HP brings online photo printing to Asia

Singapore is the first country in Asia to have a localized version of HP's Snapfish photo-sharing Web site, which offers free storage and locally delivered prints.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor

SINGAPORE--A Singapore version of Hewlett-Packard's Snapfish online photo service rolls out Monday--its first in Asia.

Bala Parthasarathy, vice president of Online Imaging at HP Imaging and Printing Group for Asia-Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that Singapore is the first country in Asia to get a localized version of the online photo service which it acquired in 2005.

"The reason why we picked Singapore is that Singapore is a big technology hub...with a lot of early adopters. [As such, it's] a very good fit for us, and it's a great market," Parthasarathy said.

With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, where localized Snapfish sites are already available, similar sites for the rest of Asia will follow in the next few months. Parthasarathy said: "The sites will be localized because we're serving local markets. We [will] localize the language, the look and feel of the site, the products that suit the market and the messaging."

Targeted at women with children, as well as travelers and pet owners, Snapfish lets its users store "as many pictures as you want", said Parthasarathy. "There're no constraints [on storage], as long as you're an active member, [and] the storage is free."

"Snapfish, as a service, is based in the United States, but...where prints are getting made, they're getting made in Singapore," Parthasarathy said.

"When we launch a new country [site], we typically try to find a local provider for making the prints, because it's too expensive and too time consuming for us to send prints from one country to another," he said. "In each country where we offer the service, we print locally.

"In other words, if you go to [the Singapore Snapfish site] and make a print, it'll be printed in Singapore and delivered to your home," he said.

Prints made using the local Snapfish service are priced at S$0.19 (US$0.13) per piece. To attract people to try out the service, HP is offering Singapore-based users 20 free prints when they sign up.

According to Parthasarathy, Snapfish's primary servers and storage--which stores content hosted on all its sites worldwide--are located in the United States, but its caches are located "all around the world for enhanced performance".

In addition, its software development is "fairly distributed" in Asia, Europe and the United States, he said, noting that where a local Snapfish site is launched, there will be an operational team in that country to over the business.

"The operational team will primarily handle the business side of issues, [such as] getting and managing customers, [but] more importantly, [its primary responsibility is to] make sure that the product quality that we deliver to customers is of the highest quality," Parthasarathy said.

However, technical issues will be handled centrally, "because the site is centrally [hosted]", he said.

The HP executive said that a support team for Asia is based in India, which handles queries round the clock. Another two technical call centers are based in the United States and Germany, where the latter primarily serves Europe.

Prior to the acquisition of Snapfish by HP about two years ago, Snapfish was available only in two countries, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, Parthasarathy said

Today, "over a quarter billion of photos" are added to the Snapfish portal worldwide every month, doubling the rate of last year. Snapfish is said to have more than 40 million members worldwide.

On whether the online printing business will compete with the company's home printing business, Parthasarathy said: "What we have found is that consumers are going to do what they prefer to do anyway. There are times when they simply will print at home…but there are certain times when they do want to print elsewhere, and HP would rather be in the position to offer them the solution so that we give them a more complete solution so they don't do elsewhere."

According to HP, Snapfish is a "critical part" of HP's digital photography strategy and the portal will help "drive more sharing, more image preservation and more printing overall".

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