Henk Gianotten’s response to our initial post about the HP pre-drupa press briefing in Israel earlier this week prompts some additional comments. Throughout the program, HP had relatively little to say about end-use applications. The emphasis mostly was on the technical aspects of the new equipment, with almost none of the marketing razzle-dazzle that has accompanied HP’s “Print 2.0” presentations elsewhere. The heavy-duty marketing pitch probably was being reserved for the large group of customers who were flying into Tel Aviv just as the journalists and analysts were departing. I think that the main purpose of the editorial briefings was to reassert the technical leadership of Scitex and Indigo in their respective fields, and I, for one, was duly impressed by the many advancements that both divisions have made since they jointly hosted a similar media event as independent companies prior to drupa 2000.
We’ll all have to wait until May to see the new 30" inkjet press at drupa 2008, but at the Indigo plant in Rehovot, the editors and analysts were shown a series of imposition diagrams illustrating product layouts for which the press is said to be suitable. One depicted a four-across arrangement of 7" x 14" transpromotional document pages. Others presented book, magazine, and newspaper pages arrayed in actual six- and eight-up signatures—prodigies of pagination in the digital world. The implication was that HP wants to position the press squarely within the comfort zones of commercial and publication printers, offering it as a digital platform that can handle the kinds of offset job setups that they’re used to and are deriving the bulk of their revenues from.
It's true that when HP’s inkjet press begins to ship in the second half of next year, waiting for it will be a new generation of fast, smart, and highly automated offset presses that will not give up quick-turn, short-run work to digital alternatives without a bruising fight. They still will lack the ability to print variably, but as an HP representative noted during the briefing, the practice of using preprinted offset shells for transpromo documents and other variable-content work isn’t going to be abandoned anytime soon. I agree, too, that HP will need all of the marketing muscle at its disposal to get the message through to printers—but I have also seen that when HP throws its weight behind a product pitch, the pitchees tend to pay attention.