HP Greens Its Printers, Meh

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It’s a green marketing blitz from Hewlett Packard today. Amid announcements of greener packaging, labeling, manufacturing and energy managment there are some interesting bits — and some disappointing things. Among the interesting is HP’s goal of greening its printers, both improving the overall energy efficiency of its laser printers 40 percent by 2011 and tripling the amount of recycled materials used in making the printers by 2010.

A new feature to help achieve the efficiency gains is HP’s “Auto-On/Auto-Off” technology. It’s a sort of deep sleep mode for the printer, turning it almost off, but allowing it to spring back to life when it gets a print job. Regular sleep mode can consume anywhere from 3 to 26 watts while “Auto-On/Auto-Off” mode uses only 1 watt. Users will be able to customize exactly when the printer goes into this hibernation mode.

HP is also rolling out some new services for its corporate customers to help them keep track of their energy use when it comes to printing. HP is offering a carbon footprint calculator and an environmental printing assessment tool to lend some transparency to printing, perhaps giving you pause before you hit “print all.” It seems to more or less do everything Xerox’s eco-office footprint calculator does.

However, the features are more surface-level than disruptive changes. Especially coming from one of the oldest players in computing. The software doesn’t talk to your computer, your network or even your printers. Instead, it’s up to you to punch in the number of printers you have, the number of employees you and have and a rough guesstimate of how much each person prints.

We’re all for improving printer efficiency as office printers probably wind up wasting a lot more energy than many other office appliances. And we’re glad HP is taking steps to explicitly improve its whole printing line. But the new software offerings from HP are underwhelming and not even that smart in an age of increasingly networked communications.

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