Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Although Hewlett-Packard remained the market leader for printers, its largest competitors—Canon, Xerox, and Lexmark—were making strenuous efforts to narrow the gap. Also, as high technology moved into people’s living rooms, the company saw that other makers of computers and electronic goods—such as Microsoft and Apple, among others—had been able to position themselves as interesting and cutting edge while Hewlett-Packard was viewed by consumers as reliable but stodgy. Canon, the giant Japanese maker of business machines, cameras, and other optical products, presented a formidable challenge to Hewlett-Packard with its line of laser and BubbleJet printers. Marketing its products under the tag line ‘‘You can with a Canon,’’ the company experienced strong growth in its printers during 1997. Canon targeted businesses with such products as the Digital GP215, a multifunctional digital device for networked workgroups that printed, faxed, copied, and scanned. The company also introduced the MultiPASS L90, another multifunctional system, and a new color laser printer, the CLBP 360PS. The BubbleJet continued to defend its market share with a very small and light personal model, the BJC-50, weighing only 900 grams. Xerox Corporation, which introduced the first (manually operated) commercial xerographic product in 1949 and the first automatic office copier in 1959, made its first laser printer in 1977 and by 1991 was developing an extensive printer line. To highlight the company’s evolution from copy machines to a wide range of business products, Xerox in 1994 adopted the tag line ‘‘The Document Company, Xerox’’ as its new corporate signature. As a document company, Xerox in 1997 introduced an array of specialized printer products for business, including a color printer for signs, banners, and billboards; a printer designed specifically for engineering needs; and the Xerox Productivity Centre System, which allowed users to scan, store, manage, electronically collate, distribute, print, and copy wide-format documents such as those used by architects, mapmakers, and graphic artists. Lexmark brought up the rear in this august assemblage, but it was able to chip away at the other companies’ lead during 1997. Lexmark, based in Lexington, Kentucky, was smaller than its competitors and had a narrower product range. It concentrated on laser, ink jet, and dot matrix printers and associated supplies that were comparable but lower-priced than Hewlett-Packard models. In November 1997 Lexmark won the first Annual Peripherals Excellence Award for network laser printers, beating out Hewlett-Packard and Apple.
Although Hewlett-Packard held its position as the world’s leading supplier of hard-copy products (LaserJet and DeskJet printers, DesignJet large-format printers and plotters, ScanJet scanners, OfficeJet printer-fax-copiers, CopyJet color printer-copiers, and HP FAX facsimile machines), the company became concerned in 1996 that it projected an image too cold and technological for the home-electronics user to relate to. Since HP had a growing customer base of individual consumers, it decided to focus on making its technology seem more accessible.
The resulting television and print advertising in the ‘‘Built by Engineers, Used by Ordinary People’’ campaign targeted two audiences: families with children and business professionals, particularly corporate executives, management information system (MIS) experts, and end users. Creative elements were designed to appeal to low-end users while at the same time showing off the products’ high-tech features to viewers well versed in information technology.
Like many pioneering companies of the 20th century, Hewlett-Packard was born in a garage. It was founded by engineers David Packard and Bill Hewlett in 1938. At the time the mission was to develop and market a resistance-capacity audio oscillator that could be used to test sound equipment. Hewlett and Packard’s $538 in founding capital carried them through until the Walt Disney studios ordered eight of their devices. Then in 1941 the United States entered the Second World War, and an immediate overwhelming need for HP’s instruments was created. After the war ended, the company lost its mainstay government orders and decided to seek clients in the private sector. Hewlett-Packard introduced its measuring devices into the flourishing post-war electronics industry. In 1972 the company pioneered personal computing with the world’s first handheld scientific calculator, and it then went on to introduce the first desktop mainframe (in 1982) and the LaserJet printer (the first and most prominent of a line of printers for business and home), as well as copiers and scanners.