HP's Instant Ink: Printing as a Service?

Hewlett-Packard's new line of personal and small business inkjet printers are IoT-enabled devices that have supplies which are ordered automatically and billed on a per-page basis. Will consumers and SMBs bite on this new pricing model?
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

This week, Hewlett-Packard announced its fall 2015 line of thermal inkjet multi-function printing devices, two in the HP ENVY line oriented towards consumers and four new OfficeJets for SOHO and SMBs.

  • HP ENVY 4520 All-in-One Printer: Designed for the connected household, this space-saving printer features the easiest way to print from a smartphone or tablet and lab-quality photos, creative projects, hobbies and business documents. ($99)

  • HP ENVY 5540 All-in-One Printer: An affordable printer with a quick, five-minute mobile installation process so users can print from a smartphone or tablet with or without a router or local wireless network. Users can also scan, copy, and access web content directly from the color touchscreen. ($129)

  • HP OfficeJet 4650 All-in-One: Featuring HP's mobile out-of-box experience, This home office printer also includes a new auto deploy output paper tray, a touch-enabled display and fast print speeds. ($99)

  • HP OfficeJet 3830 All-in-One: Wireless enabled quality printing for everyday documents; convenient multipage faxing, scanning, and copying. Easy mobile setup and easy mobile printing from tablets and smartphones. ($79)

  • HP OfficeJet 5741: Offers two years of HP Instant Ink in the box alongside print, fax, scan and copy features and simple wireless printing. ($199)

  • HP OfficeJet 5743: Offers one year of HP Instant Ink in the box in addition to simple wireless printing and fax, scan and copy features. ($299)

All of these, with the exception of the OfficeJet 5741 and the OfficeJet 5743, will ship this month.

Let's face it, folks. It's really hard to get excited about thermal inkjet multi-function devices these days, and the technology itself hasn't advanced tremendously in the last five years or so.

These things have become commodities, and at the price points these devices are selling at these days, they've practically become disposable.

Why disposable? Because the price of an inkjet re-fill on one of these low-end devices is often a large portion of the replacement cost. Ink costs money, big money, especially if you print a lot.

If you read between the lines on HP's fall printer announcement, the real news is what the company is doing to reduce the price of ink re-supply for consumers and SMBs.

This program, called "Instant Ink" adds the convenience of having a smart, IoT-connected device that knows when it's ready to be re-supplied, along with a direct-to-door subscription supply delivery service, with a multiple tier pricing model dependent on your level of consumption.

In a nutshell, Printing as a Service. Well, almost. Here's where we get into dollars and cents.


If you were to go and buy supplies on the open market, as you needed it, HP claims that their basic black, 200-page type 62 cartridge goes for about $14.99 retail.

If you look it up on Amazon that's about right on the money, and their higher-end 62XL ink cartridge is also selling for about the same HP is claiming. The same goes for other e-tail and brick and mortar pricing.

If you're not someone who prints very often, then a subscription service might not make sense. But once you start getting into the 100 pages plus per month range, then we start talking about burning a lot of supplies.

For an SMB, the $9.99 per month 300-page plan which averages at just over 3 cents per page is a very good deal. You never run out of ink -- once you enroll in this subscription, the printer is able to intelligently figure out when it needs to order new ink. So your supplies are always fresh, the shipping cost to your door is free, and you never get caught without supplies at the worst possible time.

Instant Ink is not a new service -- HP started rolling it out in September of 2013. But these printers are the first that are Instant Ink OOBE devices. In the last 20 months the program has been available, over a half a million users have signed up. That's pretty impressive considering that other web subscription services, such as Netflix and Hulu, took 30 and 33 months respectively to ramp up that many customers. Spotify and the Dollar Shave Club both took 21.

The OfficeJet 5743 ($299) and 5741 ($199) in particular (both of which seem to be an exclusive, at least initially to Staples for an October availability) appear to be especially good deals because they include the first one and two years of Instant Ink supplies respectively as part of the purchase cost.

If you're going to print a lot, my recommendation would be to get one of these.

These are not the only Instant Ink printers that HP will be bringing to market, and a number of models introduced last year are already Instant Ink ready, in case these devices don't fit the bill.

In addition to thermal inkjet, I'm hoping that we'll see Instant Ink plans for HP's black and white LaserJets as well as the Color LaserJet front soon, in larger volume plans for more heavy document oriented businesses.

What do you think of the new HP Instant Ink plans? Is your business ready for Printing Supplies as a Service? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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