Finally, it’s time to lift the curtain at Hewlett Packard. Officially, that is.
For months the industry has been abuzz with speculation about the plans of the electronics giant as it quietly tiptoed to certain key players in the photo business to give them a heads-up and gauge reaction to its plans. A chosen few (i.e. Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Longs Drug) were selected as beta test sites. All were required to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep details under wraps until HP could present its entire plan, in its own way, and at it’s chosen time and place.
PMA is that time and place.
The new HP offering represents a double thrust:
- The HP Photosmart Express Station, looking like a kiosk at first glance but what the firm is calling the “industry’s first true standalone self-serve photo kiosk.” It’s an inkjet system, of course, with some very attractive features.
- The HP Photosmart Studio, a rather unique, behind the counter setup geared to offer the consumer a variety of specialty output products from both laser and inkjet printers via a customer driven digital input station. Interestingly, HP has chosen with this first offering to bypass the conventional bread and butter products of the retail processor by having no provision to scan film or output 4x6 prints. For now, anyway.
HP Photosmart Express Station
Unlike what one might expect with a company that is jumping off the starting blocks for the first time, the kiosk is not loaded with bells and whistles. In fact, according to Kalle Marsal, director of marketing, HP digital photography and entertainment, the system was designed to reduce the options to make it easier for the consumer to use and to avoid having one customer standing at the kiosk too long while others wait in queue. Thus, it will only make 4x6 prints; no text; no borders; but will allow crop, zoom and color adjustment, and correct for red eye. Future generations will produce larger prints.
HP engineers had the charge to make the unit as self-sufficient as possible so it could truly operate as a remote system. Here is what they ended up with:
- A paper magazine that will load with 3,300 cut, 4x6 sheets of paper, with prints dropping out every five seconds after the 18-second first print
- Six individual ink cartridges (yellow, magenta, cyan, black, light magenta, light gray) each with about 750cc of ink said to be enough for between 10,000 and 50,000 prints, depending on the demand for any one color
- A print-head with an estimated life of 400,000 prints;
- A stack of 100 blank CD’s with an automatic burner that will output a CD in 60-90 seconds;
- Diagnostic software that will report back to a 24/7 HP monitoring center when the system is low on any consumable or in need of service;
- A stack of 350 photo envelopes;
Price for the system: About $15,000.
Among its other features: wired and wireless networking; Bluetooth equipped; nine media slots, USB port, CD/DVD slot; 17-inch touch screen; payment module for credit, debit, or store cards; 28x30-inch footprint.
HP is taking an aggressive position on the longevity of the inkjet prints from the Photosmart Express that is certain to ruffle some feathers. In its literature it claims that dye-sub color prints will last from 4-26 years; silver halide from 22-40 years; and prints from its system, 50-100 years. Reason for its claim: “New pigmented inks…specially formulated media designed for new inks.” This should stir the competitive pot a bit.
Kalle said that by May there will be about 40-50 units in the field on trial and that shipments will begin this summer.
Media pricing is certainly the first question a dealer will want to discuss. Kalle said that it was HP’s goal to be competitive with silver halide, which we know is about 5-6-cents per 4R, but he acknowledges that this might not happen for a few years. For now, HP has a list price for media and ink of 18-cents per 4x6, though he acknowledges that large volume buyers will get a better deal.