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An Interview with Thom Brown, HP

We have made note of HP’s Instant Ink program in several of our posts now as it is an intriguing proposition for the printing industry. Users choose a plan based on their perceived printing needs and send output without worrying about when a cartridge will run out. New ink is queued automatically in communications between the printer and HP and customers do not have to run to the store to buy ink. To gain some further insight into the program, we were connected with HP’s own certified Inkologist, Thom Brown, who we have had the pleasure of speaking to several times before. The interview was conducted via email and our questions with Thom’s answers appear below:

1) Instant Ink seems like a very solid value proposition with the ability to have ink sent before one runs out. Can you explain at what point the cartridge notifies HP (e.g., when 25 pages are left, 10% of ink remains, etc.)?
The objective is to make sure the customer never runs out of ink while also making sure a replacement supply isn't sitting in the customer's cabinet for too long. There are seven algorithms working in tandem to determine when to trigger an order for new supplies. I will not reveal all seven as some are proprietary, but you can imagine some of the basics include: a certain low ink threshold, certain time period, a built in large job buffer, etc.

2) With the success it seems that HP has had thus far with the program, has there been any talk of extending this type of program for toner cartridges and laser printers?
HP can't reveal any forward looking plans. But it is analyzing the market and determining the best strategy and best customer experience.

3) Have there also been considerations of taking it beyond the 300 page level, or would that require re-engineering of the cartridge size, as they are already larger than HP XL cartridges.
Same answer as above.

4) On a related note, are the cartridges engineered to go with a specific plan size? That is, is the 50-page cartridge different than the 300-page one?
HP Instant Ink supplies are the same page volume regardless of plan. Note the Instant Ink supplies are much larger and hold more pages than the XL supplies. The 300-page plan user would receive new supplies more often than the 50-page plan user. It is important to understand that Instant Ink users do not receive a new supply every month. They receive a new supply when needed because it is based on ink level and usage. This is the best way to approach this process since every document requires a different amount of ink on a page.

5) There are several different series' of models included in the Instant Ink-eligible family. Can you say whether or not (as it was with HP ePrint), that the company will plan to offer Instant Ink with the majority of new HP units going forward?
There are now 17 printer models capable of HP Instant Ink. Any HP web-enabled (if it has ePrint) printer, even if it is one or two years old, is capable of running Instant Ink. There are many people right now who already own a printer that can be part of this great money saving and convenient service.

New Instant Ink-ready models were launched this past fall and Instant Ink has now expanded into Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. With the success that HP has witnessed in the US market, it is confident Instant Ink will succeed in other markets as well.

6) Besides saving customers money on their printer supplies, what else would you say are the main advantages to opting for the Instant Ink program?
Low cost per page is the main benefit. There is also convenience of ink showing up automatically at your door. Customers don't need to remember or even think about which supply number they are currently at. Customers are never married to the program or even the printer; they can get in and out or jump around page plans without penalty.

If a customer wants to change or refresh their printers, they are never stuck in an HP Instant Ink plan or committed or invested in anything. Lastly, Instant Ink gives customers freedom to print whatever they want. Customers no longer have to worry about how much ink is being used for a photo or graphic. A page is a page and it's always the same price making it very easy to budget with a flat cost. The printer is not unique to Instant Ink only hardware; it can be either.

7) If a user starts out on the 300-page plan and then realizes that they are not printing nearly that much, will the integrity of the cartridge(s) be compromised if they are left in the printer too long?
The HP Instant Ink supply is the same size for a 50- or 300-page plan. Original HP inks are also designed and proven not to dry out while sitting idle even up to three months in the home and up to six months in the office. Please feel free to reference:

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile