The Clickinks Blog | printandprosper

Inkjet Wars: Kodak vs HP

Kodak entered the printer market in '07 with a revolutionary business plan: charge slightly more for inkjet printers than other manufacturers, but charge half the price for ink cartridges.

They released the EasyShare 5300: an inkjet with cartridges 50% cheaper than HP’s equivalent model, the PhotoSmart C5180. They launched a full ad campaign, warning consumers that ink cartridges sold by other manufacturers cost more than crude oil.

Moreover, Kodak employed a new pigment-based dying process in their printers, which certified their images for 120 years. This contrasted favorably with the single year guaranteed by Hewlett Packard. Finally, Kodak promised they’d save consumers $110 annually.

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In 2007 Kodak sold 520,000 printers. Impressive? Not really, when you consider that 61 million inkjet multifunction printers were sold that year.

Yet the Kodak entry caused red alert at Hewlett Packard headquarters - both because Kodak aimed a stake at the heart of HP’s business model, and because Kodak targeted the most profitable consumers.

After all, Kodak’s promises of incredible savings wouldn’t mean anything to consumers for whom printers are dusty plastic boxes. It’s the printing maniacs – that 20% of inkjet consumers who purchase 80% of cartridges – with whom Kodak’s new strategy might resonate.

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Since then, the two brands have been firing back and forth at each other. Kodak designed the (possibly Star Trek influenced) printandprosper.com to accompany their EasyShare launch.

This website details the savings available with Kodak, and explains why other printer brands are soulless profit mongers. Hewlett Packard receives the worst beating from this campaign - arguably because the 63 cartridges types available from HP contrast with the 3 from Kodak.

In reply, Hewlett Packard launched The Truth About Printing – a site targeted like a cruise missile at Kodak.

It illustrates an infinite queue of frowning Kodak consumers desperate to return their EasyShares, and promises $50 toward an HP printer. That’s the printing equivalent of removing your gloves.

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More recently, this tussle has moved off the net and into the courts. Last year HP filed a complaint with the lengthily titled National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (his friends call him NAD) that Kodak’s claim to save consumers $110 annually was inaccurate.

Kodak failed even to send a representative to the complaints proceeding. Instead, they released a short press statement saying their advertising claims had already been substantiated.

NAD responded by bundling the case off to the Federal Trade Commission.

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Last December, the FTC decided that Kodak could claim their $110 savings – but on a minimum of four pages printed daily.

This tweaked text recognizes that consumers must guzzle an ink minimum before Kodak’s claims become viable. Kodak has asserted this alteration to their advertising vindicates them.

On the other hand, Hewlett Packard continues firing back. They most recently quoted a Lyra Research report that 50% of consumers never reach Kodak’s savings threshold.

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Who then does provide the cheapest printing? And do Kodak’s (seemingly) lower priced cartridges compromise quality? Comparisons of Kodak and Hewlett Packard’s printers are available through Google, though they report different things.

Broadly speaking – Kodak’s EasyShares give equal quality to HP’s PhotoSmart series, so long as Kodak photo paper is employed. This however cuts the potential savings of Kodak’s ink cartridges. By comparison, the PhotoSmarts offer a more vibrant printout – but degrade quickly.

Therefore neither brand is the undisputed champion of printing – putting to one side the minefield of ink cartridge pricing. The division between Kodak and Hewlett Packard will continue - while the consumer watches on, uncertain.