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HP Takes Printers into Space: How Printing Became Relevant Again

Rob Enderle

I had an interesting discussion with Enrique Lores, the head of HP’s printer division, last week. He gave me the background on the November 1st announcement that HP has won the contract for a printer to go into the International Space Station. What is fascinating about this is that space travel is all about weight reduction and the elimination of consumables; almost everything must be recycled on the station because getting rid of the trash can be a tad more difficult than it is on the ground. This all happened under a broader discussion of HP’s printer business, which has been growing in terms of supplies, and the firm’s acquisition of Samsung’s printer/copier unit, which closed this week.

I think this all goes to a showcase on focus and how important that has been in the turnaround for that firm. In contrasting HP and HPE, HPE seemed to have all the material advantages, but HP has out-executed HPE, mostly because of a combination of focus and experienced executive staff.

Printers in Space

What makes this interesting is not only do astronauts seem to want paper copies of reports and checklists, but they also want to receive pictures and letters on paper, not on a screen. I have a feeling this is because it makes them feel more at home and connects them more strongly with the people who are sending these pictures and letters. There is also something permanent about a piece of paper and given how many breaches and memory failures we have either seen or been part of, the feeling that at least something is in hard copy and provides a permanent record appears to be worth the hassle of having one more device on the already cramped Space Station.

I’d have thought that putting ink on the paper would have been the biggest problem in an implementation without gravity and imagined little lines of floating ink all around the cabin. But apparently, the ink head and paper are so close, and the ink is shot out with enough pressure that this doesn’t happen. I’m told that HP didn’t even have to alter the ink delivery part of the printer. What did have to be altered was the paper handling part because that relied heavily on gravity to properly feed. But the fix was surprisingly simple, making the printer in the Space Station little different than the one you might have on your desk.

It amazes me that now nearly three decades after we pretty much declared we are moving to a paperless office, the one place you’d expect to be paperless, the International Space Station, isn’t. I’m thinking the whole “printing is dead” argument was just a bit premature.

Samsung and Printing

With today’s Samsung printer business sale close, HP continues to double down on printing; picking up Samsung’s printing and copying business expands HP’s footprint into the A3 copier segment. The point isn’t so much the expansion but that with printing supply sales up, this is a very profitable segment for HP and printing was thought to be that firm’s weakest link at the split: a massive, seemingly declining, business where the decline was supposedly caused by behavior change, not competition.

But the behavior stopped changing. Printing, which clearly was in decline, plateaued and the result was that as HP buys into more of this business, it should see a better than reasonable return on investment.


This is in sharp contrast to acquisitions by companies like Yahoo, which weren’t tied closely to core skills and caused distractions rather than benefits.

HP continues to expand into 3D printing as well, which is also an adjacent business, and a showcase for what is almost a textbook turnaround: Focus back on what the firm is good at, eliminate distractions, and execute. It seems so simple…

Wrapping Up: HP Focuses on Strengths

Markets tend to decline slowly and often part of what accelerates a decline is a lack of investment in the segment. HP has increased its investment in printing and been able to show growth in what was thought to be a terminally declining business, suggesting that this core perception, that printing is in decline, isn’t cast in stone and my not be fully founded on fact. By keeping close to what it is good at, HP has showcased growth and solid financial execution. It really doesn’t seem to be a very difficult formula, but it continues to surprise me how few firms undergoing turnarounds use it.

 

Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm.  With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+


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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 28, 2017 12:26 PM Mark Davis Mark Davis  says:
Glad to hear HP has won the contract for a printer to go into the International Space Station. It is really a good news. HP can mass produce 3D printers and continues to expand into 3D printing. Reply
Dec 30, 2017 6:42 AM aadilabaks aadilabaks  says:
Thanks for sharing, keep bringing more!! Reply
Feb 21, 2018 7:17 AM Panda Customer Service Panda Customer Service  says:
HP Printers, one of the best printers available in the market. It has good demand among the users, very easy to use. I am also using the same printer and its quality is up to the mark. Reply
Mar 16, 2018 6:11 AM Lexmark Printer Support Lexmark Printer Support  says:
Hp is one of the best printers. I have many printers. I use the different printer for different purposes. I am In printing business that's is why we have to use it. Reply
May 15, 2018 11:35 PM HP Support Number HP Support Number  says:
nice post. thanks for sharing information Reply
Jul 31, 2018 11:31 AM Lexmark Lexmark  says:
Personal printers are designed to support individual users and are used for low-volume, short-turnaround print jobs, which require a minimal setup time for production of a hard copy of a given document. So It is of great use. Reply
Aug 1, 2018 9:00 AM liosmith liosmith  says:
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Aug 6, 2018 8:01 AM Hp Printer Support Phone Number Hp Printer Support Phone Number  says:
First of All Rob, I Think use of Printer in a Space is a Great Idea.HP Takes a Good Step to Provide use of Printer in Space. It Will Really Proved to be Time Consuming. Reply
Aug 6, 2018 9:08 AM Lexmark Lexmark  says:
I don't know about this topic but after reading your post I have learned something new. Reply
Aug 10, 2018 6:46 AM Austincooper Austincooper  says:
HP has to expand into 3D printing as well, to beat company like epson, Brother and others. Its good to know that HP has taken such a great steps. Reply
Aug 13, 2018 7:46 AM HP Printer Server Connection Error 403 HP Printer Server Connection Error 403  says:
HP printers are good to use and they respond very fast. I am using HP DeskJet 2621 from last 2 months and have not found any issue in it Thanks HP for this great product. Reply
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yes, I agreed to all of you because last 2 year I am using the HP printer off course his performance as well so I won't suggest using the HP printer. Reply
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