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Jerry Lansky Exclusive: HP Introduces Inkjet Printer for Onsite Market

Hewlett Packard has added another piece of equipment to its arsenal in its mission to break into the world of onsite processing services.

The new entry, unveiled at photokina: the Photosmart pm 1000 Microlab printer that outputs up to 700, 4x6 inkjet prints an hour.

Kalle Marsal, HP's director of marketing, retail photo service business, said the printer could be incorporated as part of the HP Photosmart Studio setup, as it has not had the capability of outputting 4x6 prints, or could also be placed behind the counter, either as an expansion to a busy lab or the sole printer in a small lab environment. The pm 1000 is similar to the printer currently being used in the HP Photosmart Express kiosk and requires some manner of input device, such as a countertop kiosk.

The Microlab printer will carry a list price of $11,990.

Marsal said the first trial models are going into low-volume environments with about 10-20 units being installed in the U.S. and Europe this month. General availability is expected after Jan 1.

Separately, it was learned that Dan's Camera City , Allentown , PA , hardly a small-volume store, will be a test site beginning in November. Mike Woodland, CEO, said the unit would be connected to his bank of 16 Lucidiom kiosks to offer ‘instant' print service and will be priced at a slight premium over the 29-cent price for silver halide prints from the lab's Noritsu unit.

The pm 1000 Microlab is fairly compact, according to Marsal, occupying 5 ˝ square feet of floor space. It employs the HP scalable print technology and uses six individual ink cartridges, each holding 775 ml. It has a paper capacity of 3,300 cut, 4x6-inch paper.

As to the per-print cost, Marsal would only reveal that it “depends on volume.” Inkjet print pricing typically falls somewhere between the higher priced dye-sub and silver halide, the least expensive solution. Will HP inkjet paper ever be competitive with silver halide? “Over time we have a path to get there,” he said.

The only other inkjet system available for onsite photo production is the line of dDP models offered by Noritsu, which uses an Epson inkjet engine. While it's largest model, the dDP-621 will output 460, 4x6s an hour, compared to the HP's 700 prints, it has more flexibility by offering a variety of print sizes up to 12x18.

Michael Diehl, HP's vice president, Digital Photography and Entertainment, Imaging and Printing Group, Europe, Middle East and Africa, made known at photokina that Jessops, with about 290 stores in the UK and billing itself as the largest photo retailer there, has signed on as HP's first European partner for the Photo Studio. He said that the chain would install 3-4 Studio setups in London and two other cities as yet un-named.

He also stated that HP had signed deals with two other large photo operations in the UK but would not reveal their names.

HP also made known that it will be combining the services of Pixaco, a major online operation in Germany that was purchased by HP in December, with the HP Snapfish brand. The service will be rolled out in the UK , France , and Austria this month, according to Diehl, and in the rest of Europe by the end of the year, giving Snapfish a worldwide presence. In addition, he said that Jessops is already co-branding its own Picture House online service with Snapfish.

Back in the U.S. , Marsal indicated that the HP Studios that have been installed as a trial by Wal-Mart have been “going quite well, though some locations have been slower than expected.” So far, he said, a total of 66 Studios have been placed in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S. and Canada .

He noted that the greatest success has been in those stores where the employees are themselves excited about the products of the Studio. In some locations, he said, posters have been the hot items, while in others albums are number one. He acknowledged that the stores are being promoted similarly and that it seems as though the counter clerks are able to communicate their own enthusiasm for one product or another.

In addition to Wal-Mart, Marsal said that about 100 Studios have been installed in Longs Drug locations on the West coast and that the stores have been recording “very high repeat traffic.”

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