By Stephanie Condon for ReutersHealth technology companies have been quietly ramping up their efforts to compete with the growing power of smartphones and tablets to power the printing of large volumes of documents.
But now they have a new target: printers with more powerful chips, which are cheaper to manufacture and can produce higher quality images, even for lower-resolution files.HP Inc’s printer drivers division has invested more than $10 million in the industry since it was founded in 2007, said a person familiar with the matter.
That is about twice as much as the company spent in the last 12 months.HP has spent about $400 million in research and development on its printer driver business so far, the person said.
The latest investments include $100 million for a new, larger printer, a $40 million expansion of the company’s printer-design studio and another $40,000 to upgrade existing production lines, the source said.HP also has made major investments in the printer-software business, expanding its product development and production capabilities and hiring a number of engineers from other parts of HP, the people said.
The HP printer driver team has been steadily expanding its capabilities, said the person familiar, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.HP is also working to build a product that it can sell directly to its customers and customers to sell to HP.
The printer driver technology, which HP has been developing since the late 1990s, uses a chip-chip-chip system to transfer images between two separate printers, the two running at the same time.
A chip can also be programmed to create and print an image on demand, rather than wait for the end of a printer’s print run.
The chip-software system, called HPP, was initially introduced with the printer driver line in 2003, but has been rolled out to other HP printers, including its HPE E5-Series printers.HPE E-Series, which is HPE’s highest-end line, has been the mainstay of printing for more than a decade.
But it was recently bought by Lenovo Group Holding Ltd for about $1.4 billion, making it one of the biggest buyers of HPE printers.
Lenovo, which was the first Chinese company to buy the HPE business, has also been trying to extend its footprint in the global printing market.
In the fourth quarter of 2015, Lenovo’s sales increased to nearly $30 billion, up from about $16 billion in the fourth-quarter of 2014.
The company’s profit jumped more than 20 percent to $8.6 billion, while its sales for the year rose to $32.9 billion.
Lenuans printers are among the best in the world, and are widely used in industrial manufacturing, as well as commercial applications, the company said in a statement.
“We see great potential in HPP and expect it to have a major impact in the printing industry in the coming years,” said James P. Miller, Lenovo Group’s chief executive officer, in a speech at a news conference on Friday.
“This new printer driver platform is one that will enable us to expand our business in all of these areas and we are delighted to have HPP as part of our family of printers.”
Lenovo said the printer drivers platform could eventually expand to include other products as well.
“There is a very strong potential for HPP to be a new platform that is very complementary to HPE and Lenovo,” said the statement.
HPE was acquired by Lenovo in 2011.HP’s shares were up nearly 3 percent on Thursday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.7 percent.