HP's CEO spells it out: You're a 'bad investment' if you don't buy HP supplies

Malware threat from third-party cartridges nothing compared to threat to HP's bottom line

HP CEO Enrique Lores admitted this week that the company's long-term objective is "to make printing a subscription" when he was questioned about the company's approach to third-party replacement ink suppliers.

The PC and print biz is currently facing a class-action lawsuit (from 2.42 in the video below) regarding allegations that the company deliberately prevented its hardware from accepting non-HP branded replacement cartridges via a firmware update.

When asked about the case in a CNBC interview, Lores said: "I think for us it is important for us to protect our IP. There is a lot of IP that we've built in the inks of the printers, in the printers themselves. And what we are doing is when we identify cartridges that are violating our IP, we stop the printers from work[ing]."

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Later in the interview, he added: "Every time a customer buys a printer, it's an investment for us. We are investing in that customer, and if that customer doesn't print enough or doesn't use our supplies, it's a bad investment."

Readers with long memories might remember HP's strategy switch to hike hardware prices upfront for models that don't come loaded with HP ink, although HP would still prefer customers buy its supplies.

Lores said of customers who use a third-party cartridge: "In many cases, it can create all sorts of issues from the printer stopping working because the ink has not been designed to be used in our printer, to even creat[ing] security issues.

"We have seen that you can embed viruses into cartridges, through the cartridge go to the printer, from the printer go to the network, so it can create many more problems for customers."

HP has long banged the drum [PDF] about the potential for malware to be introduced via print cartridges, and in 2022, its bug bounty program confirmed that third-party cartridges with reprogrammable chips could deliver malware into printers.

Kind old HP is, therefore, only concerned about the welfare of customers.

Sadly, Lores's protestations were somewhat undermined by the admission that the company's business model depends – at least in part – on customers selecting HP supplies for their devices.

"Our objective is to make printing as easy as possible, and our long-term objective is to make printing a subscription."

This echoes comments by former CFO Marie Myers, who said in December:

"We absolutely see when you move a customer from that pure transactional model ... whether it's Instant Ink, plus adding on that paper, we sort of see a 20 percent uplift on the value of that customer because you're locking that person, committing to a longer-term relationship." ®

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