Demand that HP make amends for its self-destructing printers [SIGN AND SHARE!]


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/26/demand-that-hp-make-amends-for.html


Save Walmart!
#2

HP can become technological roadkill while Epson, Brother, Lexmark, Canon, Samsung split the inkjet market.


#3

This argument to me seems like Trump level bullshit association.

I’d wager the vast majority of HP consumers out there won’t know or care about this. HP broke 3rd party ink cartridges, which is a dick move, but you know what? They never supported them to begin with. If it pisses you off this much, then don’t buy an HP printer. HP isn’t the only game in town here and there’s plenty of competition.

Conflating “HP broke something they never supported to begin with” and “legions of insecure printers because informed consumers (hah!) won’t update their devices to patch security defects” just seems like complete FUD. I’d wager hardly anybody out there knows anything about their printer firmware. These are two separate issues and duct taping them together doesn’t Voltron it into something bigger.

Step #5 is a real hoot for me. In the world of closed software and hardware there’s no such thing as “legitimate aftermarket products.” HP doesn’t and won’t certify anything they don’t make themselves, and why should they? They aren’t required by any law to do so. Any non-certified aftermarket products are always “use at your own risk.”

Edit: I had two posts here, but combining into one for clarity.

Christ, I can’t believe I just wrote several paragraphs in defense of HP here, but just in case what I said earlier was lost let me be clear: I don’t support what HP did here but I just can’t be too mad about it.

I’m a software developer by profession and I dismiss the Pollyanna notion that HP has any obligation to support anything they don’t want to. They apparently drew a line in the sand here and said, “we are taking steps to prevent 3rd party ink cartridges” as is their prerogative.

Reading the linked article just makes me roll my eyes even more.

There’s an argument presented along the lines of “Cuisinart doesn’t get to choose whose bread goes in their toasters” which is completely irrelevant. Cuisinart specifically designs their product to work with standard bread slices. They could make a product that only accepts Cuisinart-approved bread packets and attempts to block 3rd party products if they wanted to (cough… K-Cup…).

There’s also no “bait-and-switch” here. Seriously. Show me one place where HP promised that you could use non-HP certified ink cartridges and/or ink. Please. I really want to see it.

Ok, I’m done for now. I don’t expect Cory to ever read this but it felt good to vent here. Again, I can’t believe I’m actually saying anything in defense of HP here but the whole premise behind this just stinks of abject bullshit and I had to say something.


#4

Any word on how HP will address my color LaserJet’s 6-month long (and counting) “need” for a new magenta toner cartridge, which still isn’t empty and continues to print just fine?


#5

HP buys back, at full original purchase price, any printer that they just broke without fully disclosing to the customer what they were doing. Repeat until they stop breaking things, or go out of business because customers won’t buy printers from them.

Given the price of ink, even third party cartridges, the chances are good that customers affected by this spent more on the spare cartridges that are now worthless than they did on the printer that won’t use them.


#7

Cory’s original article on this include:

HP says that the March update’s purpose was “to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”

I don’t know about you guys, but if a software update box popped up that said “These updates help to protect our intellectual property” I’d be a wee bit disinclined to click “OK.”


#8

Many years ago I bought an HP Designjet (colour inkjet proofer) for my print business. It was over $5000 ($Can) at the time. It was only said to be colour accurate if you used the specifically approved paper by Imation (which cost $5 a tabloid sheet).

Needless to say it wasn’t all that colour accurate, but also, it turns out that the printheads (4 of them) and ink cartridges (also 4) which cost $50 each had chips in them that expired with in 6 months so whether you used it or not. So every few months you had to spend $400 changing all printheads and cartridges. The other annoying thing was that every time you printed to it, it dialed out on the internet (this was before dsl) to see if you were authorized to use it.

That experience is why I’ve never bought an HP printer since.
I should add that at one point in the late 90s I had an HP computer, and after I setup a firewall I found out that my HP keyboard (or software associated with it) was constantly dialing out or attempting to visit some specific hp-keyboard site. It was a keyboard with special "news’, “sports” etc functions for the f-keys which I never used but HP kept track of where you went.


#9

Or simply vote with your wallet. They lost me as a customer sometime back when they removed, from their line of home printers, last models with separate color cartridges. They are watching their KPIs and this will hurt them far more than any letter you may send. There is a certain whiff of desperation with their recent actions. I bet fewer and fewer people by printers nowadays, we simply have less things to keep as hard copy. Competition is certainly getting tougher, both when it comes to device manufacturers and purveyors of cheap ink. This move might net them some more money short term but what they are doing is trading long term retention to short term monetization.


#10

This is kind of a horseshit argument right here. A printer is a tool, and ink cartridges are fuel for that tool. Nothing more than consumable boxes of ink that squirt when they’re told to. Did HP “promise” you could use aftermarket ink? No. But up until the bomb dropped, you could use aftermarket ink with no trouble, until HP decided to change the terms of that informal arrangement. Did Toyota “promise” me I could use any brand of gasoline I want in my RAV-4? Nope, not expressly. But if Toyota pushed out a firmware update that effectively dictated that my RAV-4 would henceforth only run on Toyota-brand gasoline, would I have any right to be mildly annoyed?


#11

Oh, don’t get me wrong. What HP did here was a total dick move (and I said as much…):

Do I think that flipping a bit that rendered 3rd party ink or cartridges was a dumb and boneheaded move? Absolutely!

They could have just as easily popped up a message on the screen saying something like, “Warning! You’re not using Genuine HP ink. There be dragons here.” if they really wanted to take a hard line here against the aftermarket.

I don’t think the car analogy here necessarily flies. Car manufacturers don’t say “you must use X brand of gasoline” but they could change ECU programming in the future to retard performance if you’re using the wrong octane of gasoline or something. Also to expand on the car analogy, if you use unapproved aftermarket products or accessories on your car, you’re assuming a certain amount of risk of denied warranty claims, injury, or death. There’s plenty of instances of car manufacturers putting in restrictions to prevent aftermarket party products from working. I remember back in the day if I tried to replace the stereo in my old Honda Accord that would prevent climate control from working because it was all tied into the same system for some stupid reason.

If you’re the kind of person that wants to use 3rd party ink, then this is a sign HP printers aren’t for you. As @stanestane said, this will likely only hurt HP in the long run.

Cory’s “self-destructing printers” rhetoric and demanding reparations just makes a mockery of all of the other wonderful and worthwhile work that the EFF does in my opinion.


#12

Sure it works. Automakers happen to be in the business of making and selling vehicles, not fuel. And ECM programming does in fact affect your performance based upon fuel octane as well as other factors, this goal in the service of prolonging the life of the car. But if they really wanted to, an automaker could build their cars in such a way that only Officially Licensed Fuel Companies could unlock the gas-holes, preventing the driver from using off-brand fuel. And the automaker could try to use the argument that it’s all in the service of ensuring only the Very Best Gasoline gets into the car, thus protecting the consumer as well as the automaker’s reputation for quality.

But obviously this idea would go over like a lead balloon, and would cause the same kind of antitrust lawsuits that made it illegal for movie studios to own theater chains.

The automotive aftermarket is as old as the auto industry itself, and probably larger too. There’s probably a good reason why my Toyota car has Goodyear (rather than Toyota) tires, and an Exide (rather than Toyota) battery, and Champion (rather than Toyota) spark plugs, and a tankful of Shell (rather than Toyota) gasoline. As for this part:

There’s more of this horseshit every year. More and more, automakers are taking a page from Hewlett Packard’s book, and restricting the consumer from using aftermarket products, or even from accessing “proprietary” data that just happens to show a mechanic how the car performs and how it has been driven and what needs to happen to keep it on the road. And this restrictive, consumer-unfriendly practice needs to be fought at every turn, and not just in the automotive or business-machine industries.

I mean, just because Toyota does it too doesn’t make it right. And I know, you’re not saying it’s right. But HP is trying to alter the time-honored terms of buying a Mechanical Thing and then wanting to use it differently (or even more efficiently, or even just less profitably) than the seller wants us to. And that, as I said, needs to be resisted hard.

They don’t have to “certify” anything. If something works on its own, they shouldn’t arbitrarily disable it simply to force the consumer to only buy their accessory or consumable. If aftermarket ink works less well, or clogs the printer, or sets itself on fire, how does that hurt HP? As you say, it’s “use at your own risk.” HP isn’t worried about letting customers use substandard ink; they couldn’t give Shit One about ink performance (witness the performance of their own ink cartridges as often as not). They just don’t want you buying ink from anyone else, period.


#13

Discussions like this are why I love BB. I also feel we’re largely agreeing on similar points, just coming at it from a different perspective. :slight_smile:

I understand and can think of potential justifications for HP is doing here, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone it at all.

Agreed. This means don’t buy HP products. Period. I can’t imagine HP changing their stance on this any time soon though. Unfortunately I would imagine if this actually works out for HP that other printer makers will soon follow suit.


#14

Sure it works. Automakers happen to be in the business of making and selling vehicles, not fuel. And ECM programming does in fact affect your performance based upon fuel octane as well as other factors, this goal in the service of prolonging the life of the car. But if they really wanted to, an automaker could build their cars in such a way that only Officially Licensed Fuel Companies could unlock the gas-holes, preventing the driver from using off-brand fuel. And the automaker could try to use the argument that it’s all in the service of ensuring only the Very Best Gasoline gets into the car, thus protecting the consumer as well as the automaker’s reputation for quality.
But obviously this idea would go over like a lead balloon, and would cause the same kind of antitrust lawsuits that made it illegal for movie studios to own theater chains.

This is exactly what Nestle managed to do for coffee with their Nespresso machines and capsules.


#15

HP sells paper. What if they figured out a way to detect whether you were using their paper and didn’t print on third party stock?

Unless they explicitly say “do not use non-HP ink”, it is reasonable to expect that you should be able to use non-HP ink. I recall instances where a photo in some ad copy has been used to imply a use case. (Like a photo showing a product that can’t tolerate high humidity being used in a bathroom. The photo implies that it should work even if you’re fogging up the room taking a shower. Note: I am not a lawyer.)

Everything not Prohibited is Mandatory.


#16

That would be a dick move as well. Note I never said what HP did was right.

I work in the tech industry and the prevailing point of view is this: if it’s not documented, it’s not supported.


#17

Yep. And it makes a diseased kind of sense. If Toyota can get away with it, and Sylvania, and Warner Bros, and Apple, and Gillette, why the hell would they choose not to corner a market? One of the (relatively few) virtues of a Free Market is competition, and moves like this serve only to stifle it.

And that’s why I piped up in this thread: because I think it’s important enough an issue to warrant a wee bit of shrillness.

As you say, hardly anyone thinks about their printer firmware. So when HP did this, a lot of unsuspecting HP users suddenly found themselves with busted printers, and now many of those users (if they ever figure out it was a deliberate firmware thing by HP instead of just a garden-variety breakdown) will be justifiably suspicious of any future firmware updates. And the rest of 'em will just think HP makes shitty printers.

Either way, it was a remarkably stupid and greedy thing that HP did. But the people who are most pissed off are those who bought the printers in good faith and expected them to keep working on perfectly good non-HP-branded ink. You can bet they’ll follow your advice in future and avoid HP like the plague, but I think it’s disingenuous to imply they had no right to be pissed off when this happened. It’s not like generic ink is new or revolutionary or patent-breaking or illegal or anything; it’s sold right alongside the “official” ink at nearly every office supply store. Stores like Office Depot and Staples even carry their own store-brand generics. What printer buyer would expect that stuff to suddenly and arbitrarily cause their printer to seize up one day?

Anyway, even though you talk to fig trees, you can understand why people like me are pissed. I used to really like HP printers. I had a bulletproof Laserjet Series II that was heavy as an Edsel, and as far as I know still works… never quit on me once. And I used Series 4 and 5 Laserjets for years on TV shows, and they printed thousands of script pages each week with nary a hiccup. I thought I could rely on HP for trouble-free printing. I was wrong. For twenty-five years I used both HP and generic ink/toner cartridges interchangeably with confidence, so this feels more like a betrayal than HP probably intends.


#18

Here’s what I don’t understand. Forgive my ignorance. But when I’m searching for a WiFi signal I almost always see somebody’s HP printer. They always show up like an unsecured router, but won’t actually get you to the internet. It’s always HP, never any other brand of printer, never a copier or a fax machine or a water cooler.

Anybody know why this is? When you speak of malware and HP printers becoming part of a botnet, the first thing I think is they’re all leaking signals of some kind.


#19

I agree, we’re on the same side as far as it being a dick move.

I’m in the tech industry as well, we make consumer electronics.
Within our tech circles, yes, not documented equal not supported.

But when it gets to the consumer, things are different. I know a safety engineer who had a sh!t fit when he saw some marketing ad copy showing one of our products (mains powered) sitting on a shelf next to a sink in a bathroom.

Yes, buried in the owner’s manual it says to not get it wet, but he was concerned that if someone did get injured by knocking the unit into water, he wouldn’t want argue in a court of law that the photo didn’t show a “typical usage”.

Though in this day and age, when a corporation can argue that a product named “Vitamin Water” shouldn’t be assumed to be good for you…


#20

I have no problem with printer manufacturers invalidating the warranty if I use non-OEM ink or toner. Part of the reason for that is that in many delivery systems things like viscosity, pigment density, particle fusion temperature and other parts of formulation are effectively trade secrets, and so you don’t know if the third party stuff is actually going to work properly. If you care about colour reproduction and life expectancy, OEM may be the way to go.
However, it’s then important to know ink costs before buying. Cars are required to state MPG figures which may be tweaked but are generally similarly tweaked across the field. Some end user vendors actually quote total cost per 5% page. But most users of cheap inkjets don’t know and don’t care (actually most car buyers take very little notice of technical features…) until the cost of replacing ink hits them.
Back in the day an HP salesman once blurted out at a conference that the margin on consumer ink was 95%. I believe that was quite probably true then and it is somewhat less now but you can understand why HP is so determined to protect its business where permitted by law (i.e. there’s a problem in the EU where fit and function spares are permitted.)
HP and others have been allowed to construct a business which is a typical Scott Adams confusopoly, i.e. the object of pricing is to conceal the true cost. It looks to me as if the clever strategy has been to hook buyers on the idea that they will get an HP inkjet and buy cheap ink. Get loads of inkjets out there and…bang…stop the cheap ink. Has HP round about now started to charge more realistic prices for the new printers? Scylla and Charybdis anyone?

The answer is simple but not popular with a lot of people. Look at the printer you’re buying. Does it look like the price is reasonable? Is it several hundred dollars and up? Then the ink price is probably reasonable too. After I wore out a Ricoh Gelsprinter (expensive to buy, cheap ink) I bought a business Epson (ditto). I haven’t actually bought an HP printer since…er…check records…1996. And that was a proper Laserjet which was so heavily used that the cartridge recycling company used to collect from us (8 cartridges a month) and return new full ones. Cost: around 1/4 of the HP price.


#21

I have a problem with it. Your argument is the same auto manufacturers used to say that only their own dealerships should be able to repair their cars without voiding the warranty, using only their parts. If your reasoning, which has some valid points, applied to cars, you wouldn’t even be able to get your oil changed anywhere but at your dealership without voiding your warranty, and you’d even have to use their brand of oil. Instead, the makers are free to provide specs (trade secrets be damned) for consumables to be up to spec.