Following HP’s announcement that it was shuttering PageWide for the office, we decided to take a look back at HP’s history with office inkjet and the evolution of the PageWide. The last five years, including the rise and fall of Edgeline and the introduction of the OfficeJet Pro X provide a roadmap to where we are today.

In 2016, HP announced a refreshed line of PageWide (Pro 477dn, 477dw, 577dw, 577z) and LaserJet models, including models for the “contractual” channel and managed service partners. An HP release stated that the “HP PageWide business portfolio … increases the number of managed devices designed for contractual channel partners and managed print services engagements,” and noted they included a three-year print head warranty. Question: If PageWide print head reliability isn’t an issue, why is the firm promoting a new three-year print head warranty for a device destined for contractual service agreement environments? Possibility No. 1: PageWide print heads have been a problem area. Possibility No. 2: prospects have raised concerns about PageWide print heads, either because of things they have heard/read or because they don’t trust inkjet in their offices.

Also in 2016, HP published a four-page technical white paper titled “Reliable Printing with HP PageWide Business Printers” that included a section on “Preventing ink dry-out” that explained in detail the embedded technology designed to prevent ink drying/clogging/ink dry-out. However, later in the paper HP qualifies its support for the claims, as follows: “The printhead will be properly serviced and capped preventing ink dry-out when the following simple precautions are observed: The printer should be turned OFF by using the ON/OFF button on the front panel, never by unplugging it or placing it on a switched power outlet. This allows the printer to shut down normally giving the printhead service station time to properly cap the printhead while the printer is OFF. In case of a paper jam, the jam should be cleared as soon as possible. Once the paper is cleared, the printer will automatically perform the appropriate amount of printhead servicing based on the amount of time since the jam occurred. After this process completes, the printer can then be powered OFF normally from the front panel, if desired.”

So the “no ink dry out” claims are asterisked. Here are some potential issues with that:

  • Following the required printer power down sequence demands additional user training or knowledge which is customarily unnecessary for laser printers. Have you hired a new employee lately or had a temp in the office who uses your printers? What if somebody forgets to tell them about the required PageWide power off sequence, or they forget to follow the procedure? Possibly time for a new printhead?
  • Users cannot strictly follow the proscribed power off instructions in situations out of their control, i.e.: office AC power failures due to weather, downed power lines, office building maintenance, plant vacation shutdowns, or even rolling blackouts. The loss of AC power is an even more likely occurrence in WFH installations of course.
  • What if a user sends a print job to an unattended PageWide before leaving the office for lunch, the day or the weekend? How long will it be before a paper jam is cleared?

When most U.S. offices simply shut down in early 2020, how many of them had PageWides installed? How many of them actually shut down the machine as recommended by HP? While HP says “[PageWides are] proven not to dry-out for up to 6 months of non-printing,” how many PageWides were powered down for a year or more before the office re-opened? How did those machines fare?

One dealer summed his PageWide experience thusly: “inkjets are happier printing than sitting. Our best performing, lowest maintenance Pagewides are the ones pushing 10K pages a month through them.”

PageWide vs. LaserJet – Conflict of Interest?

By 2017, PageWides had been shipping for several years and the channel had gained experience and perspective about its positioning and capabilities. Notably, in a 2017 UK-based article quoting the COO of an important print managed services provider that carried HP and PageWides, he candidly characterized its output quality: “PageWide is a cost-efficient, high performance technology. It is not necessarily the highest quality output device – it’s not aimed at the high-quality print market, but at organisations that need entry-level colour print quality at high speed. It is very cost-effective and that gives us the potential to reach new customers.” (Remember what we told you about color print quality…?) One element that differentiates color print performance between Color LaserJets and PageWides – lasers produce better quality color output on a wider range of paper types compared to inkjets, a shortcoming that PageWides have not yet overcome.

In 2020, HP issued a printer product line selection guide positioning its various families of printers, MFPs, and all-in-ones for different target users. OfficeJet Pro and PageWide are both listed as having professional document quality, while LaserJet is said to have professional plus premium document quality. The guide also addressed an important new print need, “How to select the right device for employees who work from home.” Notably, very few PageWide devices are listed among the suggestions.

In summary, like Edgeline before it, PageWide serves a narrower range of user document applications than a LaserJet/Color LaserJet. Why does this matter? Users want to be able to print whatever they want, whenever they want it – no limitations.

If you are an IT manager or CIO, the last thing you need are several groups of users in the company complaining about the color quality of the marketing, design, proofing, presentation, and promotional documents they are getting from a PageWide machine and pleading with you for a Color LaserJet.

Additionally, if you did buy some PageWides at some point, but had printhead issues with a few of them for the reasons/situations noted previously, how many more are you likely to buy? An observation from one user of several generations of PageWides: “When something goes wrong, HP will probably tell you to dig a hole in the back yard and throw it in and buy another one.”

We heard this summary comment about PageWides from a prominent dealer: “I don’t have anybody calling me on the phone to say, “This machine stinks,” but I don’t have anybody calling me up and saying, “This is the best thing since sliced bread, send me 20 more.” Another dealer remarked, “And I also have … people from … school systems and some others, bigger agencies that won’t put the inkjets on their networks, they want lasers because they just don’t trust ink, so [HP] got some pretty big mountains to overcome.” Another dealer principal explained, “From my own personal experience I’ve sold hundreds of them, and the cost is probably more efficient, but the quality of the color print is not as good compared to a laser.” It’s 1998 all over again, folks.

So where did PageWide really fit? We tackle that in “Alas Poor Office PageWide.”

serves as a senior analyst for BPO Media. With more than 40 years of experience in the printing industry as an analyst, product developer, strategist, marketer, and researcher, he has covered the printing and supplies sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research, InfoTrends, and BIS Strategic Decisions, and served with major OEMs such as Samsung, NEC, and Diablo Systems/Xerox. McIntyre is the former managing editor of Lyra’s Hard Copy Supplies Journal and has conducted research and consulting engagements examining issues such as market and business strategies, product positioning, distribution channels, supplies marketing, and the impact of emerging technologies.