Hewlett-Packard’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) has launched two devices for the high-end enterprise market, where it aims to take share from the copier-based products that dominate there.
The Palo Alto, California-based printer heavyweight describes the CM8060 and CM8050 as departmental multi-function products (MFPs) with a printer at their core, competing with copiers and copier-based MFPs but sitting close to the end users, whereas their competitors are typically housed in the enterprise print room.
The 8060 prints at a rate of 60 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome and 50 ppm for color, whereas the 8050’s speeds are 50 and 40 ppm respectively, said Rolf Gerstner, product marketing director for IPG’s Enterprise Go-to-Market-Unit in EMEA. He added that the speeds and feeds of each were chosen to compete directly with S3 and S4 copiers in this space.
HP defines enterprise as companies with 1,000 employees and over, and the high end of the enterprise market is characterized by high-speed devices. As such, traditional inkjet technology is unable to compete there, as it must wait for the ink to dry before printing another page. Meanwhile laser printers, on the other hand, deliver speed, since they are based on powder rather than liquid, but have yet to achieve the quality of inkjets.
For this reason, the devices that have held sway in the corporate print room, according to Jan Reicher, VP of IPG’s Commercial Value Go-to-Market-Unit in EMEA, have been copier-based products from companies such as Xerox, Ricoh, Canon and Konica Minolta, with the printer vendors unable to offer both speed and color resolution.
HP’s response is to combine its Scalable Printing Technology (SPT), the print head technology it spent $1.4bn in R&D to develop earlier this decade, with the Edgeline ink technology it introduced last year in its repro kiosk business. The result is what Gerstner calls an ink-based, rather than inkjet, offering that can compete on speed as well as resolution.
SPT and Edgeline
SPT was an evolution in print head design that, in essence enables more dots to be put on the paper faster, with quality and throughput at an affordable price, said Reicher, recalling that it has already refreshed HP’s inkjet product line for the consumer, SMB and low-end enterprise markets. The new enterprise MFPs use a paper-wide array of six such print heads and makes the paper move rather then the heads.
The Edgeline technology, meanwhile, uses pigment-based inks and adds a bonding agent which effectively glues the ink to the paper, enabling higher ppm rates than normal inkjet devices are capable of. Edgeline was first launched in October last year on the PhotoSmart Retail Kiosk product from IPG, and has now been scaled down for the high-end enterprise offering.
Having combined SPT and Edgeline for the required technical attributes, HP touts the other advantages the 8060 and 8050 will have over their competitors from the copier side of the industry. In particular, it highlights their networking skills, in that HP comes from IT rather than a copier or pure photographic background: it extols the virtue, in this context, of its Web Jetadmin software for managing fleets of its enterprise printers, including the new devices, something Reicher argued has no serious competition from the copier vendors.
To further sweeten the pot, HP has come up with an offering in terms of print modes that, it says, means companies will be able to economize without having to sacrifice quality. The two new MFPs have a Professional print mode, which gives the highest color resolution, and a General Office mode for everyday jobs, in which the monochrome quality is the same but the color resolution is lower, but the quality reduction is markedly less than the equivalent mode on copiers, which is called Draft mode.
Managed Print Services
Furthermore, a good part of HP’s business in enterprise printing involved a managed service (it declines to reveal exactly how much, however). The scenario here is that HP contracts to provide what it calls Managed Print Services and charges on a per-page rate, so in order to heighten the attraction of the 8060 and 8050, if there is no significant color content on a page beyond a small logo or a highlighted URL, for instance, a customer will be able to choose General Office mode and be charged the monochrome click price, with the black print being as good in quality as Professional while the colored part will be only slightly more washed.
In other words, HP wants to attract pages that are currently being put through big copiers and copier-based MFPs over to its devices, with the added incentive of enabling a more distributed, closer-to-the-user architecture. The IT department meanwhile retains control via Web Jetadmin, and the 8060 and 8050 have the same user interface as its workgroup printers so as to be familiar to enterprise users. HP has also built in some videos and LEDs for on-the-spot diagnostics by lay users when there is a problem, the idea being to reduce visits by technical staff.
What is conspicuously absent in all this, however, is any pricing information for the new boxes. HP explains its reticence on the subject with the argument that, since many of the contracts will entail an MPS component, talk of list prices is not entirely appropriate. Gestner even went so far as to describe the inclusion in the marketing collateral accompanying the launch of a reference to an $18,000 typical bundle as a mistake by his US colleagues, adding that, in any case, the figure referred to competing products rather than the HP devices, an explanation that sounded a bit forced.
Still, what is clear is that, in these new printers, HP has come up with devices to target a market it has not, until now been able to address, and its execs insist that it is prepared to compete intensely for share. Gerstner said HP will be offering three-year contracts with support for 50,000 pages a month on the original print heads, or five-year contracts with 33,000 pages a month.
HP’s circumspection about pricing raises the question whether it has been less successful in downsizing Edgeline for enterprise than it initially hoped, from a cost perspective. Alternatively, it may be simply keeping its powder dry (no pun intended) for case-by-case contract negotiations. In any case, customers would probably do well to check that the price of the special cartridges the 8060 and 8050 will require are fully covered by any MPS price quoted, if they intend to buy as a managed service.
Perhaps a bigger question, however, is whether advances in laser printing technology, whether from HP itself or from one of its competitors in that market, might not ultimately supersede these ink-based products, enabling laser printers to offer speed but with higher resolution that they can currently muster. That would come with the added advantage that they will work with any old paper, rather than the higher-quality stuff inks require.