by Robert Palmer | 8/15/14

We recently discovered that HP is currently promoting a new version of its ink subscription service called Instant Ink Professional. About a year ago, HP formally launched its Instant Ink program, which provides customers with a monthly subscription-based business model for printing pages and replacing ink supplies. While the original Instant Ink program is aimed primarily at home and SOHO users, HP is investigating opportunities for pushing similar services further upmarket.

While HP has made no formal announcement of Instant Ink Professional, it is promoting the service through its HP Connected website. After reaching out to HP it has been confirmed that service is currently being deployed as a pilot program. While it appears to work similarly to the original Instant Ink service, Instant Ink Professional is aimed at higher-volume users, with three different pricing plans based on the number of pages per month included in the program.

Instant Ink professional

As is the case with the previous program, users must purchase an eligible printer/MFP in order to take advantage of the Instant Ink Professional service. These Internet-enabled devices communicate directly with HP via the cloud for supplies replacement and remote monitoring. The website lists the Officejet Pro X476 and X576 series of products as the only models eligible for Instant Ink Professional. Once the device is acquired, users enroll in a specific plan based on the number of pages they expect to print each month.

HP will ship an Instant Ink cartridge to the customer immediately. Once the Instant Ink cartridge is installed, the printer connects to the cloud to verify the customer, which is when remote monitoring and the billing cycle begins. By monitoring the device remotely, HP can track actual print usage and ink levels so that new Instant Ink cartridges can be shipped automatically when needed. The Instant Ink cartridge also comes with a prepaid envelope for returning the spent cartridge to HP.

Pricing plans

There are three different pricing plans available under the Instant Ink Professional program.

·       $19.99 per month: Print up to 400 pages per month with the ability to roll over up to 400 unused pages. Purchase additional pages at a price of $2 per set of 40 pages.

·       $39.99 per month: Print up to 1,000 pages per month with the ability to roll over up to 1,000 unused pages. Purchase additional pages at a price of $2 per set of 50 pages.

·       $59.99 per month: Print up to 2,000 pages per month with the ability to roll over up to 2,000 unused pages. Purchase additional pages at a price of $2 per set of 60 pages.

Customers are able to switch plans and adjust to changes in printing requirements, if needed. For example, if all the pages in a monthly plan are not used, the unused pages are kept in the customer account as rollover pages. Rollover pages are available as long as the customer is enrolled in the HP Instant Ink Professional service. Customers are able to roll over the maximum number of pages available in the selected monthly plan. For example, customers can roll over up to 400 pages if they are enrolled in a 400-page plan.

HP also provides additional pages should customers need to print more than the monthly allotted amount. Additional pages are available in sets of 40, 50 and 60 pages, depending on the plan, for a cost of $2 per set. As long as the device is connected to the Internet, HP will send e-mail updates to remind users when they are nearing the maximum allotted pages in the current plan. If desired, customers can upgrade their plan rather than purchasing additional pages. Upgrades become effective immediately and retroactively apply to the current billing cycle.

Our take

HP’s Instant Ink Professional service is interesting in a number of ways. First, of course, is the cost savings that could be achieved for customers with print volumes that fit into any one of the various pricing plans. Based on the quoted figures, customers will pay 4.99 cents per page in the entry-level plan, 3.99 cents per page in the mid-tier plan, and 2.99 cents per page in the top-level plan. It is important to point out that these per-page prices apply regardless of page coverage and whether pages are printed in mono or color. Less than 5 cents per color page is pretty impressive for a plan that includes only 400 pages.

It is also important to consider the disruptive nature of HP’s page subscription services when it comes to the office printing market. While the current Instant Ink Professional program appears to be aimed at the low end of the SMB space, HP could presumably push the program even further upmarket if customers accept the premise.

The models eligible for the Instant Ink Professional program include the Officejet Pro X series, which feature HP’s page-wide printing technology and print speeds up to 70 ppm. HP is already positioning its Officejet Pro products as better alternatives for office users by promoting color at half the cost of laser. The Instant Ink Professional program opens up HP’s inkjet technology to a whole new class of office users looking to take advantage of affordable color at very fast print speeds, all on a subscription basis.

We will be closely following HP’s Instant Ink Professional service to see if and when it moves from a pilot program to a full-fledged offering. When more information is available we will of course keep our readers informed. In the mean time, it is clear that HP is looking to push the concept of ink subscription services further into the office and competitors should take notice. HP claims that it is achieving strong success with its Instant Ink program in the consumer/retail environment. If it is able to replicate that success in the office space it could signal a change in the traditional business model for the consumption of office pages. 

 

Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA).

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