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HP allows third-party ink on some printers

Some consumers recently woke to find a firmware update on some HP inkjets had blocked the use of third-party ink cartridges.

HP said it was its right to protect its IP and print quality (iTWire article here) but it seems to have softened its stance.

In its blog titled “Dedicated to the best printing experience”, HP admitted there was confusion over the firmware update’s purpose and said it was working on an update for some printers remove the dynamic security feature. “We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here.”

It states, “As is standard in the printing business, we have a process for authenticating supplies. The most recent firmware update included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned. We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologise.”

The affected printers are not in the consumer space, rather the small business OfficeJet, SME OfficeJet Pro, and Enterprise Office Jet Pro X (page wide).

HP has a conundrum. Some of these printers require intelligence from the cartridge and the printer to interact – particularly in its page wide printers. A fledgling third-party refill business has emerged in this segment using recycled cartridges, and apart from any questions on the ink/pigment pedigree (water and light fastness) or the print head wearing out, the refilled cartridges should work. That is because the original cartridge has a chip in it.

At the lower end, however, there is a thriving third party clone cartridge business that do not have the chip or use a cloned chip, and that is where HP will likely allow more flexibility.

Comment

Yes, in many cases printers exist to sell horribly expensive ink – and to a large degree that remains the province of cheap consumer printers and most of the legacy lasers and inkjets. It was normal for a colour page to cost somewhere north of 50 cents – not to mention those evil tri-colour cartridge printers that could cost up to a dollar a page.

But over the past few years, we have seen Epson, Canon, HP, Brother and others changing this focus, especially in the SME and enterprise space, so that cost per page is vastly lower. The HP Page wide printers are a brilliant example where black costs about 2 cents a page and colour less than eight cents (using high capacity cartridges).

As HP pushes the printing technology envelope, expect to see more printers that only work with genuine cartridges – especially in the laser area where heating and pressures depend on “top secret” toner formulas and distribution mechanisms that cannot easily be duplicated by third parties.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!