Hewlett-Packard has earmarked $85 million ($US60 million) for promotional programs extolling colour printing, and the Australian channel is likely to be a significant beneficiary of the spending spree.
Michael Hoffman, senior vice president for HP's regional imaging and printing group, said that the funds would be spent across the Asia-Pacific area in three core areas: reinforcing and extending existing channel programs, hiring new internal staff to assist with market building, and expanding the company's online presence.
The last activity is likely to cause some friction with existing channel partners concerned that HP might reclaim business at their expense. However, Hoffman argues that HP's existing high level of market saturation means building its online brand is essential to demand generation.
"A lot of customers want to see the web presence of the vendor being beefed up" but that doesn't mean they will change their buying patterns, he said. Hoffman wouldn't disclose exact funding allocations, but local providers are likely to benefit.
Australia is one of HP's top three printer sales regions in the Asia-Pacific, ranking just behind China and Korea. Despite the spending blitz, convincing businesses to invest in colour -- traditionally regarded as costlier and slower than monochrome printing -- will be a difficult task, Hoffman conceded at a press launch in Singapore.
"It will take quite a bit of work," he said. "It is not a natural sale in many instances."
While colour is expected to be a major driver for growth in the printer business, volumes remain fairly low. According to Gartner, just under 30,000 dedicated colour lasers will ship in Australia in 2004, along with 7000-odd colour copiers.
Angus Kidman travelled to Singapore as a guest of HP.