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

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.

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