HP seeks to innovate its way to greater market share in the printer business

Comparing its strategy to that of Tesla, HP argues its new features in a specific segment of the printer market will disrupt the already-mature industry.

The mature marketplace for printers has left HP with falling revenues in that sector, but the Silicon Valley giant thinks it can innovate its way to greater market share.

On Monday, the company unveiled a new line of multifunction printers (MFPs) and services -- the printers are A3 models, a segment of the industry where there's room for HP to gain ground. The extensive line of printers, HP says, is "revolutionizing" the marketplace with new features previously unvailable on A3 models, which are used to print or copy things onto 11 x 17-inch pieces of paper.

HP is effectively "trying to do for the copier space what Tesla has done" for cars, HP vice president Aurelio Maruggi told ZDNet. That means introducing innovations that aren't just "technology for technology's sake" but which meet customer needs. In the case of A3 printers, that means addressing security concerns, making color more affordable, and adding sensing technology to keep up with maintenance needs.

HP's internal estimates of the printer/copier market explain why they're innovating in this space: the $110 billion market is split between A3 and A4 sales, and HP has already captured about one-third of the A4 market. However, it's won just 3 percent of A3 sales so far.

"We simply didn't have the right ingredients to do what we've done in the A4 market," Maruggi said. "We believe we have all the ingredients now, but also the recipe... to turn this into an opportunity for HP and HP partners."

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So for that reason, HP is introducing three PageWide and 13 LaserJet A3 MFPs, which will be available next year. The PageWide and LaserJet Enterprise models will be equipped with HP security features already found on A4 printers, such as Sure Start, Run-time Intrusion Detection, and Whitelisting. The HP PageWide Pro devices will come with secure boot and firmware integrity checking. All of the new HP PageWide and LaserJet devices can be used with HP's security services and JetAdvantage portfolio. The new A3 printers, Maruggi said, are not only as secure as A4 devices but as secure as any other computing device.

HP is also rolling out its Smart Device Services (SDS), a set of cloud tools and device-based sensing capabilities designed to help channel partners cut down on maintenance costs, such as dispatching a technician to look at a printer. The new services are integrated with third party device monitoring and service management tools already commonly used. SDS is compatible on HP printers and MFPs with FutureSmart introduced in 2012 and later.

Meanwhile, the PageWide Enterprise and Pro platforms use color printing technology already found in A4 models, Maruggi said. It should bring the cost of printing color pages down to nearly the same cost as printing mono pages.

All the printers also come with a range of finishing options, such as an in-cave stapler stacker or hole punch, to give channel partners the flexibility to meet customer needs. HP has also created a standalone business unit to cater to channel partners in the A3 space. HP, Maruggi said, is trying to prove that it's a "vendor that understands and cares about their needs."

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