Agreement will "rapidly expand our presence in the durable outdoor signage market," says HP.
At the Print 05 show, HP announced that it had signed an OEM agreement with Seiko I Infotech to jointly develop and market solvent-based wide-format printers intended primarily for the outdoor-graphics printing market.
This announcement falls on the heels of HP's acquisition of Scitex Vision in August, and brings HP that much closer to its goal of being a true one-stop-provider to print shops -- particularly when you add to the equation HP's existing DesignJet printers as well as its Indigo line of digital presses acquired in 2001. To help further that goal, HP also has established a Graphics & Imaging Business Unit; this new unit comprises all of the large-format products, the Indigo line, and specialty printing systems.
Certainly, HP has always been a major player in the aqueous side of the market, and its acquisition of Indigo established itself on the digital press side of things. These most recent developments, however, have pushed HP into some rarefied space, and it's easy to see that the company is setting itself up to control a very large part of the inkjet pie -- a pie that Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the HP Printing and Imaging Group, says will be worth approximately $10 billion by 2008.
Seiko will develop new solvent-based printers exclusively for HP, while HP will market, sell, and distribute the printers, and handle supplies. The first products under this agreement are expected to become available in 2006.
"We were looking for a partner that could provide the levels of print quality, ease of use, and system performance that HP customers have come to expect," says Enrique Lores, vice president and general manager of HP's Large Format Printing and Imaging division. "Partnering with Seiko enables us to rapidly expand our presence in the durable outdoor signage market."
For its part, Seiko will not introduce new printers next year, but will continue to sell and market its current inventory -- hence, there likely will be some overlap of the new Seiko-produced HP printers and the former ColorPainter-badged printers. In addition, Seiko will continue to service its existing printers and customers.
"Seiko will become HP's manufacturing partner and the HP-Seiko partnership will result in a clearcut number-one player in the solvent market," says Patrick Ryan, Seiko's general manager. "They will benefit from our knowledge of the solvent marketplace, and our machines will benefit from their marketing and distribution capabilities."
"This arrangement," Ryan continues, "will allow Seiko to pursue other developments -- industrial printing, for example, as well as some other specialty niche markets." Seiko will continue to be active in the market for quite some time, he stresses, but it may be more "behind the scenes" than in recent years.