Like a boxer in the beginning rounds of a fight, throwing jabs at his opponent to break down his defense and set up for an ESPN Top 10 haymaker, HP’s traditional inkjet Officejet Pro series has reportedly done a good job of weakening ‘laser-bias’ in recent years. With the Officejet Pro line’s successful penetration into micro businesses, it is fair to say that some people are becoming more comfortable viewing inkjet-based technology as suitable office hardware. But how about moving into more demanding office settings, like large companies with managed fleets? HP now feels that the SMB market is ready for a game-changing power punch with its new PageWide-based Officejet Pro X series, which targets business installations with its promise of ‘twice the speed at half the cost of color lasers’ message. The warning for laser printers is that the Officejet Pro X is here, it’s fast, and the savings it offers is significant.
Before we go on to set the stage for how the clash between HP’s Officejet Pro X series and laser printers could potentially shift each technology’s market share, let’s keep in mind that the laser printer is still the champ, and for a good reason. With laser printers, there is trust within the business world that has relied on laser technology for years including: laser’s historically faster print speeds, text quality/sharpness versus inkjets, the ability for laser units to be managed in large fleets, and its perceived durability advantage. Not to mention, there is a huge market for low cost non-OEM toners, offering discounts to those willing to risk print quality, and high margins for B2B VARs. Laser printers have built up a well-established channel, including many resellers that are very selective in regards to the products and technologies they carry. Considering laser’s perceived and real advantages, HP’s new PageWide Officejet Pro X series has significant challenges to overcome in order to effectively make an impact on this market. And it won’t be done overnight.
One major step in overcoming PageWide’s channel challenges came last month when HP’s Officejet Pro X476dw reached Staples locations for $699. The new PageWide inkjet printer entered Staples with an entourage of marketing support including a video-equipped end cap display, in-store demonstrations, and the usual ‘Twice the speed and half the cost of color lasers’ message. The Staples placement is one example of HP leveraging the Officejet Pro line’s legacy to gradually move PageWide technology into mainstream channels.
The Officejet Pro X’s specs prove that the message at Staples isn’t all marketing fluff. The thing can print! Compared to the current laser competition that the Officejet Pro X476dw faces at Staples, its advantages are impressive. The Officejet Pro X476dw leads in key categories including: BW and Color print speeds, energy consumption, first print out times, standard paper capacity, and color print resolution (see below).
Clearly, the specs speak for themselves. But there is another compelling factor that SMBs will notice, and that is the Pro X’s relatively low acquisition and ink replacement costs. The bottom line savings that the Officejet Pro X476dw offers versus the competing lasers at Staples, using gap intelligence’s gapTCO tool, is up to $5,488 over a 5 year life-span. Based on an average monthly print volume of 1,500 pages (750 CLR @ 20% coverage, 750 BW @ 5%) and use of high-yield ink tanks, HP’s Officejet Pro X476dw’s total cost of ownership is $4,388, followed by Brother’s MFC-9970Cdw at $6,417, HP’s LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw at $9,470, and Canon’s imageCLASS MF8380Cdw at $9,876.
Although the savings offered by the Officejet Pro X476dw is notable, and certainly helps to validate the vendor’s ‘half the cost of color laser’ claim, the question for business users and resellers remains whether the still unproven PageWide inkjet technology will be durable and reliable enough to withstand the high volume needs of business environments over many years.
Just like a real boxing match, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, as there are certain immeasurable factors that play into the battle that don’t show up on paper (or a specs sheet). What the laser printers have going for them is its strong chin in the form of ‘laser-bias’, among resellers in particular. The question is, will laser printers be able to withstand the hit the Officejet Pro X dishes out now that it is widely available in the channel and backed by HP’s marketing clout, as well as its attractive cost and specification advantages? Or will the challenger’s powerful and compelling value proposition be too much for SMBs to pass up.
As we are in the early rounds of the Officejet Pro X’s bout with laser printers, the battle will likely go on for many years. With any new disruptive technology, HP’s PageWide inkjets need repeated generations of competitive, high quality products to eventually win over established customers (draws in boxing usually favor the champion). Not to mention, laser manufacturers will not just hand over the SMB market without a fight, and will likely respond to HP’s PageWide technology with similar inkjet lines of their own, and the continued evolution of their laser systems. That said, nothing can take away from the fact that HP is heading in the right direction, and the vendor’s unprecedented PageWide technology has everyone watching on the edge of their seats. I’m a big fan of underdogs, and it’s ‘thrilling’ that HP is the underdog for once in the printer world.