Six Reasons Why HP`s Web-Connected Printer Will Fail

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

HP's new Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart connects directly to the Internet and doesn't require a computer to print documents. While a neat idea, the long-term viability of this printer in the increasingly digital, mobile world is questionable.

Hewlett-Packard new Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart aims to decouple the printer from the personal computer and connect it directly to the Internet. The idea is to make printing of routine Web-based documents such as airline boarding passes, coupons and photos simple and efficient. But is the Web-connected printer an automatic hit? Don’t bet on it, particularly from a B2B channel perspective.

Here are six reasons the Photosmart is nothing to get excited over, and why it’s longterm future is likely limited.

1. Paperless Environments
After two decades of promises for the paperless office (much less the paperless home), the world is finally moving toward eliminating paper. Enterprises are rapidly seeking ways of eliminating paper-based processes and moving toward more efficient and streamlined digital formats. Enterprise Information Management, for example, developed a system for the U.S. Army the eliminated the paper from annual performance reports of 1.7 million soldiers and civilian employees; the cost savings is $1 billion annually. The home isn’t close to eliminating paper, but home users will likely follow where their workplaces lead.

2. Digital Documents
Airlines are now experimenting with boarding passes displayed on smartphone displays. Grocery and retail stores are piloting programs to have coupons stored on electronic devices. Electronic book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle can hold copious documents that have the same presentation quality as paper. Netbooks and smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone, are making it easier to store, retrieve and read electronic documents without having to print hard copies. As the adoption of mobile devices increases, the amount of paper carried by people will likely decrease.

3. Printing Costs
Let’s face it; printing is expensive – particularly on a color inkjet such as the Photosmart. Kodak upset the consumer printer paradigm when it launched a printer that sported low-cost cartridges; the idea being that you pay for the hardware and not the consumables. Across the industry, printer and print consumable sales are down because users are trying to save money and conserve resources. Just because a printer is connected to the Internet won’t make it any more affordable or environmentally friendly.

4. Failed Applications
One of the selling points for the Photosmart is that HP partners, such as USA Today, will offer content that users can access and print on the machine’s touch-screen. HP says users will be able to print off newspaper and magazine articles to take on their commutes without having to turn on their PCs. If history has taught us anything, users don’t buy into such schemes. In the 1990s, a variety of software publishers released applications that tapped into the nascent Internet and downloaded articles that users expressed an interest in. All of those apps have gone the way of the dodo bird as users gravitated toward Web browsing and search engines. 

5. Limited Use
While commercial versions of the same technology have powerful workflow and document sharing capabilities, the touch-screen on this printer will not replace the experience of firing up a browser and surfing the Web. Web users like options and choice. The Photosmart looks good for retrieving and printing photos from HP’s Snapfish online photo service, but will it give users options for locating and printing documents from a variety of sites? Not today, and HP says it will take time to add more partners that will publish sites friendly to the printer. By the time HP reaches a critical pass of online partners, users may have adopted a pure digital lifestyle.

6. It’s a Consumer/Retail Product
While not everything has to go through the B2B channel, the Photosmart is specifically geared toward big-box retailers and online consumer electronics Websites. Solution providers will likely come across the Photosmart in small offices they support, but this product will do little to nothing in terms of helping small and midsized value-added resellers who also service a large portion of the SOHO market. With no value to VARs, VARs will be loathe to support it.

Granted, the Photosmart is an interesting product and will likely do well enough to help pull HP’s sluggish printer business out of the doldrums. However, its long-term success in the increasingly digital world fueled by ever-more powerful mobile devices is likely short lived.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.