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How to bring printing to the cloud

Promising that its supply chain issues are nearly behind it, HP wants to take its managed print business into the channel and let users print anywhere

Las Vegas – When he took the keynote stage at Hewlett Packard Co.’s (NYSE: HPQ) Americas Partner Conference, Vyomesh Joshi wasted no time apologizing for the supply chain troubles that have impacted the vendor’s printer business, and promising the problems will be history by August. Joshi, the executive vice-president of HP’s printing and imaging group, admitted to partners that HP let them, and their customers, down in 2009. And if not for the strong efforts of HP partners, he said, it would have been worse.

HP did not deliver the products to you on the printing side. It was tough, and we lost share. We’re ramping-up production, and by August we should be out of our availability problems,” said Joshi. “I’m very confident we’ll get this thing behind us.

Michael Lacasse, vice-president and general manager, Eastern Canada, with HP partner Metafore, said they had some accounts that were impacted by the availability issues and, while they did what they had to do to help their customers, none of their large accounts moved away from HP.

“If there’s something I see in the market it’s that corporate accounts are very loyal to HP and their printing business. It’s not easy, but they understand what HP’s IPG is going through and they stick to that relationship,” said Lacasse. “I think we made the right decisions and we’ve got the right partner.”

Moving forward, Joshi said HP and its partners have reason for optimism in the printing business, seeing growth being driven by the economic recovery, environmental sustainability, the digitization of content, mobility and the web. Seeing social networking exploding and content being created, re-purposed and consumed in many different ways on many different platforms, HP’s goal is to make it easy to print from any device, anywhere.

“We’re not in the printing business, we’re in the content consumption business,” said Joshi. “Customers are now empowered to create their content, and that content and the re-purposing of the content is what we want to go after.”

HP launched it’s first web-connected LaserJet printer last year, and Joshi said in the future it will no longer be necessary to tether a printer to a computer. Some 200 billion pages are going from analog to digital, creating an opportunity for partners. It’s a new category he’s calling cloud printing, and it will also include Web-based printer apps.

“HP is the largest IT company so when things go digital they’re coming our way,” said Joshi. “We’re the only company that can help you reduce complexity, reduce cost, understand where the pages are and get the carbon footprint down. We’re successful because we own the vertical stack.”

In the Americas, HP sees a $28 billion market opportunity in the SMB and a $57 billion market in the enterprise. The vendor plans to tackle it by pushing managed print services to help clients optimize their infrastructure and improve work flow, as well as build solutions around verticals.

Joshi added copier sales are going down and multifunction printer (MFP) sales are increasing, and there’s a need to drive contractual relationships with channel-led managed print services. HP is focused on the top 5,000 accounts, but Joshi said there’s a really high-margin opportunity to move the rest of the market through the channel.

“We want to take out technology and expertise and bring it to our channel partners. We want the right channel partners to get involved, because the value proposition for customers is very strong. It’s about taking-out cost, focusing on the business and not printing, and improving productivity,” said Joshi. “For the channel, it’s an opportunity to really engage with the customer and keep that customer for a long time.”

In Canada, Metafore is already there, building its own managed print practice with support from HP, in response for growing customer demand for new models of delivering print services.

Lacasse said the key to Metafore’s model is flexibility. Customers can purchase hardware and supplies outright, go to a complete cost per page model, or adopt a hybrid model.

“We’re seeing fantastic reaction from the market,” said Lacasse, “Customers are all excited because we’re offering them flexibility to engage in a long-term relationship in the printing business, but in the way they want to do it. We do it in a manner they can afford, deliver a high-quality service, and it’s a win-win situation.”

Lacasse added that HP was a key partner in developing Metafore’s managed print business, and print services portal. The portal allows Metafore print customers to view daily consumption of pages by hardware and department, and even includes tools for internal charge-back for print services.