Thursday, April 30, 2009

Symantec's Project Guru -- great target marketing

I found a great column by Christopher Breen at PC.World online, "Remotely Fixing the Family Printer", that really "hit home" with its real-life transcript going through just what the title suggests.

The experience took me back to last month's Demo Conference and the Symantec (NASDAQ SYMC) presentation of their "Project Guru" solution. While I don't yet have direct experience with the solution, I do have direct experience with being the family "guru" when it comes to tech support. "Project Guru" was the subject of some favorable Demo reviews, and again, while not being able to speak to its market success to date, the definition of its customer and the need, i.e. giving assistance and tools the one family member who inevitably gets called on to be "tech support" for the rest of the clan.

Here's a snippet from Breen's column that illustrates the idea:

Me: Is the printer plugged in to both the power outlet and your computer?

Them: I didn't touch it.

Me: I know. But it's plugged in, right?

Them: It worked last week.

See the column for the rest of the transcript of the ultimately successful help session!

HP's (NYSE HPQ) new inkjet cartridge packaging

I mentioned HP's new packaging for its inkjet cartridges in my Earth Day post (see "HP's (NYSE HPQ) Inkjet Cartridge Recycling efforts"), but seeing is believing.

In a visit to my local Office Depot (NYSE ODP) yesterday, I needed to replace a #21 black ink cartridge for our office's faithful HP PSC 1410 All-in-one and was able to purchase the product in its new packaging. (See photo above.) It was an easier in-store compare-and-contrast exercise due to the fact that both packaging options were on the rack, with the newer, less excessive box rolling in to replace the old ones. While HP had pointed out efficiencies in shipping the new packages (up to 60% more cartridges per case), that also of course rolls into retail as well, where much more product can be displayed in the same shelf space. One downside of the smaller package is of course theft -- a pocket-size cartridge box was handy for me yesterday, post-checkstand as I passed on an Office Depot plastic bag to hold my purchase, but of course the same "advantage" also is there for the "pre-checkstand" pocketing type. Let's hope other technologies (rather than physical bulk) can continue to come to the aid of this situation!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy 25th Anniversary, HP (NYSE HQP) LaserJet printer!

The Idaho Statesman has a nice piece today wishing HP (NYSE HPQ) and its LaserJet printer a happy anniversary -- see "HP celebrates 25th anniversary of its LaserJet printer" in this morning's print edition (as well as online, of course). In the piece by Brad Talbutt, HP Executive Von Hansen is featured, and he recalls a few of the tales from the story of the first LaserJet, 25 years ago.

I wouldn't join the printer team at HP-Boise until 1986, and was working on the storage side (also in Boise) during the momentous Spring 1984 introduction of the first LaserJet. I attended that Atlanta-based COMDEX where the printer made its first public appearance, and while I don't remember it being quite the hit of the show that Hansen recalls, it certainly did get attention. And that attention even went beyond the name ("LaserJet"), which offended certain HP purists who a) didn't like the fact there really wasn't a "jet" involved in the product (it was a name improvised from recent HP inkjet products, see "Coining the term 'LaserJet'"), and b) were really more comfortable with numbers rather than names (see "Cold, Dead Fish").

What a great 25 years, and congrats Von, HP, and LaserJet, and all those other colleagues, past and present, who've played a part!

Final day of Managed Print Services conference

In San Antonio, TX, the final day of the Managed Print Services conference is kicking off this morning (April 28). Reports are enthusiastic, with bloggers reporting on the conference in general, and specifically about Samsung's announcement of their North American MPS program.

Read more at the Managed Print Services blog. Greg Walters of The Death of the Copier blog has a post from Day One and is also Tweeting from the conference at @Greg_Walters.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

iPhone Printing App featured on current Apple commercial

iPhone printing has reached a new level of relevance with a leading iPhone app featured in a recent Apple (NASDAQ AAPL) TV commercial. And we predicted it here first (well sort of). iPhone printing has made the big time, with inclusion of an iPhone printing application in one of their new TV commercials.

While the commercial is not brand new (e.g. the Apple Blog's Darren Etherington posted about it several weeks ago), in "iPhone Ad Breakdown -- Itchy, Office, Student"), I just saw it for the first time today, while watching the final round of the NFL draft on ESPN.
EuroSmartz Ltd's "Print & Share" (or "Print n Share"), with a retail price of $6.99 -- high for an iPhone app, is the featured program.

I blogged about, and have been using, the company's original printing program for iPhone, simply titled "Print for iPhone", since late last year (see "iPhone Printing boom!").

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HP's (NYSE HPQ) Inkjet Cartridge Recycling efforts

Just about a month ago I had the chance to take a guided tour of HP's inkjet recycling center in Nashville TN. While we all are exposed to communications regarding recycling and other "green" efforts on a continuous basis these days, there is nothing like a little up-close look to make the reality (and difficulty) of a comprehensive program like HP has implemented.

Those efforts have been well documented, including in this blog (for example, see "HP's Green Office"), including the numbers. Even so, when HP's Jean Gingras,
North America Printing Supplies Environmental Marketing Manager, Imaging and Printing Group, tosses out numbers like "19.7 million pounds of recycled plastic used [in HP cartridges] in 2008" it's easy to think about that number (19.7 million pounds) in rather academic terms and questions (e.g. "let's see, how many tons is that?"). It's been rather hard, at least for me, to picture that in more real terms. And that's what the recycling plant tour did for my perspective -- HP and the rest of our industry are manufacturing a huge quantity of cartridges, and getting a large share of those back and putting them to further use is a huge undertaking (see photo). The handy benchmarks I like to use for industry size (like when HP hit an average ship rate of one million printers a week a few years back), now have new perspective.

"Reduced" packaging too

Regular readers may recognize that I have a liking for some of the more (seemingly) simple measures that can be done in the reduce-reuse-recycle hierarchy. Often, these are activities that don't get much attention, so here's one from the tour that I really like. Maybe this goes back to years and years ago to a bit of guilt (as an HP employee) when some of HP's ink cartridges were called out by an environmental publication for their excessive packaging, with its plastic "yogurt package" shipped in several other layers of cardboard. HP's reduction in inkjet cartridge packaging promises a 40% fewer materials used, and at the same time cutting down on mass allowing more efficient shipping and storage. (See graphic.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Observations: Ultimate Countertrend—The Printed Blog

Observations: Ultimate Countertrend—The Printed Blog

For many of us, at least Baby Boomers and younger, these tumultuous times are unprecedented. The front-page headlines covering the stories of economic woe among the world’s banking, insurance, and other financial institutions have been relentless. The amount of ink spilled describing the plight of “The Big Three” American automakers has been enormous. And not far behind in terms of column inches has been coverage following the downward spiral of the newspaper and magazine business—an ongoing demise with the ironic potential to make the aforementioned expressions, at least in the physical sense, as obsolete as the buggy whip.

But rising on the horizon is at least one effort to reverse the trend away from all-online, all-the-time news and information consumption. A new, small publishing company with the simple but provocative name of “The Printed Blog” (TPB), along with a publication of the same name, is seeking to reverse the fortunes of traditional newspapers and magazines.

TPB founder Joshua Karp clearly has a high awareness of the plight of the current newspaper industry and some of the industry’s dynamics. He describes his development of the TPB idea after becoming a reader of popular blogs such as Gawker and TechCrunch in the recent past. Karp is aware that the ratio of print to online ads is still heavily weighted towards print, but he also views the newspaper industry as stuck in a rut of doing things in the same old way.

Comparing traditional print to online concepts in information and its presentation, the Chicago-based entrepreneur could not get the “printed blog” concept, employing newer ideas about presentation of information, out of his mind. Also, looking at “alternative pubs” spawned by the newspaper business, such as the troubled Chicago Tribune’s RedEye, he saw content issues as well. With a user-generated content-based publication in mind as an “alternative to the alternative”, Karp asks the rhetorical question, “Which would you pick up?” comparing “rehashed AP stories” to content ultimately much more original and compelling. So he had a graphic designer friend mock up the first TPB and began to test ideas among friends and acquaintances, leading to the current 8-page, letter-sized edition available today.

The Printed Blog, currently with a staff of Karp and eight unpaid interns, is in beta testing with a weekly version. At the end of March 2009, issue #9 had been released, and it was the first to expand from one version to four, localized for each of four selected markets (Chicago – the company’s home base, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco). The goal of the The Printed Blog is to soon launch as a daily in multiple markets. The business model is strictly advertising-driven, with free physical distribution through local outlets (and downloadable PDF versions available online).

Recent versions have had print runs of 3,000 copies, with 3,000-10,000 downloads depending on the issue. And in terms of another popular metric these days, The Printed Blog’s Twitter presence has expanded from one account—with 2,300 followers as of this column’s deadline—to four localized for each city in which it is currently distributed.

Since the original beta launch in January, Karp admits the media attention has “been overwhelming and a bit surprising.” For example, TPB’s home page has a sample of two (out of many possible) links to articles from The New York Times and Wired.

But Karp’s humility does not inhibit his big picture vision. Just as he saw a newspaper industry mired in outdated ways, some of which have not changed in the last 100 years, he sees himself and TPB helping to create a platform for newspaper publishing for the next 100 years.

As far as printing details, local print shops currently produce TPB, but the vision includes many partners who will do their own printing along with local distribution and advertising through local offices, storefronts, and even home offices. The printing devices they deploy may be branded “The Printed Blog” but will be based on printers from Canon, HP, Xerox, and others. Karp’s attention is focused elsewhere for now. At least from a printer industry perspective, Karp brings a fresh and unadorned view to the project. When asked about some recent, related history that I have covered, such as HP’s efforts to encourage blog printing and Newspaper Direct’s localized newspaper printer business, he seems blissfully unaware. Focusing on the needs of readers, advertisers, and content providers (and how to build the business along those lines), should be and is what is top of mind for him right now. As an example of readers’ needs, TPB’s Web site describes what the company intends to offer with the daily version: “Once we launch, expect to find a copy of our unique, pleasurably tactile newspaper at a news stand near you!”

Appreciating what print offers, and not just devising ways of how to print more, may be the key to success for The Printed Blog.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Best Printing / Printer related April Fool's 2009 edition

Happy April Fool's Day, 2009!

In keeping with a tradition at this blog, jere's the best one I found for this year.

And of course in keeping with the times, it involves newspapers and Twitter.

Thanks Guardian!

Twitter switch for Guardian, after 188 years of ink