HP Cozies Up To Canon, Beefs Up Printing Portfolio

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Hewlett-Packard this week bolstered its imaging and printing portfolio with new products, channel programs and a closer partnership with Canon on managed print services, all with the goal of being "the single partner" to enterprise customers for imaging and printing, according to HP executives.

CEO Mark Hurd kicked off a day devoted to HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) at the computing giant's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters Monday, stressing the size and importance of the market for enterprise printing, and customers' desire for "transformation" of how they manage their printing environments.

"I want to make sure you all knew how strategic enterprise print was for us. It's a $120 billion market, so therefore it's big, it's meaningful," Hurd said. "It's hard to beat what we can do for customers and companies from a transformation perspective. And there isn't hardly a company I talk to who isn't dealing with a magnitude of transformation that is an opportunity, if you will, in the world of print."

The alliance with Tokyo-based Canon fills out HP's product portfolio for enterprise engagements, said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of IPG.

"It's very clear what the customers are asking for," he said, claiming that HP's research with enterprise customers indicates that "66 percent are looking for a single vendor with the capability of imaging and printing, and the capability from an IT point of view to consolidate and manage all that."

To that effect, Joshi said, the new partnership with Canon means that HP Managed Print Services (MPS) customers will now have access to "the industry's broadest portfolio of single and multifunction devices." Joshi said that managed print services currently account for about $19 billion out of the $120 billion global enterprise printing market that Hurd referenced.

HP also introduced a new global business unit called Managed Enterprise Solutions that will be a part of IPG and led by Bruce Dahlgren, an HP senior vice president.

The new unit's enterprise engagements will increasingly include EDS, the giant IT outsourcing company that HP acquired a year ago and is attempting to integrate into the service offerings of its major product groups. HP sees the enterprise print market as a direct sales play, Joshi said, but at the SMB and midmarket levels, IPG will rely on its reseller channel to partner on engagements.

New channel programs for IPG include a new line of products and services that HP said was "priced and structured specifically for contractual sales," as well as certified solutions and a partner training track. HP also will incentivize members of the HP Solutions Business Partner Program to sell HP Managed Print Services with new tools and Green IT-oriented programs, the company said.

Those are encouraging steps, said one HP elite partner, especially for a reseller channel that was finding it difficult to turn a decent margin on printing products even before the recession hit.

"You can't make money selling printers, let's face it," said Rick Chernick, president of Camera Corner Connecting Point, an HP reseller partner in Green Bay, Wis. Hardware margins have been thinning for years, he said, and now supply sales aren't the cash cow they once were for his company, either.

Nevertheless, Chernick said it was important for Camera Corner Connecting Point to provide total IT solutions to its customers, including printing -- he just doesn't want printing to be a loss leader for his company. Chernick said he is looking at both HP and Xerox programs less for their volume rebates and more for value-add and service opportunities.

"Frankly, we haven't been good at selling a lot of printers. I'm anxious to hear from HP how this will change and how can we better go and sell this managed print solution to our customers," Chernick said.

"We want to help the customer save money through managed print services. This is good for small and midsize businesses, not just the enterprise," Chernick said, adding that his company has spent the past few months consolidating and reorganizing its own printing environment.

"We had to manage our own printing environment before we could go to customers and tell them how to do it," he said. Camera Corner Connecting Point reduced its 43 printers to 26, Chernick said, while also introducing duplex printing and limiting color printing at the company.

"We all have to recognize that it's important for costs and for the environment to change the way we do printing. And now some people are just going to have to get off their fat little butts and walk a ways to get their print job," he said.

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