Print War! HP Rips Xerox' Solid Ink, Xerox Says HP Supplies Wasteful

The sparring between the two giants started Monday, when Xerox unveiled new printers and multi-function printers that it said made the cost of color printing the same as printing black-and-white documents -- citing its patented solid-ink technology as a differentiator against a comparable printer from Hewlett-Packard. Late Monday, a spokeswoman from Hewlett-Packard said the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company was working on a response, and HP fired it off at about 11 p.m. that night.

"There is a huge growth opportunity in the color market, so it's no surprise our competitors are aggressively pursuing this space to try to capture market share. Over the years, we've seen many competitors attempt what Xerox is trying to do -- give up margins in order to gain market share -- but to date no one has been successful with this strategy," HP said in a corporate statement. "It is somewhat surprising Xerox would choose to use solid ink technology as their play for the color market considering the inherent issues with solid ink for general office printing needs, its limited success in the market to date, and its environmental challenges," HP said. It added that the Xerox solid ink -- which includes black and color ink "sticks" instead of more traditional toner cartridges -- simply took a lot of energy and heat to melt and "as such, the process uses approximately triple the power consumption similar products require."

HP, the printer market share leader, said it considered using its own solid ink technology but dropped the idea "long ago" because of the extra energy needed to make it work. It also derided the quality of Xerox' solid ink, saying, "the output from solid ink also has quality and durability issues " it can melt in extreme heat and the waxy surface makes it harder to write on, highlight, archive and more prone to scratches."

After the lengthy and detailed criticism leveled by HP, Xerox, Stamford, Conn., responded with its own corporate statement.

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"Xerox has been continually evolving and enhancing solid ink," said Xerox in a statement sent via email. "Today, the solid ink sticks not only produce vibrant colors on virtually any media type -- including recycled paper stock -- with no bleeding, they create substantially less waste than ever before."

Then, in another shot at HP, Xerox said:

"While a typical color laser printer generates about 157 pounds of waste (packaging and cartridges) after 100,000 prints, the Phaser 8860 printer, (which has no cartridge) produces only 5 pounds of waste after 100,000 prints. Many agree that such results outweigh the nominal increase in energy that's required to run the device (12.6 kilowatt hours/week, vs. 4.9kilowatt hours/week for the HP 4700)," Xerox said.

While HP has enjoyed a strong run in the market share leadership position, worldwide as well as in the North American solution provider channel, Xerox has been making an aggressive play over the past year to steal business. Earlier this year, in an initiative led by Xerox Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy, Xerox began an initiative to boost its channel sales through solution providers in the small and mid-sized business segment and the company has launched several new color printers and MFPs this year. Xerox also is working to boost what it calls its PagePack program, in which solution providers can sell solid ink and supplies contracts to customers

As part of Monday's announcement, Xerox said that it would price a package of solid ink at $216 for a black ink stick and $72 for each of three color sticks -- a combination that yields 14,000 printed pages.

"They are different technologies," said Brian Seelinger of Erie Computer, an Erie, Pa.-based solution provider whose company sells both Xerox and HP products. "Solid ink technology is relatively decent technology, relatively cost-effective. It gives people who have any (environmental) slant the warm fuzzies, because of the waste issue."

He added, "We're always going to sell what's best for the customer, whether it's Xerox solid ink or a laser printer."