HP’s Digital Print Salvo: Increase Speed, Lower Cost and Make Convenient...

HP’s Digital Print Salvo: Increase Speed, Lower Cost and Make Convenient for All

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At the company’s annual Imaging and Printing Conference event in New York in late Spring, HP unveiled their latest strategy “for making printing relevant and empowering” as the market for both personal and professional content continues to explode and increasingly moves from the desktop to the Web.

The HP Imaging and Printing Conference was also big on helping the imaging industry communicate better with their most important target market, moms. The company outlined out a 3-pronged attack in this area citing their recently unveiled online community for picture-taking moms dubbed PhotoSpace; their PMA Mommy Cast event that provided a live report from the PMA show each day targeted to what was happening at the show that would appeal to moms; and their nationally run Mom Mixer events that bring moms together to a specific imaging retail location for a day of digital imaging fun and education. The company is holding over 1,500 such events in 2007 throughout the U.S.

HP’s Larry Lesley, Senior VP Digital Photography/Entertainment, closed the event and highlighted how serious HP is about their play in the imaging retail space by stating, “Our biggest competitors are Kodak and Fuji and they are trying to stop us at the gates…but we will not be stopped.”

Picture Business had the opportunity to sit down with HP’s Larry Lesley during the aforementioned event to get his take on what the future holds on the all-important print part of the digital imaging equation.

Pic Biz: At the event in NYC HP stated that they believe printing images, “Is about the consumer expressing themselves –– not about the printing process.” That’s a great message. How is HP helping retailers push the joy of this expression to their customers? We ask because we don’t think that message is currently resonating at imaging retail today.

Lesley: There are a couple examples of how we’re enabling retailers to do this today. The first is through the Snapfish network. Today, Snapfish powers online photo services for approximately 40 retailers, giving their customers access to the same world-class service that Snapfish.com members enjoy. This includes more than 90 photo products –– everything from photo books to calendars to mugs and posters – all enabling consumers to express themselves through photos and memories.

The second is through our HP Photo Center solutions that enable consumers to do more with their photos –– quickly and easily. In less than five minutes, consumers can order photo books, greeting cards, posters and more to be printed by an attendant behind the counter and picked up in approximately one hour.

Pic Biz: Seeing as the younger demographic has seemingly lost interest in printing their images at all, how is HP going to get these Gen Y’ers to put more value in the printed picture?

Lesley: We need to make printing relevant to Gen Y’ers. As part of that, we need to build solutions that will enable the Gen Y’ers to print what they want, how they want. Today, there’s a good deal of content on the Web that’s not printable. Blogs are a great example. HP is focused on making it easier to print from the Web. Our recent acquisition of Tabblo is a significant step in delivering on that goal.

We also recognize that consumers, including Gen Y’ers, have a great deal of personal content that they want to “mash” with professional content. HP wants to provide the end-to-end platform that enables this – from content creation to consumption.

Pic Biz: We understand the rush to speak and market to the tech-enabled with regard to HP’s digital imaging strategy, but is there any fear that the company may be leaving the less tech-savvy behind?

Lesley: No, we’re definitely not planning to leave the less tech-savvy behind. Our strategy is to connect with consumers in meaningful ways. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Take moms for example, one thing we’ve learned is that moms today get their information differently. It’s caused us to re-visit the way we do marketing and look at delivering information in places where they go to look for it, largely the Web at night.

We’re also continuing to focus our innovation around ease of use. Examples are the touch screen capabilities on our printers, and the real life technologies in both our cameras and printers.

Pic Biz: Can you tell us more about the Mom Mixer concept and what HP is hoping to accomplish with these events? We hadn’t heard of them until we attended the Mom breakout session at the event in NYC.

Lesley: The Mom Mixers are a great example of how we’re targeting moms in meaningful ways. For the past several months, we’ve been holding these mixers in photo centers at select retail locations nationwide. We’ve invited moms to come to these mixers at times that are convenient for them, which is typically after work or at the end of their busy day. The mixers provide an opportunity for moms to create digital photography projects, enjoy some dinner, and socialize and network with other busy moms. Many of these moms have started their own businesses and use digital photography for both home and work activities.

Pic Biz: You were quoted (with a smile on your face) at the NYC event as saying, “Our biggest competitors within the photo retail printing space are Fuji and Kodak and they are trying to stop us at the gates…but we will not be stopped.” What is HP offering in this channel (photo specialty) that you feel separates HP from the pack?

Lesley: Using EdgeLine technology, the HP Photosmart Microlab printer and HP Photosmart Express station are the first non-chemical retail photo solutions that truly deliver the kind of performance, reliability and quality retailers need to start replacing silver halide in a serious fashion. According to Wilhelm Imaging Research, the prints produced from these printers have the best overall image permanence of any consumer 4×6-inch print in the history of color photography. And, HP will continue to aggressively push the envelope with more functionality, performance, lower cost and improved solutions.

Compared with competing photo systems currently on the market, HP estimates that the HP Photosmart Express station is substantially more profitable per square foot, has up to 10 times the supplies capacity and is up to six times more space efficient.

Additionally, the HP Photosmart Express station is completely networked, offering 24×7 monitoring and troubleshooting to ensure high uptime. Retailers can easily handle software upgrades, maintain the kiosk’s operability, access performance reports and tailor store promotions all from a remote location.

The HP Photo Center offers retailers an effective way to drive incremental sales and margins in existing photo departments, while delighting customers with new digital photo experiences. HP estimates that a typical photo center can significantly boost a store’s returns from photo-finishing on a sustained basis.

HP has made a significant commitment to the retail photo space and is continuing to increase that commitment. We see tremendous growth opportunity. By entering this industry without a legacy in silver halide, we don’t have anything to slow us down and can partner with retailers in an unencumbered fashion in the drive towards the next generation of digital photography services.

Pic Biz: With all this talk about getting more images printed, no one in the imaging industry seems to be addressing the very serious problem of image storage, retrieval an organization. As we continue to bury the end user under all this digital content (especially images) is HP doing anything in this area to help alleviate this burden and make the consumers’ images more actionable? After all, images that are difficult to find are images that will not be printed.

Lesley: HP understands that image access and management is a growing problem for our customers. In addition to the rapidly growing number of photos the average customer saves on their PC and online, our customers are increasingly demanding easy access to their photos regardless of whether their at home, at retail or on the road.

We have been investing in solutions to this problem and are actively investigating new, innovative approaches. For example, today, our Photosmart Essentials software has incorporated simple tagging capabilities to enable customers to quickly find photos with the specific people and/or content they want. We also support the metadata that is recorded by digital still cameras when the image is captured. Utilizing this metadata enables our software to automatically organize the photos for the end users along a timeline.

Specific to long-term secure storage, we have introduced a range of storage solutions for the home, including automated network backup. This includes the HP Media Vault, HP Personal Media Drives and HP Pocket Media Drives. We also are spear-heading a cross-industry effort called the Consumer Photo Preservation Initiative through the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A). This effort is designed to take the mystery out of preserving digital images by educating consumers via the Web (www.savemymemories.org) about the risks, nature and proper methodology for storing, cataloging and preserving digital images using an easy to follow step-by-step approach.

We are also working within I3A and with other industry partners on the question of image metadata, which is key to effective organization and retrieval of photos.

Lastly, at HP Labs, we are developing innovative approaches to image organization and retrieval which we will build into our products over time as the market evolves.

Pic Biz: Lastly, where is HP placing their chips with regard to the three main methods that consumers are using to print their images – at home, at retail, and online services? Which one will ultimately be the dominant method?

Lesley: We’re placing our chips on all three – home, retail and online. While retail will continue to grow, there remains tremendous opportunity in both home and online as well. Therefore, you will see HP continue to invest in all three areas, delivering innovative solutions that enable consumers to easily capture, share and print their images when and where they want.

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