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The Many Flavors of MFPs

6 Jun, 2007 By: Steve Geishirt imageSource

The Many Flavors of MFPs

Thankfully, 2007 is well under way with its first quarter in the books, and
the rush of tax season is over. Still, we need to continue to be aware of market
changes, including the latest HP technologies that can affect us all. Some of
these technologies are good for the customer, but from the onset, may not look
good for us as service providers with our current business structure. Some of
them require us to change. Yes, I did say change, one of the few constants in
the universe! With that, let’s look at some past and present market changes that
are or may be affecting us in 2007 and beyond.

A big burst of products was introduced by HP in 2006. Some of it was
expected, some of it was not. For instance, we saw only one new color laser
printer, the CP 4005 which starts at $1000. Not bad for a 25 ppm color and 30
ppm monochrome printer, rated for 80,000 pages per month. I think many of us
were expecting more color laser introductions. After all, color finally has
caught on and its time to "get down" with it.

Many other OEMs introduced color units on the copier stage and printer stage
as well. However, instead of more color from HP, we saw two new monochrome
printers introduced recently. The P2015 and P3005. Both are low price units but
at business class speeds. The duty cycle of the P3005 is pretty impressive for a
$550 unit rated for 100,000 prints per month. That’s a lot of prints for $550.
However, the big question has been, “when it does break, will the customer pay
to have it repaired or does it become a throw away unit?” This is an important
question for those of us who are service providers. From most of the techs I
talk to, these machines get the basic maintenance kit component type of fixes –
fuser, pickup roller, separation pad and transfer roller, but not much else.

Some might ask why HP would produce a high production, low-priced desktop
unit in the first place. Isn’t this hurting HP too? In the big scheme of things,
HP has to produce these units. Yes, has to because if they don’t, their
competition would, and does. And this all boils down to toner sales. And much
like a fortune cookie with a Confucius quote: he who has the most market share
gets to sell the most toner, so thus, makes more money.

On a more positive serviceable machines note, a number of new MFP
introductions hit the market. What amazes me is that only two of these are
color. With color getting hotter, and copier OEMs selling a lot of color
MFP/copier units, I expected to see multiple color MFP units from HP, but this
is not the case. Instead, we see multiple monochrome MFP units hit the market.
Recently, five new monochrome MFP units came out. The easy one is the 45 ppm LJ
M4345 MFP. This is essentially a LJ 4345 MFP with a different, and better,
display. The old display was sometimes slow and finicky, while the new display
is fast and sensitive – good upgrade.

The other four monochrome MFPs are really "kinda two." This corresponds with
how HP engineered the LJ 4250 & LJ 4350 printers to use the same print engine.
Both the LJ 4250 & LJ 4350 are 99 percent the same parts. The biggest difference
is the name plate that lists one as a LJ 4250 and the other as a LJ 4350 – yes,
including the DC controller and formatter; same part numbers. So what actually
does make them a bit different? The real difference is the firmware. One
firmware tells the unit it is a LJ 4250 and thus runs at 45 ppm, while the other
tells the unit it is a LJ 4350 and runs at 55 ppm. In other words, they designed
a print engine that runs at 55 ppm, but tell some units to run at 45 ppm. Before
you start thinking how to upgrade the firmware to make a LJ 4250 into a LJ 4350,
(I know some of you are already thinking this), HP has safeguarded the units so
it’s not possible to change them over. Firmware at HP’s website is the same one
for each. A new firmware download first checks to see what machine it is, so it
doesn’t change its identity, and thus its speed. So what does HP’s use of the
same print engine for both units mean to us? Fewer parts to stock on the shelf.

When I personally have one maintenance kit or group of parts that fixes two
individual printers, is that a cost savings to me? You bet it is, and it is to
HP too.

With that said, the two newer groups of monochrome MFP units are: LJ M3027MFP
& LJ M3035MFP and the LJ M5025MFP & LJ M5035MFP. The newer M30 models utilize
the same print engine with the LJ M3027MFP running at 27 ppm while the LJ
M3035MFP runs at 35 ppm. Both use the same fuser, same logic boards and so on,
just different firmware and different speeds. The M50 print engines (LJ M5025MFP
and LJ 5035MFP) run at 25 ppm and 35 ppm with the same parts interchange and
firmware scenario. The biggest difference between the M30 versions and M50
versions are paper handling capabilities. The LJ M3027MFP & M3035MFP will take a
max paper size of legal paper while the LJ M5025MFP & M5035MFP printers will
take ledger or 11x17 size paper.

The larger paper size in the M50 series shows HP is going directly up against
the copier OEMs who have argued that "HP MFPs aren’t for real" since they didn’t
provide a competitive wide format laser MFP. Now they do. Time will tell how
effective they are in the market, but HP essentially filled four market needs
with two print engines. That in itself, is pretty darn impressive.

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