefits of printing colour materials in-house and what HP is doing to help customers reduce costs, optimise their resources and prevent print-happy employees from using office colour printers for personal purposes.||**|||~||~||~|What recent trends have you been seeing with regards to how enterprises use colour printers? We see an increase in the use of colour around office printing, such as the use of colour in marketing. We actually see a shift happening from monochrome to colour. What we see today is that a lot of marketing [activities] is mostly dependent on print media because it’s a natural medium for people to work with. Customers are looking more and more into using colour for their in-house printing for whatever means rather than only black and white. It’s coming from a natural history of using colour. If we step back just a second and think about colour it becomes obvious that colour becomes a natural element of life.||**|||~||~||~|Is colour printing becoming more of a business need rather than just an add-on? If you look at a business cycle of any industry, you start off with a product idea, you develop that idea, then you develop products, and manufacture those products, but then you need to sell those products. To sell them the company needs to create awareness for them. You could do it with various means, radio advertising, TV advertising, sales promotions, but what we found out from a survey conducted in the US is that 60% of all SMBs use colour materials for marketing purposes, such as product brochures, posters, and also for in-house communication such as letterheads and presentation templates. There is a need to create awareness and for creating awareness colour is being used. In order to print material to create this awareness, most of the awareness campaigns are done using printed materials, in the forms of flyers, brochures, posters, data sheets and catalogues. If you take a look at how this is being done today, specifically in the Middle East, we see a trend from the advertising agencies where they are going more and more towards producing such materials in smaller quantities, not in bulk. Why? Because according to them, their customers want to sell their products to a more targeted audience. They are focusing their marketing efforts towards specific customer segments, which they believe would be the ideal audience for a specific product. That is why there are a lot of mailing campaigns being done in the region. Such activities will always require short production runs in small quantities, and those have been usually outsourced in the past for printing companies or print shops. However, even if production of data sheets or direct mailers to printing companies is possible, it tends to be very expensive. Any print job with less than 5,000 pages tends to be relatively expensive. If you go for high volume, then it’s cheap to go to a printing company. The missing link basically is where we can help customers optimise resources. For HP, that is by providing products and technologies that bring professional colour quality as a result to help them with their marketing activities, and that are easy to use because not every company can afford to educate or train their employees on how to use professional equipment.||**|||~||~||~|Is in-house printing something you are encouraging businesses to do more? What are the cost benefits? What we are doing is developing products that deliver the capability of producing materials in-house without the requirement for education or having somebody experienced in the office to do that. All of our products are designed to be reliable, easy to use, intuitive, and pretty much self-explanatory, without compromising on quality. That’s the first step. The product needs to be easy to use otherwise if you are getting confused with it, if it takes a lot of steps to get the accepted printout, you will not use it. Furthermore, we are also working closely together with third-party companies such as Apple to make our products compatible with their products. We have more than 200 products in our portfolio today compatible even with the latest release of the Mac operating system (Tiger). This way you don’t need to download any special software, it’s already in the operating system. We are also working with specialists such as GretagMacbeth and a couple of companies in the professional graphics arena to ensure our professional products provide accurate colour reproduction in a consistent way and that we have easy-to-use products leveraging on technology in that area. We also ensure that our products are definitely compatible with mainstream applications. For general office use, what we are happy to announce is that we have a corporation launch, first in the US — but it’s online-based so it’s also available to customers anywhere else — where we are partnering with a company that will design logos for small and medium-sized companies. They can design a logo for you and they will give you a complete package for the business cards, fax templates and other company forms; that’s a service the cost of which will start from US$275 to get a package created. Another company that we started working with is also providing similar services but this time to develop word template using Microsoft Publisher for different kinds of brochures or templates for posters. It will then make it easy for somebody to build on a templatet that is based on a certain platform, put content inside, send it to the printer and get it done. You can see that we not only want to provide the hardware but also the software applications needed to make it easier for companies to work with graphics and images and to get them printed off instantly. ||**|||~||~||~|But how do you encourage companies to use colour printers especially when they are concerned about how to keep employees from using the printers for their personal use? Have you developed product features that can address this problem? In our Colour LaserJet 2800 series for example, we have included a memory card slot because we want to allow customers also to integrate printing products with input devices such as digital cameras. We have interfaces to load images into the colour laser printers. But for corporate use, this may not be an ideal feature because it can be used indiscriminately or for personal purposes. What we did, we introduced a software that can block the interface slot. The network administrator can set a password for it to block the interface slot. This way, you can put a memory card inside the slot as long as you want but you cannot use the printer. Similarly, we have a standard feature in all of our colour printers where a network administrator can decide who on the network is allowed to print in colour and who is allowed to print in black and white. ||**|||~||~||~|What about consumables? Is HP doing anything to push the prices down for its paper and ink cartridges? In terms of consumables, when you have a close look at the price of consumables, you can say that HP costs more than others. But you shouldn’t be looking at the price alone; rather, you have to look at the benefits that you will get. We have undergone a lot of efforts in the past years not to reduce the price of the package that you buy but improve what you can get out of the package. This means that for every unit that you buy you will get much more pages printed, much better quality not only in terms of the colour and resolution but also in terms of improved lightfast features, which allow photos to be fade-resistant for over 80 years. In comparison, today an inkjet cartridge might cost US$30. Ten years ago it also cost US$30. For the same amount, you can print a picture today that can last for 80 years; ten years ago, you could not. The value has increased — multiplied greatly — over the years and if you are to take such comparisons, you will see that the printing costs have greatly reduced. We do offer technology that really provides the lowest cost per page in the industry. It’s not the price of the package that you buy but what you get out of it. A third-party cartridge for an inkjet printer might cost US$20 to US$25, but you only get 500 to 800 pages out of this cartridge, whereas a cartridge from HP, which might cost about US$40, can produce 1,800 pages. Look at the ratio, at the relationship between cost and output pages. If you look at the box alone, you might think it is expensive, but what you get out of it in terms of quality and actual output is much better than an ordinary cartridge can provide. If you consider how many pages a cartridge can print and how often do you need to replace the cartridge into your calculations, then you will see that the printing costs using HP cartridges will really come down.||**|||~||~||~|What other trends do you see? There is also a trend from the market where customers want to integrate more and more functionalities into common devices. They want to reduce the number of products and reduce the number of technologies that are out there in the office environment just to save overhead costs, the costs of acquiring that technology and those products, and in maintaining them and in training people how to use these products, and to save space and conserve energy. There are areas that need such tools integrated into one such box, such as the reception area in hotels. What do they need to do? They need to print invoices for which they need a printer, and when you check in they need to take your passport copy, for which very often they take your passport and go to a back room, make a copy and come back. It would save them time and allow them to keep customer contact if they make passport copies directly in the front desk. Using a product that can basically provide you the functionality of copying and printing in one place saves you time in terms of using the product, increases customer experience because the hotel person does not go away with your passport, saves space because only one product is required, and it reduces costs because instead of having two devices — a printer and a copier — you only need one device. Companies should look at specific workspace or work environments, define what kind of features are required, and then decide what product must be installed to meet those requirements. We call this approach balanced deployment: “deployment” meaning deploying various kind of office functionalities in an office, and “balanced” meaning deploying the right technology and deploying the right features set where it is required. An example of balanced deployment might be a small office that has a workgroup copier that is suited for departmental office use. For a small office, the copier might provide too much functionality that is not being used but paid for. By reducing the features set and putting the right product in place instead, the company might immediately save costs. This is also one of the reasons why HP provides a huge portfolio of products, so that we can enable our customers to make the right decision as to which feature they require and match that with the right product. Overall, integrating features into one device can save costs, can save space, can save administration overhead and increase productivity. Another leverage will be on the support side. A fax machine, a copier, and a printer will most likely come from three different vendors, which means three different support contracts and three different worries, in terms of special toners for each device. By integrating everything into one device you’ll have one point of contact for service and one point of contact for the toners. We have seen the trend for multifunctional devices to be happening in the consumer side for some time and is picking up on the SMB side as well. End users want to integrate devices because they see the benefits. We believe that we need this integration of functionalities to enable customers to increase productivity by decreasing costs. We are offering the products and technologies to deploy peripherals in a balanced way, meaning using the right features set that is required and optimising the feature used.||**||

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