HP Starts Worrying About Forecasted Death Of Printing

from the as-they-should dept

When computers first started becoming popular, there was plenty of talk about the “paperless office” of the future, where everything would be done digitally. However, for years, the opposite actually happened. The paperless office was a myth made even more laughable by the fact that all the additional content computers and the internet delivered actually increased the demand for paper and printing. This was great news for printer companies, which made billions by pumping up the cost of ink for these printers. However, in recent years, a shift has begun. The paperless office started looking a lot less mythical. It really isn’t that surprising. Just like when computers were first introduced, the productivity gains weren’t immediate. A large part of the problem was simply that processes were new and poorly implemented, leading to a backlash of people going in the opposite direction. But, over time, new systems and processes have been developed. People have become more used to dealing with information on a screen instead of paper. And, perhaps, most notably, a new generation has entered the workplace that has grown up digital and sees little need for paper.

So what does that mean if your business is the printing business? It’s time to start planning for the future. The NY Times has an interesting profile of Vyomesh Joshi, a senior exec and an HP lifer who is trying to prepare HP for a different kind of future. While the NYT piece sums it up as convincing people to print more, mainly by making websites easier to print (and make them appear better when they do print), it seems like Joshi is actually going a step further. We’ve talked about the importance of redefining what market you’re in when new challenges come up, specifically noting that you should look to define the market not by the products you’re selling, but the consumer benefit you’re providing. Hidden at the end of the NYT piece is Joshi saying that the company really isn’t in the printing business: “We are in the content consumption business.” Who knows if he’ll succeed in preparing HP for its next generation strategy, but it seems like he actually recognizes the real challenge he faces: not just trying to prop up an old business model, but recognizing the larger market the company is actually in.

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Comments on “HP Starts Worrying About Forecasted Death Of Printing”

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Boost says:

paper used heavily

I work in engineering and we use a tonne of paper. I know for us that when you’re looking at a large print it’s easier just to make a large print to read it than it is to go scrolling back and fourth across your small(ish) screen to try to conceptualize what you’re looking at. I think that as large monitors (>30″) and double or tripple monitor set-ups become more common the hard copy culture may start to wane.


William says:

Document imaging

They should be in the document business. Document imaging, storage, and searching are the future of this business. They are well positioned to be a leader in that field just with their name recognition and reputation for quality if they decide to take the lead. An electronic copy of a check is as good as the real thing to a bank these days. And if you can do it with money you can do it with contracts or anything else. That said it will be a long time if ever till the printer business dies completely. Sometimes you just need to have a hard copy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Print and file idiocy

I worked in the PR office at my university, and my brain hurt thinking about all the paper they wasted. They would collect clippings from newspapers mentioning the university or its faculty and file them. They were all excited about getting an electronic clipping service, but what did they do? They would print out hundreds of pages of news articles to put in the filing cabinet! Less than 1% of them would ever be needed.
I couldn’t get it through the bosses head that they would be a lot easier to retrieve when needed, take less time to store, and save money if we just saved them electronically.

Luke (user link) says:


In my current job it’s easier to catch mistakes and to do some editing by hand on paper than it is to do it on a computer (mostly w/ Word).

However, as Word is getting better w/ reviewing/drafting and allowing extra notes comments and things to show up in a useful way for all parties I see the use of paper decreasing drastically from a simple draft format. Our legal system still requires things to be in hardcopy to be a strong legal document (digital opens up doors for fraud at the moment).

Anyway, in cases as simple as needing to print something as a draft – as that need decreases paper consumption will decrease.

What I see killing printing is handheld devices. Why print when my PDA-cell-phone will display everything that I could’ve printed and give me more information on top of what I would’ve printed out. I can’t wait until my contract runs out and I have the exess cash to buy a super-phone to remove the need to print out meeting notes and things as I’ll have it available immediately on the handheld.

Paul says:


Paper will never go out of style.

Printed documents are easy to read, portable, disposable, foldable, rippable, reliable, don’t require electricity to read, and for the most part “permanent”

If I have a document and a portable eReader then I am confined to the restraints of the device. It needs power to display the data (or power to change the display in the case of epaper, but power nonetheless). The device is not disposable so I must continue to carry it even though I am done reading (it will be another 100 years before biodegradable electronic paper comes around..) Paper can be folded to fit almost anywhere (good luck fitting a decent sized eReader in your pocket)

Paper is the cheapest multi-display computer screen in existence. You can simultaneously compare 10 sheets of paper..

redhammy says:

banks and bills

I’ve gotten to the point where I hate receiving financial documents such as bills and bank statements in the mail. They generate clutter, pose an identity-theft risk, and often get buried in a pile on my desk before I get a chance to deal with them. If the company offers e-billing or e-statements, I almost always take that route.

Anonymous Coward says:

No printer -- no problem

I have not had a computer printer for several years and have had 0 problems with being paperless in all my work. The few times I’ve needed a paper printout (about 3 times in the past year), I went to an office service store for the paper printouts. Saves me a bundle: no ink, no refills, no printer drivers updates, printer maintenance, paper purchases, storage of parts, etc.

B says:

Eye Spy

Although I love to have documents and files stored or my computer, I often print this stuff out just so that I may read it. I find it easier on my eyes to read things that are on paper as opposed to on screen, especially longer works. I find it easier to deal with paper, and I don’t see it being completely phased out anytime soon. Though I see computers taking tasks away that paper once had.

Casper says:

I have not had a printer for over 10 years...

I have been doing everything electronically for about a decade or more. I file my taxes electronically, I send my reports electronically, I even did most of my college work electronically (some teachers didn’t like it but oh well). The only times I have encountered issues with it are when I run into REALLY backward people who still think the computer is a glorified type writer.

I agree with some people that a paper copy is easier to read and scribble on some times, but I think they will have a solution for that in the next few years. Right now if I really need to print, I use one of the office printers… which I think i have done once. Otherwise I submit everything via email or digital media.

People who print for the sake of having a “hard copy” drive me crazy. It costs at least $100 a toner cartridge just for those people to clutter their desks.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Relative paperlessity

I read an item a few years ago which said that only about 2% or so of the world’s total information ends up printed on paper. I suspect that 30 years ago (about the time the phrase “paperless office” was first coined) this figure would have been closer to 100%. So even though the world’s paper consumption may have gone up over that time, it hasn’t kept pace with the total rate of information transfer.

Urza says:

I print LOTS.

I’m in high school and I print 50-100 pages a week. Not for school, not for documents…just for stuff to read. It’s damn painful to sit in front of a computer and read, not to mention it’s not portable. And it’s a lot easier to read in school or wherever. Until I can go down to Staples and pick up some type of e-book reader for $20, it ain’t gonna happen.

Speaking of which, I need to check archive.org for a new book to read…..

rstr5105 says:

Banks and Bills

I’ve gotten to the point where I hate receiving financial documents such as bills and bank statements in the mail. They generate clutter, pose an identity-theft risk, and often get buried in a pile on my desk before I get a chance to deal with them. If the company offers e-billing or e-statements, I almost always take that route.

I’ll give you that they create clutter. It’s true.

But Identity-theft risk? No way (Unless you simply shred them and throw them away.) Paper burns, simple as that. I personally don’t trust e-banking/billing and only RARELY shop online, there is no such thing as a hacker safe computer. Relatively safe yes, but not totally immune. Sorry 🙁

Justin Garten (user link) says:

printing is better without personal printers

Most people simply don’t print enough to need a personal printer. They sit there, ink slowly drying out, toner unused, while once a month we fire it up to print something.

However, we haven’t been able to get rid of them because there are still times when you just have to get something on paper. I think that the new web to print services (in the interests of disclosure, I work at one), handle these needs better, cheaper, and more conveniently than doing it yourself. Whether it’s printing a photo or mailing a letter, there are services out there to handle it.

Printing isn’t dead, but the personal printer just might be.

Linda Casey says:

Let's talk about coffers not coffins....

because HP still lines its coffers with profits from printing.

The cost of the individual prints or the lack of desktop-printer use might make some people forego the whole personal printer scenario. But, that doesn’t mean the need for prints doesn’t exist. Justin put it beautifully: “Printing isn’t dead, but the personal printer just might be.”

An excellent example of the migration of printed pages from desktop printers to print-for-pay services lies in the photo printing market. A forecast on the U.S. Consumer Photo Prints market by InfoTrends acknowledges at-home prints topped total photo print volume in 2006. But, the report also stated more and more people get their photo prints at retail and online services. I sincerely doubt this report will catch Hewlett-Packard’s execs by surprise. After all, these folks own Snapfish!

I know HP Graphic Arts Business North America Marketing director Francis McMahon has shown me no signs of HP bailing on the printing industry, especially the photo printing segment. In an interview with McMahon in October of last year, he told me that photo applications were the No. 1 area of growth for them in terms of pages printed in 2006.

Need more evidence not to take Vyomesh Joshi’s indirect quote too far? In Feb. 2007, Joshi’s own Imaging and Printing group announced it set new industry records in digital printing in 2006. According to the company, its HP Indigo presses churned out more than 10 billion impressions and HP Indigo year-over-year impressions grew by 40 percent last year.

Also keep in mind that the NY Times used an indirect quote, therefore, it is not an exact replication of Joshi’s words. Second of all, NY Times’ writer Damon Darlin was careful to use the word “may” to soften the quote. (A nice touch of professionalism on Darlin’s part.)

-Linda Casey
(Disclosure: I am the editor of SCIP magazine, which is a trade publication for the printing industry.)

Michael says:

Newspapers! Who needs them? I think people just want to use a machine, and usually will try to print to the newest and best even if it is half way around the building! B/W printing on a color unit! Idiots! Most of my repairing is from imbeciles not having a clue about using a printer.
Wireless Tablets are coming, and will be cheap.
You don’t “need” paper copy, you just “want” it.

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