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HP Buys Samsung’s Printer Business, Previews New A3 Multifunction Printers

The dual moves are elements of a strategic effort to disrupt the copier market by persuading businesses to use MFPs instead. By Rich Freeman

In a bid to grab a larger share of the $55 billion copier market generally and the A3 segment of that market specifically, HP Inc. today announced a definitive agreement with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. to purchase its printer business and disclosed plans to launch an expansive new family of A3 multifunction printers developed in house.

Announced on the first day of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor’s Global Partner Conference in Boston and valued at $1.05 billion, the Samsung transaction is the biggest acquisition in HP’s history and the core element of a larger strategic effort to disrupt the copier market by persuading businesses to use MFPs instead.

“When we became a separate company just 10 months ago, it enabled us to become nimble and focus on accelerating growth and reinventing industries,” said Dion Weisler, president and CEO of HP, in a press release. “The acquisition of Samsung’s printer business allows us to deliver print innovation and create entirely new business opportunities with far better efficiency, security, and economics for customers.”

Partners will benefit from HP’s copier push as well, the company asserts, via new opportunities to add or expand managed print services.

Samsung, HP notes in this morning’s press release, has a “formidable portfolio” of A3 MFPs. At present, HP has a strong presence in the A4 printer market, but only 3 percent market share in the A3 space, mostly due to its narrow range of models.

“In the past HP has been offering A3 products, but our offering frankly was spotty,” said Aurelio Maruggi, general manager and global head of HP’s A3 business, in an interview with ChannelPro. “Now we are coming into the office part of the A3 portfolio of products with a complete lineup of products.”

HP announced plans today to add a new family of A3 MFPs it developed in house to that lineup. They include 13 color and monochrome LaserJet models capable of printing 25 to 60 pages per minute, as well as 3 faster color models featuring HP’s PageWide technology that will generate between 40 and 80 pages a minute.

PageWide printers utilize a stationary, margin-to-margin, print head to produce large volumes of pages rapidly. According to HP, PageWide printers are more energy efficient than LaserJet products and more reliable as well, because they have fewer moving parts.

The new LaserJet A3 devices will reach market next spring. The first of the PageWide printers will arrive this fall, with the rest shipping in the April to May 2017 timeframe.

Target audiences for the new HP-developed A3 units span from small businesses with a few employees to large enterprises. According to HP, SMBs currently account for about 65 percent of the A3 printer industry’s global revenue.

HP declined to provide specific information about prices for the new models, but said they would be about average for A3 products. According to Maruggi, however, pricing on the PageWide SKUs will be low enough to make high-speed color printing a more practical option for buyers with limited budgets.

“[They] will offer for the first time color at an affordable level,” he says.

The new systems are also designed to compensate for the limited functionality traditionally found in HP’s A3 product line. According to Maruggi, the printers introduced today will provide a wide variety of capabilities, including stapling, stacking, hole punching, and booklet making.

They also come with two features that HP sees as differentiators for A3 devices. First, all 16 models come with security features designed to give printers the same kind of robust defenses PCs enjoy. Those include HP’s Sure Start technology, which validates the integrity of a printer’s onboard BIOS code, as well as runtime intrusion detection and whitelisting technologies already available on HP’s A4 products.

In addition, the new A3 models will all ship with a new feature named Smart Device Services (SDS) that utilizes embedded sensors to collect diagnostic information from devices and distribute it via the web to third-party remote monitoring and service management tools. Support accounts for about 60 percent of the cost of managing an MFP, HP says. SDS will reduce that overhead for HP partners by enabling them to investigate and potentially resolve technical issues without dispatching an employee to a customer’s office.

SDS will also be compatible with HP printers and MFPs from 2012 and beyond equipped with the company’s FutureSmart upgradeable firmware.

Together with the new A3 product family’s security features, SDS arms HP partners with concrete reasons why their customers should refresh their printer fleets, says Maruggi, who adds that HP will have a complete set of go-to-market resources up and running when its new A3 products officially launch.

“We are in the process of staffing a large sales organization that will be dedicated to this category of products,” he says.

Qualified resellers of the A3 offerings will have access to guaranteed pricing, as well as an array of sales tools and support services. HP’s financial services unit will offer a variety of funding options for the new product lineup as well.

Today’s product news comes less than a week after the rollout of JetAdvantage On Demand, HP’s online marketplace for software-as-a-service print solutions. The forthcoming A3 MFPs will all be compatible with applications offered through that site, along with HP’s entire portfolio of JetAdvantage management and security systems. It also arrives on the same day HP announced changes to its Partner First partner program.

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