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Author Topic: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.  (Read 2552 times)

IainB

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Related discussion: What's your experience with 3rd party color inkjet ink replacement?

There are lots of reports about this, for example the excellent one from techdirt:
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
Quote
HP Launched Delayed DRM Time Bomb To Disable Competing Printer Cartridges
from the innovation! dept

For decades now, consumers have been lured into a sour deal: pay for a relatively inexpensive printer, then spend a lifetime paying an arm and a leg for viciously overpriced printer cartridges. As most have learned first-hand, any attempt to disrupt this obnoxious paradigm via third-party printer cartridges has been met with a swift DRM roundhouse kick to the solar plexus. In fact if there's an area where the printer industry actually innovates, it's most frequently in finding new, creative and obnoxious methods of preventing cartridge competition.

Hoping to bring this parade of awfulness to its customers at scale, HP this week unearthed the atomic bomb of printer cartridge shenanigans. HP Printer owners collectively discovered on September 13 that their printers would no longer even accept budget cartridges. Why? A firmware update pushed by the company effectively prevented HP printers from even detecting alternative cartridges, resulting in HP printer owners getting messages about a "cartridge problem," or errors stating "one or more cartridges are missing or damaged," or that the user was using an "older generation cartridge."

As Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing notes, this behavior is simply par for the course, with Lexmark engaging in similar behavior back in 2003. By embedding an "I am empty" bit in their cartridges, they were similarly able to ensure that users couldn't use third-party cartridges or they'd be told the cartridge lacked ink. Lexmark leaned heavily on Section 1201 of the DMCA to support its behavior, a tactic HP is likely to mirror but evolve:
"Lexmark invoked Section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a criminal and civil offense to bypass an "effective means of access control" for a copyrighted work. The DC Circuit court asked Lexmark which copyrighted work was being protected by its access control, and it argued that the checking routine itself was copyrighted, as well as the "Empty" bit. The court found that the DMCA could only be invoked where there was a copyrighted work apart from the access control, and that a single bit didn't qualify as a copyrightable work. Lexmark lost."
In this case, HP's DRM time bomb firmware update was apparently deployed back in March, but HP didn't activate the "improvement" until this month. And as is usually the case in this space, HP isn't saying much outside of a misleading quote proclaiming the company was simply protecting its "innovations" and intellectual property:
"HP said such updates were rolled out "periodically" but did not comment on the timing of the last instalment.

"The purpose of this update is to protect HP's innovations and intellectual property," it said in a statement."
But rejoice! HP claims that users can still refill cartridges, as long as those cartridges contain an HP-approved security chip:
"These printers will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an original HP security chip. Other cartridges may not function."
Well, at least until HP figures out a way to DRM the printer fluid itself, which surely can't be too far along on the horizon.

The above report was amusingly referred to in Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt:
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
Quote
Next, we've got a small but important anonymous observation about HP disabling third-party ink cartridges with a firmware update:
There is a serious and long-term unintended consequence that MS, HP, et al are not considering here: they are teaching users that *installing security updates is bad.*

Which was coincidentally almost exactly my thought when I first read of this disgraceful example of what rather seems to be - whichever way one looks at it - underhand, sneaky, unprofessional, greedy and user-hostile sharp practice. Hewlett and Packard would be spinning in their graves.

I stopped buying (as in "Will never buy again") HP inkjet printers after they made my last superb HP A3 printer obsolete by deliberately NOT updating the drivers to work in Windows 7.
Similarly, I stopped buying HP scanners after they made my last superb HP scanner obsolete by deliberately NOT updating the drivers to work in Windows 7.
I was a loyal HP customer up to that point. No more. The very idea of buying HP peripherals gives my mouth a bad taste.
I subsequently bought a superb and more portable EPSON A4/letter scanner for smaller documents/photos/negatives, and a very good Brother A3 multi-function (scanner-printer-fax) device to cover all bases.
The only problem I have had is with the printer. I do very little printing and the somewhat underused printhead keeps clogging up (which my HP printer also suffered from, and for the same reason).

Whoever dredged up this latest anachronistic and failed approach to "customer retention" for HP and reworked it, and whoever approved it, will probably be quietly taken out and shot for all the good it has probably NOT done for the company.
It is on a par with, and just as moronic as, that brilliant idea that the Volkwagen engineers apparently had for cheating on the diesel fuel emissions tests: "OK, if we can't do it through honest endeavours, let's just cheat! That way, we make more money and no-one will ever find out!"
Yeah, right.

I find the absolute lack of imagination that was probably required to resurrect this sort of moronic idea and to actually employ it and engage in such shoddy/sharp practice, to be mind-boggling in the extreme.
Well, it certainly sends out a big message to HP's current and potential future buyers/customers. It will be interesting to see what damage control is put in place by HP. Either way, there will likely be repercussions.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2016, 05:06:55 AM by IainB »

4wd

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2016, 06:07:53 AM »
I guess my aging Deskjet 932C (circa 2000) missed out on that update because it's still happily grinding away using non-HP cartridges on a Win10 machine :P

Stoic Joker

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2016, 06:20:47 AM »
And to compound the problem - if you're trying to hold out with older firmware - HP's tech support will also always insist that you have the latest firmware installed before addressing any issue(s) you may be having with one of their devices.

Ya know...just in case the fix was addressed in the update...

IainB

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2016, 06:59:34 AM »
Yes, clearly self-serving cynicism seems to abound in corporate thinking. Recent examples indicate that to be the case, whether it's in automobile manufacturing or computer/printer manufacture. I reckon that it displays a rent-seeking mentality - the desire to gain revenue/profit without actually doing anything productive (making something or providing a service) to warrant it. Like the banks, I guess - e.g., with financial instruments like (say) subprime mortgages. Then, when it all turns to custard, they apparently expect or may have even planned for the contingency, to get guaranteed or bailed out by the government (taxpayer) because they are "too big to fail", or "it's in the national economic interest", or "to maintain employment", or something. Solyndra Scandal.

(And I never could figure out why apparently all that stock of Solyndra's output had to be destroyed. I mean, why not sell it off or give it away - or maybe was what they had produced no good in the first place?)

mwb1100

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 03:52:41 PM »
I stopped buying (as in "Will never buy again") HP inkjet printers...

I have also stopped buying HP equipment quite a while back.

I've been pretty satisfied with Brother printers since then.  I don't know about refilling, but using 3rd party ink cartridges  hasn't been a problem for me.



oblivion

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2016, 02:10:57 AM »
Not trying to be an apologist here but I remember when the first H-P Deskjet appeared. I went to a launch, in fact (why, where and how are now lost in the mists of time.) At the time, laser printers were priced well into four figures and the Deskjet was (still nearly into four figures) the only other way to get (nearly) laser-quality output.

So now the machines cost -- at the low end -- nearly nothing, often still include scanners and enough onboard smarts to be able to function as a standalone copier and all sorts of other stuff and, barring the sudden realignment of the manufacturers into the charity sector, apparently it's unreasonable of them to try to make money from their customers.

The right way to handle the costs of this stuff is to factor everything in then assess the cost per page for your printed output over the life of the printer. If it's now the case, particularly at the consumer end, that the majority of the cost is in the ink cartridges then that just makes the calculation easier, surely?

[Devil's Advocate Mode OFF] :)

Disclaimer: I also own an HP printer, and also complain bitterly about the cost of the ink cartridges, particularly as I print little enough that the blasted things dry out before they empty...
-- bests, Tim

...this space unintentionally left blank.

tomos

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2016, 05:11:03 AM »
So now the machines cost -- at the low end -- nearly nothing, often still include scanners and enough onboard smarts to be able to function as a standalone copier and all sorts of other stuff and, barring the sudden realignment of the manufacturers into the charity sector, apparently it's unreasonable of them to try to make money from their customers.

that's become a bit of a vicious circle for everyone -- us *and* them. If they put up the initial price, people wont buy.

HP were doing quite a good job recently, IIRC price-per-page for many models was a lot cheaper with HP inks than the competition (with own-brand inks). But people still go for cheaper replacement inks, many not even researching or caring: the cheapest please...

I do it myself (with Canon). I usually buy mid-range printers though -- without the in-built office (copier scanner etc.). And get good quality replacement inks. Not sure if Canon make money off me or not . . .
Tom

IainB

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2016, 02:12:55 PM »
As far as market costing models go, I would suggest that, at some point, HP would have decided in their wisdom to adopt the Gillette razor marketing model.
This is Marketing 101, but it's a very interesting case.
Bit of a digression - but it may reflect the dilemma that HP is in.

The Gillette model basically comprised of:
  • A product (the handheld razor) which was made as cheaply as possible, but engineered for a long and serviceable life. The sale price of this item was at or below cost.
  • A consumable component - the disposable razor blades, which wear out. Originally, these were an innovation - 2 edges on opposite sides of a disposable blade - and when edge 1 became blunt, you just reversed the blade to expose edge 2. When that became blunt, the disposable blade was thrown away, and a new blade was fitted. The blades were sold at a very profitable price - I think they came in packets of 5 or 10.

The Gillette corporation had created an entirely new market, and they had a patent and a monopoly, and they consequently made a huge fortune.
However, when the patent ran out, the competition moved in. Now there are several producers supplying the market for handheld wet razors with disposable blades, and the differentiation between the various products is hard to distinguish. A ludicrous new war got under way, with the disposable blades becoming "one-sided", but with 2, then 3, then 4, and now 5 narrow blades all facing the same way, per disposable blade unit. Of course, for each new blade unit designed, the handheld component mysteriously could not fit the new blade unit and so consumers needed a new handheld component and the old one was made obsolete - and the handheld component and the muliti-blade units have become increasingly quite pricey. What a surprise! (NOT)

You can see the same marketing model having been adopted by HP for its printers, and now things have got into the ludicrous war stage.

Meanwhile, in the wet razor-blade market, very cheap and entirely disposable multi-blade units with fixed plastic handles have hit the market and many/most consumers are buying those. This will impact the potential growth in numbers sold of the "old" model, which are made more expensive as the failing producers try to make more profit per item sold from a diminishing number of sales, thus arguably hastening their own eventual demise. They probably have a foot in the newer disposable product as well.

Years ago, the BCG (Boston Consulting Group) developed a simple hypothetical Growth-Share Matrix. It is drawn as a square, cut across its centre into 4 equal quadrants: Cash Cows, Stars, Question Marks/Dilemmas, and Dogs. These are often characterised as the stages in a product's life-cycle. It doesn't matter what the product is - most will probably be able to fit the hypothesis.
  • Star: Initially, a new product is designed/launched and it becomes a Star product. Sales are growing rapidly.
  • Cash Cow: As diminishing marginal costs of large scale production come into play, it's all profit for little/reducing cost, and the product becomes a major source of large, pure net profit - a Cash Cow. Milk it for all it's worth.
  • Question Mark/Dilemma: At some point, when a product has reached the end of its marketable life and is at risk of being superseded by fresh product invention or innovation in the marketplace, it is no longer a Cash Cow and starts to become a product management problem - it is a Dilemma. It's not dead yet. Do you just cease to produce it before it becomes a loss-making proposition, or try to sell it off to a manufacturer with a lower production cost base who might want to wring some residual potential revenue/profit out of it? Ceasing production can be a very expensive exercise (e.g., think of all those layoffs and redundancy payments), so the usual tack is to plan to sell it so that it all becomes a SEP (Somebody Else's Problem). Of course, if your production base has been outsourced to an arbitraged rock-bottom labour-unit cost base in (say) China, then it's already a SEP and you can continue to wring out the rag for any residual profit.
  • Dog: The product's end-of-life stage. If it's not been sold yet, then now is the time - if you still can. Otherwise just terminate it ("deprecate" is quite the wrong term for this) and incur a pile of costs - unless you are already producing in (say) China. Usually it's advisable not to be holding the parcel when the music stops, so pass the parcel, quick - e.g., (say) IBM's sale of its PC division to Lenovo.

HP will indubitably be somewhere in that mix, with its Printer division and its PC division, and its Managed Services division, and the longer it delays facing up to the task of re-engineering the multifold parts of itself (e.g., as successfully done by IBM and Reed/Elsevier, to name but two), then the more we are likely to see it slipping into an increasingly dysfunctional state, thrashing about trying to juggle the numbers and survive and avoid change/damage by means of all the old tactics. If you look at HP's history of corporate deals and fiascos over the last 8 years or so - a lot of which is certainly nothing to be proud about - then this time-bombing of the HP inkjet printer head firmware is arguably just more - and pretty good - evidence of just such a dysfunctional state. Ditto for Volkswagen diesel's cheating on emissions-testing.
This corporate behaviour is arguably symptomatic - and what one might typically expect - of the business hypothetical and theoretical explanations above.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2016, 02:33:48 PM by IainB »

Deozaan

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2016, 01:48:57 AM »
The right way to handle the costs of this stuff is to factor everything in then assess the cost per page for your printed output over the life of the printer. If it's now the case, particularly at the consumer end, that the majority of the cost is in the ink cartridges then that just makes the calculation easier, surely?

I did that. Which is why I own a laser printer and not an ink printer.

I haven't replaced my toner cartridge for literally years, and it still prints away when I need it to. :-*
An ink cartridge would have dried up after a few months, whether I used it or not. :down:


Stoic Joker

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2016, 06:49:52 AM »
The right way to handle the costs of this stuff is to factor everything in then assess the cost per page for your printed output over the life of the printer. If it's now the case, particularly at the consumer end, that the majority of the cost is in the ink cartridges then that just makes the calculation easier, surely?

I did that. Which is why I own a laser printer and not an ink printer.

I haven't replaced my toner cartridge for literally years, and it still prints away when I need it to. :-*
An ink cartridge would have dried up after a few months, whether I used it or not. :down:

Laser printers aren't a magic bullet in that regard as the toner cartridges also have a "shelf life" of sorts. There are seals (scraper blades etc.) in the cartridge that become weak/brittle over time. If the cartridge is left in service for too long they will fail, dump all of the toner remaining in the cartridge on one page, and turning the printer into a gooey mess. Thus ended the life of my LaserJet 2100 ... The cartridge was 5+ years old ... The seals failed ... And it wound a toner soaked page up into the fuser while melting the rest of the toner into a semi solid "puddle" that covered most of the insides of the machine.

This is not a rare occurrence with aging cartridges. Once they pass their recommended shelf life (~2-3 years), they become time bombs. And printing defects (spots, streaks, etc.) do not always occur prior to catastrophic failure...they can just go poof ... Like mine did.

Deozaan

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2016, 03:52:44 PM »
This is not a rare occurrence with aging cartridges. Once they pass their recommended shelf life (~2-3 years), they become time bombs. And printing defects (spots, streaks, etc.) do not always occur prior to catastrophic failure...they can just go poof ... Like mine did.

That is good to know. Thanks.

Even still, a $60 toner cartridge every 2-3 years is much better than $30 ink cartridges every few months.


Stephen66515

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Re: HP "timebomb" prevents HP inkjet printers from using non-HP ink cartridges.
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2016, 07:18:39 PM »
I have a Canon WiFi printer...literally cheaper to go buy a new printer (which comes with 50% full cartridges) than it is to buy refills or new cartridges.............