HP 2016 spring launch. Printing Reinvented

HP’s spring 2016 launch was the first major new product announcement since the company split, and was billed as ‘HP’s most important launch of the last ten years’.

The billing was justified, as HP announced new products and services to address all segments of the market, in what amounted to a very coherent and powerful offering – and with the promise of further exciting new developments to come.

Initial reaction was generally positive, and typified by the comments of one channel partner attending the event, who said “I’m very excited. HP is now really getting things together. What I liked about today was that we saw some really meaningful product innovations – not just marketing hype, but solid new products and solutions which meet our customers’ needs, and with the promise of more to come, including Page Wide A3, which could be a real game changer. If HP can deliver successfully on what they have shown today, we can see a bright future for our business.”

HP Inc certainly needs a shot in the arm, following disappointing recent results, with pressure especially on print consumables revenue and margin, as a result of both declining print volumes and competition from compatibles. HP is addressing this, not just with new products, but also with renewed emphasis on its Managed Print Services, in particular working with the channel to increase MPS penetration in the SME segment of the market, and so secure consumables revenue there.

According to HP’s market analysis, 2016 will be the cross-over year, where contractual revenues will exceed transactional for the first time.

In terms of products, HP continues to pursue a twin-track approach in the office, with extensions of both the OfficeJet Pro X range (now rebranded as ‘Page-Wide’) and the Jet Intelligence laser range. HP also indicated that they will be launching A3 Page-Wide products in 2017, to mount a direct attack on the ‘copier’ vendors. In addition, for the SOHO segment, HP launched a range of new-look OfficeJet products, with a streamlined design incorporating integrated paper trays and internal output bins – to avoid the annoying problem of printed sheets spilling out onto the floor.

In order to secure and grow consumables and other after sales revenue, HP needs not just a portfolio of devices to meet the full range of customer requirements, but also a compelling MPS offering, to provide customers with value from committing to a contractual relationship, and to provide HP and its partners with opportunities to sell additional value-added services.

HP sees the Channel as by the far the biggest route to market for contractual print business, and is committed to working with partners to deliver MPS for all customers other than the very large enterprise clients, who will continue to be served directly.

HP did not make major new announcements, or changes of direction with its Channel MPS programme. This is a good thing, as in the past HP could be criticised for frequent changes of direction and relaunches of MPS programmes, which had perhaps not been fully thought through before launching. Now we see a very welcome consistency of direction, building on the twin-track approach of Partner MPS (where HP delivers major service elements for partners who choose not to invest in creating their own MPS delivery), and Channel MPS (where HP provides specially adapted products, tools and support, for partners who have the capability and want to deliver their own MPS).

The MPS offerings are enhanced by the new range of products, including specially adapted SKUs with high yield consumables for the Channel MPS programme, and further developments in services and solutions.

A particular feature was HP’s Secure Printing, based on a range of enhanced product features and services, which together represent what HP claims as a best in class offering for print security – to address a growing area of customer concern.

Finally, no article on the Printing Reinvented launch would be complete without a mention of the presentation on consumables strategy and development. HP lifted the curtain on an aspect of technology which is perhaps least well understood, with a presentation by a consumables expert to demonstrate and explain how different types of consumables are used to meet a range of customer needs. This went well beyond the simple distinction between laser and ink. It included different types of ink, to meet the differing requirements of home and office printing, further developments of the page-wide ink-jet printing technology, including the prospect of extension to A3 format, and development of the JetIntelligence ColorSphere 3 toner, extending this across a wider range of LaserJet devices. Of particular interest was a re-formulation of the ink for the page-wide devices, to make it faster drying, and so minimise the tendency for crinkling on high coverage pages.  As with the product portfolio, this presentation demonstrated a coherent portfolio strategy, with a range of consumables options to meet the needs of all major customer segments.

IDeAs is encouraged by what appears to be a more coherent and consistent portfolio of print products and services than we have seen from HP for many years. If this is the result of greater freedom and focus following the splitting of the company, then the future bodes well for HP Inc., to be one of the winners in an industry which is sure to consolidate further. The key to achieving that success will be HP’s ability to deliver and execute successfully on the strategies presented this week.