HP is not worried about the rise of digital reducing the amount of paper printing, according to company officials at the HP World Tour in Beijing.
“Printing keeps increasing, actually,” said Anneliese Olson, HP vice president computing solutions. “We’ve been talking about [the paperless office] for 15 years.”
In some areas where digital may appear to replace printing, printing has in fact just moved to a different part of the chain, Olson said. She pointed to airline boarding passes are one example.
“We can check in online with our airlines ... but those boarding passes are still are getting printed somewhere in the process,” she said. “There’s some digital reporting and ways that you can scan now on your phone, but there are still reports generated after the fact that people are still using as part of that.”
“Printing is not going away,” agreed Avi Greenfield, HP Exstream portfolio innovation manager. “We definitely do see overall print volumes declining, but on a much more gradual basis than you might think.”
Rejecting paper due to green and environmental concerns was “much hotter like four or five years ago,” he said. Many companies tried incentives to promote paperless billing, but adoption rates remain low, he said.
Greenfield said he doubts that Australia Post’s Digital Mailbox will catch on with consumers. Australia Post has been hoping the digital service can make up for falling volumes of traditional mail.
“The adoption has been so low,” and it does not seem likely to greatly increase, he said. Canada has had a digital mailbox for ten years and it’s never caught on, he said.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to have a better experience online before you get people to really move away from paper ... Paper is kind of a security blanket for people. There’s a lot of people who still use it as a payment reminder. [Or] they want to have it as a record of what they’re doing.”
“And let’s face it, the smartphones and even tablets [are] pretty poor PDF readers. And until that online experience is more than just a PDF version of the print, I think there’s little incentives for consumers to switch.”
HP will thrive even if digital does greatly reduce printing, Greenfield said. Exstream manages the content, formatting and delivery of communications, “regardless of the channel,” he said. “So we’re actually happy as the digital channels come up in relevance and volumes.”
“I think we’re well prepared as the mix changes.”
Adam Bender travelled to Beijing as a guest of HP. Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam