HP sharpens printing edge

Company is confident Asian businesses will take to its new Edgeline multifunction printers with pay-per-use pricing, allowing customers to experiment with color usage.

BEIJING--Hewlett-Packard (HP) has renewed its strategy to capture a bigger slice of the enterprise printing market with its Edgeline technology.

Speaking at the launch of HP's CM8060 and CM8050 color multifunctional printers (MFPs), based on the company's new Edgeline technology, Gary Cutler, vice president and general manager for Edgeline technologies at HP's imaging and printing group, noted that new printers are targeted at enterprises with high-volume workloads, especially those that involve color.

"This is a huge technology breakthrough," Cutler said. "There are more pieces of intellectual property in Edgeline than 99 percent of technology companies' intellectual property portfolio."

Developed as part of HP's US$1.4 billion investment in next-generation printing technology, Edgeline printers--unlike conventional printing methods--have print heads that remain stationary, while the paper moves.

With fewer moving parts, the ink-based printers that tout printing, scanning, copying and faxing capabilities offer the reliability of their laser counterparts, according to HP. They are also cheaper to build, the company added. With the stationary print heads, enterprises can expect speeds of up to 71 ppm (pages per minute) in mono, and up to 50 ppm for color prints.

The new printers will be sold directly by HP and channel partners with service and support options through HP's managed printing services contracts.

Referring to the company's internal research, Kelly Tan, HP's Asia-Pacific vice president of enterprise and specialty printing, said the total market for HP Edgeline technology worldwide is expected to be more than US$30 billion by 2009.

Although Tan could not reveal how much of that market would be contributed by Asia-Pacific customers, she said HP is confident businesses in the region will jump on the bandwagon.

"Today, we also manage over 11,000 single-function and multifunction devices for our customers under HP managed print services contracts in Asia-Pacific and Japan," she said, adding that the total value of those contracts grew 80 percent year-on-year in 2006.

Pay per print
According to Cutler, enterprises will be charged on a pay-per-use basis for the new Edgeline printers. He added that the usage-based pricing offers savings of up to 30 percent on color printing and copying.

There is also varying pricing for professional color usage, general-office color and black-and-white printing.

The new HP Color Accent feature also further reduces costs by charging black-and-white print price for pages that use a small amount of color, specifically, 100 characters in 10-point font or the area of a half-inch square, according to Paul Lim, business development manager of Edgeline enterprise printing at HP Asia-Pacific.

Tan noted that HP took the pole position last year in the Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, laser MFP market, with a 34 percent market share in unit shipment. Citing figures from research company IDC, she said this represented a 15 percent increase market share in 2005, representing a 274 percent year-on-year growth in unit shipment.

Analyst company Gartner said recently in a research note that HP's usage-based pricing model is "innovative", noting that the hardware and cost-per-page price positioning of new products will have a significant impact on the market.

"Other vendors will be forced to match or better HP's offering, thus engendering a very price-aggressive market where the buyer will be king," Gartner added, noting that Edgeline customers can also use the pricing model to experiment with color usage and monitor benefits associated with using business color in office documents.

However, Gartner advised enterprises to treat the new Edgeline products as they would any first-generation product. "Edgeline offers a viable alternative to established laser technologies but it should be evaluated on a small scale, alongside existing solutions.

"Be cautious about making Edgeline the linchpin of your office printer or MFP fleet, even if you see Edgeline as justification for an all-HP MFP fleet or as proof that HP will soon dominate office MFPs as it already does [with] office printers," the analyst said.

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Beijing, China.