Do HP’s New Apps and Services Equal Dealer Channel Solutions?

On October 28, HP announced new A3 laser products, a new cloud-based portfolio of apps and services, and security enhancements. Since acquiring Samsung’s MFP business HP has been developing a presence in the independent dealer channel for the sales and service of A3 laser MFPs, and during HP’s reorganization briefings, expanding contractual services like managed print services and device-as-a-service were key objectives for the future. The independent dealer legacy business model is built around contractual sales and these new announcements should help solidify whether HP has figured out how to appeal to this important reseller channel.

The announcements

HP announced the following products and services:

  • HP Workpath – described by HP as a portfolio of solutions and services delivered to devices through an app-based interface.
  • HP Command Center –the platform using HP Cloud that enables dealers to deliver Workpath services.
  • Security enhancements –help secure Workpath service, HP devices and help dealer partners deliver new security services to customers.
  • New A3 devices –two new A3 Color Laserjet single-function printers and a new A3 Color Laserjet MFP.

HP Workpath and HP Command Center

These two new services work together. Workpath enables HP apps and third-party apps to be used on HP devices. Paul Birkett, director of Worldwide Workflow Solutions at HP, described Workpath services as integrating “ … a digital system and process with the people in your organization using HP technology.” Workpath is the new app platform replacing JetAdvantage.

Workpath services will be available on the user interface of the HP device. Pre-configured apps are available, but HP stressed that Workpath services are customizable for specific workflows such as vertical market applications or traditional processes like printing and capture. HP notes the Workpath apps can also connect other processes including robotics offerings. Birkett said Workpath services extend app use “way beyond what you would expect to see on a normal printing device.” HP has over 700 SDK downloads and 300 individual developers working on the Workpath platform already, with 60 approved apps ready at the time of the announcement.

Workpath-enabled HP devices are connected to the HP Cloud, enabling dealers and resellers to use the Command Center to:

  • Onboard Workpath services.
  • Sell and invoice subscriptions (including the dealer’s own unique Workpath services).
  • Manage Workpath apps and services.
  • Remotely support Workpath apps and services.

The Command Center lets resellers install and manage Workpath services across a customer’s enterprise. Additionally, logs and analytical data can be captured and escalated to HP’s Support Portal where a dedicated team will provide a four-hour response to problems. The support portal will be live for HP Solutions beginning October 22, 2019, and for third-party solutions in 2020.

Workpath services and apps are standard on new devices and will run on HP devices that supported JetAdvantage and use an eight-inch screen. HP has said they are evaluating introducing Workpath support on devices using 4.3-inch screens in the first half of 2020.

Workpath apps are built on an Android-like base; while the Workpath platform is not officially Android it can run applications developed in Android’s Studio. This means that if a customer already has workflows built for mobile devices, the process to bring them into the office workspace using Workpath could be fast and easy.

Our take

The hardware announcements expand HP’s A3 lineup and make it that much more attractive to dealers, while the security enhancements are on track with HP’s claim of being the “most secure printer.” It seems HP now understands that independent dealers look for ways to add value outside the box itself: The SCEP now in Security Manager v3.4 and the Common Criteria Certification for Run-Time Intrusion are concrete values that dealers can use to sell, and the Essential Security Policy capability through HP’s SDS service offers an opportunity for dealers to expand their security services and sales of Security Manager into their customer base. However, the most impressive part of this announcement is HP’s Workpath and Command Center.

A lot of thought appears to have gone into Workpath and Command Center, making this more than just another “printer/MFP app” announcement. HP is very clear that Workpath and Command Center are not just apps or an app store, and made the right decision to have resellers provide the Workpath services. The customization services already in place along with Command Center’s capability for dealers to control onboarding, do billing and invoicing, remotely manage Workpath apps and services, and connect to HP for fast support, work very well into a unique value-based contractual managed services model. All of this makes Workpath a services and solution ecosystem well designed around the dealer and reseller channel and different from other competitor’s offerings.

Definitely born out of the Samsung acquisition, the Android-like apps could open a wide competitive gap between HP and others. Along with the third-party developers already working on Workpath, there are a lot of Android developers out there that could provide never-before-seen solutions. HP has a large market share and a large installed base, so it may be worthwhile for third-party developers to create new apps. It’s important to not think Workpath is just about print device apps and services.

Workpath drives a wider competitive gap between HP and traditional MFP manufacturers. HP resellers could take Workpath services across all devices in the office — printers, MFPs, 3D printers, laptops, desktops, workstations, scanners and more. Considering the Android-like development base, this type of holistic workflow ecosystem doesn’t need to be confined to print or to HP — think Android mobile devices. Using Workpath, an entire customized workflow solution with a familiar user interface for all users of an enterprise could be created. This creates what HP calls “information liquidity” by enabling any user to handle information workflow regardless of where the action of the workflow needs to occur. Workpath appears to be a way to add value above and beyond printer devices themselves.

As examples, HP references two dealers that were part of the pre-announcement trials of Workpath, both of whom created their own portfolio of Workpath apps. A U.S. dealer who sells digital displays and printers used a Workpath service to integrate MFPs and digital displays. A European reseller integrated Workpath services into their support infrastructure of PCs and printers, letting customers get dynamic support at the user interface.

Can HP define new ways of handling information workflows using Workpath? Has HP figured out how to deliver more value to the independent dealer channel to help dealers move into the next value-add sphere of the future? If all of HP gathers around Workpath the probability is high that they have on both counts. Continued HP commitment to the contractual dealer channel and HP innovation could deliver the workplace of the future to what HP calls The Office of the Now.

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Tom O'Neill
Thomas O’Neill, an analyst for BPO Media, is a 35+ year marketing and product strategy professional in the enterprise imaging and print industry. Beginning with positions in sales and training management, for the past 24 years he’s held director and manager positions at Canon, Océ, Lexmark and Minolta. He has extensive experience in hardware and software product marketing, strategic product planning and sourcing, solution sales, marketing content creation and strategies, branding strategy and vertical marketing strategies. Contact him at tom@bpomedia.com.
Tom O'Neill

Tom O'Neill

Thomas O’Neill, an analyst for BPO Media, is a 35+ year marketing and product strategy professional in the enterprise imaging and print industry. Beginning with positions in sales and training management, for the past 24 years he’s held director and manager positions at Canon, Océ, Lexmark and Minolta. He has extensive experience in hardware and software product marketing, strategic product planning and sourcing, solution sales, marketing content creation and strategies, branding strategy and vertical marketing strategies. Contact him at tom@bpomedia.com.