August 27, 2004 4:56 PM PDT

HP brand to inject new life into ink

Hewlett-Packard's new "Vivera" brand name for ink products could make a good impression in customers' minds, according to analysts.

The company on Friday put the label on its latest set of inks for printing photos on its inkjet printers.

Promoting Vivera inks could help HP fend off competition from lower-end ink sellers, even as it battles against photo printer specialists Epson and Canon, which also have come with brand names for ink products, analysts said.

"It makes a lot of sense," said Stephen Baker, an analyst at research firm The NPD Group. But he added that it won't be easy to convince consumers that ink brands really make a difference. "It's a tough slog," he said.

The slog is an important one for HP. Hewlett-Packard's imaging and printing group contributes the lion's share of the company's overall profits. Printing accessories are, in a way, more important to the company than the printers they're used on. "That's where the profits come from, the inks and the paper," said Ed Lee, an analyst at research firm InfoTrends/Cap Ventures.

HP announced Vivera inks as part of a broader consumer electronics product push Friday. The inks were introduced along with upgraded cartridges and new inkjet printers, including printers designed specifically for printing photographs. The number of photo specialty printers shipped in the United States is expected to grow from about 6 million last year to roughly 7.5 million this year, according to InfoTrends.

"Vivera," HP said, is meant to suggest "life, true-to-life, acclaim and longevity."

Accordingly, the company said, the new ink is designed to produce very high-quality photos that resist fading "for generations." HP said prices for new cartridges with Vivera ink are expected to range from $34.99 for a 14-milliliter "HP 97 Tri-color" cartridge to $19.99 for an 11-milliliter "HP 94 Black" cartridge.

Cheaper ink can be found on the market. For example, office supply retailer Staples sells two cartridges with a total of 84 milliliters of black ink compatible with HP printers for $45.04--less than a third of the price per milliliter.

Baker said the Vivera brand effort is a way for HP to distinguish itself from off-brand ink supply products. In addition, Baker said, the Vivera name and the attention HP draws to its ink research and development work are moves to thwart Dell's assertion that the choice of ink "doesn't really matter."

At the other end of the spectrum, HP is fighting Epson and Canon, each of which sell branded ink products. Canon's "Think Tank System" enables individual replacement of different color ink tanks. Epson says its "Durabrite" inks are water- and smudge-resistant. Lee said Epson's Durabrite" campaign has made a dent. "Certainly from an awareness perspective, it's helped the Epson name," he said.

HP is aiming to do something similar with "Vivera," and Lee gives it credit for the effort. "From HP's perspective, I think it's a good move."

7 comments

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Change the name ain't gonna help
It doesn't matter if they call their company "Vivera" or "Viagra," I'm still not gonna let them rip me off.

Ever since I learned how to buy liters of ink through wholesalers I've never bought a single cartrige.

Think about it. US$40 for two liters that will last you a couple years of US$40 for a weeny little cartridge?
Posted by (2 comments )
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Ink that costs even more! Great Job!
HP introducing a brand name of inks to try to recapture more ink sells from other ink makers, but charging a lot more? What business model is this? They don't want consumers to shop for ink elsewhere, so come up with a clever brand name of ink and charge way more. It's like Wal-mart changing their tag line to, "High prices every day" so they can attract High end customers. I love HP printers, but I have an older 895Cse and 990Cse and don't plan to upgrade anytime soon, as the ink for these is fairly cheap and photo printing is above average. Longevity might not be as long, but I could print 4 or 5 photos for the price HP wants to charge for their new inks.

Good Luck on this one HP.
Posted by bapsplat (9 comments )
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Wow! Where can I buy them?
Who cares if you can obtain digital prints at a store for the same price (or lower) than that of any color ink-jet printer?

Or that those very same prints will last a lot longer than the ink printouts?

With a name like Vivera, I'm willing to shell out over $40 for EACH COLOR CARTRIDGE! Okay, so the ink cartridges don't last that long... and there is that problem that if you don't use it frequently enough, it will dry up and gum up the printer... and the fact that HP loads really useless, CPU/Resource hogging daemons on my PC just to make the damned thing work...

BUT with a name like VIVERA, I'm captivated by the promise of vibrant prints at highly inflated prices!

If people can buy Porches and Lexus' as status symbols, why can the same be said for printer cartridges?! Why can't people accept the fact that HP is providing a need for a market that needs to spend $$ on such luxuries?

P.S. Just in case somebody didn't get it, I am being sarcastic.
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
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Curious move, when Longs Drugs charges 29 cents per print
It seems rather silly for HP to focus on consumer-level photo printing, when drug store photo labs are charging 29 cents per print, with self-service.

Regarding "branded" ink, I think consumers should always have the right to refill ink cartridges and/or choose generic cartridges. However, refilling or going generic isn't for everyone. For example, I have tried three generic toner cartridges and had serious problems with each one. In each case, I grudgingly went back and paid extra for the HP cartridge, which worked fine. An institutional buyer can certify a generic product, and can afford to keep many units on hand, in case the odd one is defective. A home user who buys one cartridge a year can't afford to keep a spare on hand in case he ends up with a defective generic.

I hate to admit it, but there is a quality advantage when using HP ink and toner.
Posted by rpms (96 comments )
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use original cartridges and replacement ink
I've been using a 5-year old printer and a 1-year old HP cartridge that I refill almost every week with US$40 Inktech Ink. I've had absolutely NO problems with the ink, and it has saved me uncounted amounts of money. I did spend some money on an Inktech refill kit, but if you do some research on the web, you'll discover that all you need is a syringe and a wet sponge (to keep the air pressure even)--saving you even more money! If you want to save even more, many DIYers have been using certain fountain pen inks that are very inexpensive by the gallon, although the issue with these is that they made fade or smear more easily (not much of an issue for me since I don't intend to use my docs for arhival purposes).

DIY PC assembly, DIY ink refills: learn how to do it yourself and you'll see windfall savings. Nuff said.
Posted by (2 comments )
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hp has scam to get rich
lets face it most people don;t need ink of this quality an exp. HP just needs to boost its revenues
Posted by mpotter28 (130 comments )
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HP inject label printer
what is the price ??? I need one!!
Posted by donanyzas (1 comment )
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