Benny Landa acknowledged that he might have been a little premature when he predicted, back in 1993, that in 10 years, all printing would be digital. But he's sticking by a prophecy he made more recently: two nights ago, to be precise, when he addressed a large group of print industry editors and analysts at the commencement of HP's pre-drupa 2008 event in Tel Aviv, Israel.
By the next drupa in 2012, declared Landa, "this company (HP) will be the largest graphic arts company in the industry." He has had good reason and plenty of quality time to track HP's business trajectory: he sold Indigo, the manufacturer of the world's first commercially successful digital press, to HP in 2001.
Of HP, Landa insisted, "You will say, 'nobody can catch them now.'"
It was a bold claim, even for an industry figure of Landa's visionary outspokenness. But it soon proved to be the keynote for all that would follow.
The next day, Landa's assertiveness was matched by that of Stephen Nigro, senior vice president of HP's Graphics and Imaging Business unit, who confirmed HP's intention to become number one in digital graphic arts by driving the migration of pages from analog to digital. Alon Bar-Shany, vice president and general manager of the Indigo division, forecasted a tenfold increase, to 100 billion pages, in the volume produced by HP Indigo customers between this year's drupa and the one that will take place in 2016.
And the industry-watchers at HP's pre-drupa event also learned that when they venture to Messe Düsseldorf in May, they'll be confronted by an HP presence as grand as its vision of the leadership position it wants to occupy: the third-largest stand at the fair, and the largest digital exhibit of all.
It all could be dismissed as corporate hubris were it not for the fact that HP is backing its self-confident stance with a string of pre-show product announcements as significant as anything that is likely to be heard at drupa or anywhere else for many months to come.
In Israel, home to the manufacturing centers of its Indigo and Scitex wide-format divisions, HP unveiled major new products and technical advancements that seem certain to strengthen its hold on all of the digital output segments it serves. The announcements are all the more striking for having occurred in market areas that, until very recently, were not viewed as targets of opportunity by HP. As Nigro put it, "Two years ago, HP in the graphic arts did not exist."
But HP has come a very long way as a force to be reckoned with since then, partly through acquisitions (MacDermid ColorSpan and NUR, along with Scitex), partly through heavy investment in R&D, and partly through a relentless strategic focus on what it calls Print 2.0: an all-encompassing marketing campaign aimed at inspiring the creation of Web-enabled content for output on next-generation HP print platforms. The distance traveled was evident in the potentially long reach of the new solutions announced in Israel.
• Commercial printers—along with the manufacturers of the offset lithographic equipment they use—are sure to take notice of HP's Inkjet Web Press: a high-volume platform said to be capable of printing rolls up to 30" wide at production printing speeds up to 400 feet/122 meters per minute for up to 2,600 letter-size 4/0 pages per minute. The press, which will have a base price of $2.5 million when it ships in the second half of 2009, was built to take on work that used to be the sole preserve of offset: newspapers, books, and direct-marketing materials. It will also be aimed at producers of transpromotional documents.
• Landa's creation, the Indigo family of variable-data digital color presses, gets three new additions: the 120 A4 ppm HP Indigo 7000; the HP Indigo W7200, for 13.4" wide roll-fed output up to 240 A4 ppm; and the HP Indigo WS6000, with numerous features for label and packaging printers. An existing model, the HP Indigo 5500, gets new substrate, feeder, and inline UV coating options.
• A new line of water-based latex inks for signage and other wide-format applications will deliver, says HP, years of indoor and outdoor durability without solvents, allergens, VOCs, ozone, or unpleasant odors. The inks will be optimally used on wide-format devices incorporating the new HP Wide Scan Printing Technology.
• SmartStream, the first branded workflow from HP, is a collection of graphic arts workflow solutions for production and design. The product's open-architecture design includes components from nearly 30 vendor partners.
HP also reported taking steps toward reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability in connection with each of these announcements. More new information about HP's entire product portfolio will be forthcoming at drupa.
Welcoming the journalists and analysts, Landa remarked that Indigo's original intention simply had been to manufacture the world's fastest copier. History records where the momentum of that objective took the concept of digital color presses. HP caught some of that momentum, stirred in a great deal more of its own, and now is moving toward its goal of digital dominance even faster than its fastest presses can print. All eyes—and more than a few bets—will be on HP as it races the competition toward that ever-moving finish line.