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Hewlett-Packard celebrates a quarter century of LaserJet

Issue #0910/2 – Twenty five years seems to have passed rather too rapidly for my liking but, having worked alongside the IT/printer industry since the days of Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet II and the first Apple LaserWriter, it amazes me that newly announced laser printers are still able to cause excitement – but, from time to time, they certainly do. While the technology and the market have both come a long way, Hewlett-Packard’s celebrations of a quarter century of LaserJet production seem to be very low-key, especially considering how many Hewlett-Packard laser printers must still be in use and the implications that has on companies offering a Managed Print Service (MPS).

HP LaserJetHewlett-Packard
LaserJet printer

Launched in March of 1984, the main features of the LaserJet printer were its speed and lack of noise. For office workers whose daily work environments were plagued by the noise of dot matrix printers, the LaserJet was an absolute godsend and the market was not slow to embrace the new technology, despite its high price (around $3,500).

In 2006, Hewlett-Packard shipped its 100-millionth LaserJet printer, a statistic that surely means that it will not be too much longer before we see the landmark 200-millionth LaserJet rolling off the production lines. For more on the history of the LaserJet, see article .

As the technology has developed over the quarter century, print speeds have, of course, increased dramatically – to the point where desktop printers are capable of 50ppm, and more, and the technology can handle a couple of hundred pages per minute at the top end of the production printing category.

What is quite remarkable is that, despite these increases in speed, printers are still being built with a print speed at the same 8ppm of the original LaserJet. There are two reasons for this:

HP CM1017 MFPHewlett-Packard
Colour LaserJet CM1017 MFP
the same print speed
as the original LaserJet
  • Firstly, there is a clear market for very cheap printers and keeping the print speed down is one means of achieving that goal – the original technology development of slow laser printers owes nothing to the manufacturer
  • Secondly, these slow printers are now colour printers, not black and white

Keeping the development and manufacturing costs of a colour laser printer rock bottom is a slightly different prospect from keeping the cost of a mono laser printer rock bottom. It is Canon’s 12ppm mono / 8ppm colour laser print engine – currently used in the Canon LBP5050 series and Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CP1210 and CP1510 series printers and Colour LaserJet CM1312 All-in-One. However it is only two months since the Colour LaserJet CM1017 and CM1015, with their 8ppm mono / 8ppm colour engine, were withdrawn.

In terms of market coverage, this means that the LaserJet printer now not only covers straightforward printing but also multifunctional copying and faxing applications and spans users right from the home environment to high up in the digital publishing and production printing environments. The envelope is always being stretched and we can be sure of two things: firstly, laser printers will continue to fall in price and press deeper into the home and micro office markets; and, secondly, the technology will continue to develop in such as way as to facilitate ever more personalised digital marketing and high volume publishing.

At this point in time, however, it is the management of vast fleets of printers and MFPs that is exercising the industry, meaning that Managed Print Services (MPS) is the major battleground for the short-term future of the industry. Both manufacturers and IT service providers are wrestling for as large a share of the potential MPS market as possible.

Because of the huge variety of printer products in the field, coming from a wide range of manufacturers, MPS contract wins will strongly favour those that can offer a multi-brand service. Any service provider going into a bid with the intention of winning hardware replacement contracts at a time like this will not win the business. Customers are looking towards reducing costs and easing the management process, not entering into major capital expenditure programmes.

This puts Hewlett-Packard in an interesting position. As a manufacturer, the ideal scenario would be to introduce its own hardware into MPS environments to maximise demand on its own supplies. But, capturing the MPS business itself is more important than shipping printers and, particularly since the acquisition of EDS, Hewlett-Packard is large enough that it should be very well placed to offer a broad, multi-brand MPS service.

Something like one-quarter of the laser printer and MFP models produced by the top 10 printer manufacturers are Hewlett-Packard branded. The next two largest competing manufacturers have only released around the same number of models between them. This does, however, mean that the three leaders in the industry between them account for more than half of all models released over the years.

If we look towards the number of laser printers in use around the world (the installed base), it is fair to reckon that Hewlett-Packard’s share of the installed base is likely to be in the region of 50% because of its massive market presence and share of sales. In turn, this means that the share of installed laser printers belonging to the top five manufacturers is likely to be approaching 90%.

HP US IT PAYS 25th25th Anniversary in the US

What this means in practice, is that a company offering an MPS service is unlikely to have to look very far beyond the top five manufacturers for sourcing of supplies and spare parts.

Returning to the starting point of this article, Hewlett-Packard is not shouting about the 25th anniversary in all countries. We have found references only in Germany, the US and Canada.

HP US Free recycling 25thFree recycling in the US for the 25th anniversary
In Germany, special discounts on laser products are being linked to the anniversary and in the US it is being widely associated with special offers on hardware (cashback offers, trade-in offers and free recycling on trade-in printers) – see article for more detail on offers in the US and Germany (and the UK).
HP Germany 25th25th Anniversary in Germany
HP Canadian 25th25th Anniversary in Canada

Canadian anniversary offers revolve around cashback (up to C$850) and trade-in on working desktop laser printers and MFPs.

There doesn’t appear to be any mention of the anniversary in other major markets, such as: the UK, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia or Russia. Indeed, even Hewlett-Packard Germany now appears to have removed its 25th anniversary banners as of today.

While 25 years is a brilliant landmark for the LaserJet, Hewlett-Packard still suffers from one major downside in the industry – the company does not own its own laser printer technology! Canon, Konica Minolta and, more recently, Samsung are the major engine manufacturers. Hewlett-Packard may be the largest printer vendor in the world but it would be in a more secure position if it could own the technology. As suggested in article, , Hewlett-Packard is one of the three manufacturers that would gain serious benefit from a purchase of troubled Lexmark if that opportunity ever arose.

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