HP brings professional tools to consumers

Von Nicolas Callegari

Last week Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) held a Business Summit in Dublin, which focused exclusively on the printing and digital photography markets throughout the EMEA region.

The event, which took place in some of the heaviest snow recorded in Dublin in recent years, saw the launch of a number of new printing products, and interesting commentary on trends and developments, both now and into the near future, from the photographic industry.

While many of the products that HP launched are still under embargo, the multifunction and digital photo printing markets seem to be heating up, as the company looks to maintain its number one position throughout EMEA, according to IDC research manager, Paul Withington.

He says that while the single function DeskJet printing market has declined by around 17 percent over the last year, the multifunction market has grown by 54 percent, owing to the fact that digital photo printing and PictBridge technologies are now readily available in these devices.

?Market share statistics vary from country to country,? he says, ?but in SA we expect HP?s market share for all-in-one devices to be close to 73 percent.?

?However,? he adds, ?in 2005, we predict that all-in-one device sales will overtake single purpose printers.?

New ink range

HP supplies business manager for international sales Europe, Fritz Abraschek, used the event to officially launch the new range of Vivera-branded HP inks, which, he says, is the next step in the evolution of digital photo printing.

?The Vivera inks offer the best levels of print quality to date on HP equipment. They offer longer fade resistance (up to 108 years), better color matching, and higher levels of reliability than our previous generation of inks,? he adds.

According to Abraschek, the Vivera branded inks will be supported by a number of devices which will be launched worldwide over the next few months, and will offer lower printing costs per page than ever before.

?The amount will differ from country to country, but we estimate that the average cost of printing a 4 x 6? photo will be in the region of ?0.35 (US$0.46) per print,? he says.

Admittedly, HP does say that retail printing of this size will still be cheaper than home digital printing, but, as the sizes go up, so the price comparisons go down. According to HP, it is now possible to undercut the price of A4, A3 and A2 when printing from home with the latest range of printers and inks from HP.

HP announced that it would also immediately be making available printing kits comprising photo paper and the new ink cartridges, allowing users a total digital printing system.

Vivera will not be introduced for older printer ranges, and is limited to a few newer models to be launched in the months ahead.

Trends in EMEA

Speaking at the event, Withington said that digital photography and home photo printing is a big trend, which is set to increase dramatically by the year 2008. However, he also said that the photograph is not dead, and, while digital is ever-growing, printing digital photos would be a major driver for consumer printer sales.

?IDC estimates that by 2006, the entry-level resolution of digital cameras will be around the 4MP mark,? he says, ?with silver halide printing losing major ground to home digital printing.?

Another huge trend, especially in Western Europe, Withington believes, is the emergence of camera phones and partnerships to allow printing over wireless protocols such as Bluetooth etc.

Many questions have been asked about how the camera phone will affect the digital printing market, he says.

?However,? he adds, ?camera phones failed the first time around, with cellular providers and vendors marketing it as a quick and easy way to share life events when quality was not an issue. However, cost played a major factor, which saw the multimedia messaging service (MMS) -- the primary application for camera phones at the time - seeing little, if any, adoption.

?Now, with the introduction of megapixel-class camera phones (some up to 3MP with optical zoom capabilities) and partnerships between the likes of Nokia and HP for wireless printing directly from camera phones, they seem to have found a new lease of life in more applications.?

According to IDC, these applications may not stretch further than the life event category, as digital and traditional silver halide photography have already made it well beyond professional photography and printing.

Herbet Köck, vice-president and GM, international sales Europe, says that a major driving factor for HP in digital photography and printing is to put the consumer in full control of the entire photographic process. ?In this way, HP can offer total solutions to cater for both the professional and mass markets,? he concludes.