HP Throws $300 Million Behind Print 2.0 Push

HP is linking its printing growth strategy to the "Web 2.0" model of pervasive application availability that has swept through the software world. HP's goal is twofold: it wants its products to share the ease-of-use intrinsic to Web 2.0 applications, and it wants to capture the lion's share of the printing demand sparked by Web applications. Today, HP estimates that 48 percent of print jobs come from Web pages, a significant change from just five years ago, when PC applications like Microsoft World dominated. By 2010, HP expects the printing market to grow to 53 trillion pages annually.

"That's the opportunity we need to think about together as a partner: how can we capture more pages?" Joshi said in a presentation at the event.

On the consumer side, HP is aggressively partnering to get its brand in front of Web surfers. Alliances with Yahoo and Microsoft will bring HP-branded printing to Yahoo's network and Microsoft's Windows Live. Yahoo's popular Flickr photo-sharing site will promote HP's photo printers and integrate HP's Tabblo technology for formatting Web pages for optimal printing.

HP underpinned its Print 2.0 push with an array of new products and tools, ranging from a $99 consumer photo printer to new versions of its enterprise Universal Print Driver and print-tracking Output Server. A dozen new printers will hit the market in September, most bundled with HP's Smart Web Printing software for previewing and formatting Web content before printing.

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That kind of attention to user-experience detail sets HP apart from its rivals, said one VAR attending the launch event. Compugen, a services firm in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, partners with a number of printer vendors but sees the strongest customer demand for HP, according to CEO Harry Zarek.

"There's no longer a discussion about who has got the better products -- HP has shot past the others," Zarek said. "No one comes close to the breadth of products they offer." In CRN's annual Channel Champions survey, HP easily trounced rivals such as Lexmark and Xerox on product quality and reliability.

Part of HP's Print 2.0 strategy calls for assisting VARs with broader solution selling. Partners that sell hardware should expand into also selling supplies, and partners that already have those two markets covered should push more deeply into services, Joshi said.

That's a message that resonated with Zarek. Much of Compugen's business deals with advising customers on printing strategy. Products such as HP's new line of printers with usage-based pricing help solution providers illustrate to customers how they can optimize their printing strategy and reduce costs, Zarek said.

"HP has done a good job showing how you build a much better solution," Zarek said.

Where HP still has some catching up to do is in niche markets such as retail and financial services. While HP is Zarek's preferred printing partner, he maintains a relationship with Lexmark and other vendors to serve those industries. Zarek said he will stay tuned, as HP's Print 2.0 vision unfolds, for details on how the vendor will address vertical markets in which it is underrepresented.

Some partners have great faith that HP, the printer industry's Goliath, can catch up in those few markets where it lags competitors.

"In PCs, they were nothing, and they became number one. They came from nowhere in cameras, and in scanners," said Jean-Francois d'Estalenx, managing director of Singapore-based Jetmobile, which makes printer access security software. "My guess is that HP is very serious about markets like copiers."

Jetmobile works exclusively with HP, preferring its more open embrace of third-party developers to the proprietary leanings of rivals like Xerox. D'Estalenx likes what he's seen of HP's Print 2.0 moves so far, particularly its focus on reducing obstacles for users.

"Printing becomes intuitive. That's really new," d'Estalenx said. "People don't like fighting with drivers and formatting."

HP's Print 2.0 event continues tomorrow, when executives plan to delve more deeply into the channel side of the strategy. HP has no major new channel programs to roll out, according to Imaging and Printing SMB unit Vice President Scott Tuthill, but will discuss programs and opportunities it offers to align channel partners with its market approach. Over the next few months, HP will be reaching out to partners to fine-tune its approach for jointly selling complete end-to-end solutions to enterprise customers.

"More so than ever, we really need partners who can sell with us," Tuthill said.