HP print boss: “We’re driving a print renaissance”

Enrique Lores, president of imaging and printing for HP Inc.

Enrique Lores, president of imaging and printing for HP Inc.

Print is dead. Long live print.

Printing as a technology has been challenged, not reporting much in the way of growth over the last five years or more. But Enrique Lores, president of imaging and printing for HP Inc., positively beams as he proclaims the streak is over — with the company’s second-quarter 2017 results, the company’s print group has returned to growth.

“We’re still the number one print company in the world, but now it’s growing again,” Lores said in a press briefing at the company’s Palto Alto, Cal. headquarters last week. “It’s a very important change, and it’s based on the growth of our hardware business, and growth in our supplies business.”

Growth is the latest symptom of a “print renaissance” that Lores says HP is focused on driving. And that thinking is showing in the way HP presents itself and its wares. In days gone by, a day of briefings on HP printers would have involved sheets of feeds and speeds piled high, with lots of oohs and ahhhs over this year’s midrange laser being 10 per cent faster than last years.

But at last week’s event, dubbed “The Power of Print” by HP, there was nary a feed or speed to be heard, and few physical products in the spotlight. Rather, the focus was on the solutions that print defines or is embedded in. The print game, it seems, has caught up with much of the IT industry in focusing on business outcomes it’s looking to drive.

Lores outlines three key portions to his print renaissance, each focused on a large but obvious opportunity.

On the consumer front, HP is all but ignoring the PC these days. After all, consumers are primarily living on their mobile devices these days, and their photos even more so.

“People are taking millions of pictures, and then they stay in a digital jail,” Lores said. “Our mission is to release those photographs. To make sure they can be touched, they can be kissed.”

A little melodramatic, perhaps. But Lores’ point is well supported by its new Sprocket printer, a pocket-sized Bluetooth photo printer and accompanying app that’s focused on editing, filtering, and then printing photos straight from the mobile device.

Another key market for HP is in graphics, which covers everything from production printing of marketing collateral to packaging to large format signage. Lores detailed the company’s plans to continue standing behind the move towards digital printing, the enabling force behind some of the successful customized/personalized materials being produced by Nutella, Diet Coke, and other brands worldwide.

Tuan Tran, general manager and global head of office printing solutions at HP

Tuan Tran, general manager and global head of office printing solutions at HP

In the office space, Tuan Tran, general manager and global head of office printing solutions, detailed the company’s plans to continue its growth on three fronts.

First, he praised the performance of the company’s “core business” in laserjet and inkjet, which saw six per cent year over year unit sales growth in the second quarter. Mulfi-function continues to be the primary growth engine here, rising 20 quarters in a row.

Second, HP is continuing its push into the A3 market, looking to “go after copier pages,” as Tran puts it. The A3 market represents a $55 billion worldwide total addressable market that is new to HP. This, Tran said, will be accelerated by the integration of Samsung’s print business, slated to close in the back half of the year.

And finally, Tran’s priorities include one that will be familiar to many HP print partners — the continued move “from transactional to contractual,” as HP continues to drive pay-per-page and other managed print approaches with office customers. The reasons for doing it are clear — Tran said managed print customers have a higher net promoter score for HP than other customers, and the managed print space is growing at twice the rate than the rest of the market.

Lores said HP has committed to bringing its partners along on this print renaissance. Over the last year, it has reduced direct sales efforts and de-prioritized HP.com as a way for consumers and small business to buy print products and services, putting the focus on using the HP online team to drive business to the company’s partners.

“Our goal is grow our business with and for our partners,” Lores said.

Lores even believes he has an answer to perhaps the most frequent criticism of print — the fact that paper used to print on results in the killing of trees. Yes it does — but times have changed, Lores said, and one must consider the source.

“More than 90 per cent of paper coming from trees is coming from trees planted to become paper today,” Lores said. “So really, if you want to have more trees in the world, you should print more.”