HP Printer Chief: We Could Ink Jet Anything

Hewlett-Packard's Vyomesh Joshi sits down with PC Magazine's Jim Louderback and discusses the future of printing. DNA sequencing? Videoconferencing? 3-D printing? Joshi discusses each one.

Printing and imaging drive the lions share of revenue and profit at Hewlett-Packard, and the technology has kept HP in the forefront of computing. Vyomesh Joshi has been running the printer business at HP for the last 22 years.

This interview is a composite, culled from both a conversation between Mark Anderson and Vyomesh Joshi, and from the subsequent round-table discussion between a handful of attendees immediately afterwards, at the Future in Review 2007 conference. Read the full report from the FiRE conference here.

PC Magazine: How has your business changed?

Joshi: Over the last 22 years we built a printer business, now we need to shift to a printing business. Just like phones, they started in the kitchen, but today you dont make money on phones.

We are focusing on pages. From a page point of view, 48 trillion are printed a year. Now we measure our market share in pages, and we are less than 2 percent. When you start thinking about pages, we have a tremendous opportunity.

A lot of the focus has been how you convert atoms into bits and virtualization. No one is talking about how you convert bits into atoms. Bits into paper. Its not just from printer to printing, but how to convert bits into atoms, print into paper, print into DVD. Our core competency could make it a very big business opportunity. Not in the creation or the distribution business, but in the content consumption model.

What about the user-generated revolution in content?

Joshi: Theres an empowerment to the consumer to create the content. In broadcast, the editor of the newspaper was deciding what mass consumption should be. Now the consumption drives the creativity. They can share, add, mash it up, and then share that content in various forms. Every camera sold today is digital. People are taking lots of pictures. We are finding that they are repurposing, sharing, adding, and then presenting it in a book form. We are seeing printed books, photo finishing, home printing growing exponentially. Creating a lot of content, video, books, news, combining user created content with professional content, mash it up print on DVD, on paper. In our view it is really popular.

So theres less paper printed, more looking online?

Joshi: In 1984 we were promised the paperless office. And in 2006 we are using 10 times more paper. The information explosion is big, but more viewing leads to more printing. We think 54 trillion pages a year will be printed soon.

There is a limit to where you can take the hardware, the important part is to figure out what customers are doing. What we are doing is building a very simple UI. To design something simple is very hard. Pages will move on the Web, content creation is digital, consumption is where analog is. The user interface is all software. Look at Snapfish [owned by HP]; it is the best user interface for photos.

What about video?

Joshi: I think the whole concept of instant gratification and short films is to tell a story. Go back to anthropology. Why do we take pictures? The real core reason? It is to tell a story. Now with digital, the kids are telling the story; they tell it to communicate to friends.

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