By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Roughly two and a half years after it terminated a short-lived dalliance with Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard is re-entering the retail printing market with a kiosk and a modular photo printing solution.
According to Kalle Marsal, digital photography marketing director, HP has dedicated a division to growing its retail printing business, with an eye toward unseating its former partner and Fujifilm. Marsal argued that the company's fourth-generation inkjet technology, capable of faster print speed and longer print life than its dye-sublimation competitors, and the large install base of digital cameras, led to the company's about-face.
HP's solution will consist of a new kiosk, the Photosmart Express station, and the Photosmart Studio — a modular system geared towards creating a host of photo products beyond prints. HP will either sell the systems directly or lease them to retailers on a revenue-sharing model.
The Express is designed to be self-service and self-sufficient, Marsal said. It will feature a 17-inch touch screen interface, IR barcode scanner and a 4-inch by 6-inch printer capable of producing photos at a print every five seconds to 700 prints per hour with a 3,300 sheet capacity. Since the system is sheet-fed, it is easier to keep the kiosk “topped off” rather than waiting for a media roll to finish, Marsal said. The net effect is to reduce kiosk down time, he added.
The Express kiosk features a number of connectivity options (wired, wireless LAN, 3G broadband and 2G cellular) for remote monitoring and diagnostics. Marsal noted that HP designed the kiosk to “live on its own” with little interaction with store personnel. HP will back up the kiosks with nationwide service and support alongside constant online monitoring.
The Express can currently produce prints at 29 cents each and future iterations of the print engine will reduce that cost, Marsal added. The Express has a list price of $15,000.
The Photosmart Studio is designed to create a host of photo products including large format posters, hardbound photo books, greeting cards, calendars and CDs, on-site with a one-hour turnaround time. The pieces of the Studio system include kiosk-style order terminals, a PhotoSmart printer, the PhotoSmart Express' print engine, a disc burner/labeler, a large format poster printer and book binder.
When HP dissolved its Phogenix joint venture with Kodak in May 2003, HP executives argued that consumers would largely be printing digital photos at home and that the company was positioned to serve that market. In the years since, HP has acquired its own online printing service —Snapfish —and has watched the volume of digital prints grow significantly at retail.
“After the Snapfish acquisition, the only market we weren't addressing was retail,” said John Cronkrite, sales development director. The company is currently beta testing its solutions at Wal-Mart and Longs Drugs.
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