Hewlett-Packard’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) has made a first raft of announcements under the banner of the ‘Print 2.0’ vision it announced in May, with products and services unveiled across the entire portfolio, from consumer to the graphic arts market.
The hype around the Web 2.0 concept has tempted companies in a wide variety of sectors to coin similar phrases for their worlds, and these are often little more than vacuous attempts to jump on the bandwagon and imbue their humdrum activities with some of the elan of a new way of doing things, innovation and newness generally.
One could level this accusation at IPG, particularly as printing and imaging are clearly well-worn activities that set no IT manager’s imagination alight, in the way that, say, wireless and mobile services, or WAN optimization and app acceleration might. Still, the $27bn IPG business is such a significant contributor to both the top and bottom lines at HP that it really can’t afford to misinterpret trends in the print market, so the fact that it is enunciating a major shift in its business is worthy of note.
As Vyomesh Joshi, executive VP of IPG, explained it, Print 2.0 is HP’s recognition of the fact that printing and imaging have moved away from the PC-connected paradigm where users are outputting content held on their machines, toward the Web-based world where the content itself is in the ether, the printer may be remote from the machine they’re working on, and the latter may not even be a PC or laptop at all.
In early 2007 we realized that 48% of print jobs were coming from Web applications, said Joshi. This is printing not from PowerPoint or Word, but directly from the Web, and with the growth in user-generated content, print’s moving from a broadcast to a pull model.
This thinking fuelled the group’s M&A strategy, as can be seen in its March 2005 purchase of online photo storing and developing website Snapfish.com, which is a portal that enables a print anywhere capability, as well as its April acquisition of Logoworks, a Web-based design service company for small businesses.
For the consumer market, IPG has now added what Joshi called a kitchen kiosk, i.e. a compact photo printer with a big LCD interface and no PC, where you can use a stylus to personalize your content by writing directly onto the screen prior to printing, for instance. Also for consumers, it has unveiled kits to enable people to build photo books in the home, including tasks like payout and simple binding solutions.
Staying with its consumer offerings, IPG announced the HP Yahoo! Printing Experience Toolbar, initially available directly on the Web, then later shipping with all its SoHo printers, proving links for easier, more intuitive printing from the Web, with free online classes, printing tips and how-to’s. Finally in the consumer segment, two announcements were specifically for the US market: IPG announced something called HP Digital Entertainment Services, whereby it has set up a factory to burn DVDs for consumers in an on-demand fashion, using its high-end Indigo printer technology, and it unveiled an alliance with Ascent, a provider of digital media services to major Hollywood studios, offering content localization in a digital form and thus seeking to replace analog technology.
For the SMB space, there is a new mobile printer in the LaserJet series, plus a range of new inkjet and laser printers, plus some new scanners. Regarding the Logoworks acquisition, Joshi said the design shop enables mashups of professional and user-generated content for brand creation and product information, with the ability to print in-house, at a retail outlet, or via a specialist printing service.
In this context, Earlier this month HP announced a deal with office equipment retailer Staples whereby the Logoworks service is now extended to Staples Copy and Print Centers, initially in the US but over time internationally too, such that printed documents can be picked up from them after the design work has been done. Now the service has been further enhanced with a series of templates for mashups from commercial designer Paula Scher.
Graphics and print service providers
In this segment, said Joshi, IPG added an online capability to use our new multifunction Indigo Designjet devices, with scanning and copying capablities, for large-format documents.
HP also unveiled new printhead technology called Scitex X2, debuting on the Scitex XL2200 wide-format printer, with higher speeds and better quality.
For the enterprise market that is IPG’s core business, HP announced what it called an Open Extensibility Platform, which is a Web-based software development kit with open APIs, enabling developers to tailor their software, whether Java- or .NET-based, to integrate with its devices for features such as scan-to-print, paper-based processes and so on.
Also part of IPG is the Halo business, i.e. the high-end videoconferencing technology nowadays referred to as telepresence, which in HP’s case is delivered as a managed service, though the customers are also required to invest in the actual rooms. Part of this wave of announcements included a reduction in the up-front cost of the room, from $349,000 to $249,000, as well as an offering called the Halo Collaboration Meeting Room, which is technology that can be installed in an existing conference room rather than requiring a dedicated new build.
Via a partnership with Norwegian videoconferencing infrastructure vendor Tandberg, HP also announced the ability to connect to other conference rooms using the H.323, H.320 and SIP standards from within a Halo studio.
Part of Print 2.0 is the desire to catch a tailwind from the Web 2.0 buzz, and indeed, this week’s announcements come in response to criticisms after the May unveiling of the vision that it lacked substance. HP has now put some meat on the bones, and there is evidently a need to reflect changes in the way printing and imaging devices are used across the board.
It will be interesting to see how its competitors, who tend to focus on one or other of its sectors rather than cover the entire gamut of the market, will respond. Certainly those in enterprise printing have been working to tie more closely in with enterprise apps. Will they too seek to add a dash of Web 2.0 pizzazz to their marketing and, more to the point, will they move to facilitate printing as a service from the Web, as HP is doing?