It is the traditional time of year for thinking back on the year that was and planning ahead for the year that will be. As part of my look back, I always like to compile a list of Actionable Intelligence’s top stories of the past year in terms of view counts—our most popular articles. Here is a look at Actionable Intelligence’s top 10 stories of 2016.
- Lexmark’s ‘For Sale’ Sign Continues to Spark Acquisition Rumors
- HP Inkjet Printer Firmware Update Disables Some Third-Party Inkjet Cartridges
- Federal Circuit Finds in Lexmark’s Favor, Upholds Jazz Photo and Mallinckrodt
- Acquisition Rumor and Investigative Report Roil Lexmark
- HP Makes Firmware Fix Available for OfficeJets Affected by Aftermarket-Cartridge-Killing Update
- HP Apologizes over Aftermarket-Cartridge-Killing Firmware Update, Will Offer Fix for Affected Customers
- It’s Official: Apex to Acquire Lexmark
- Lexmark Acquisition Rumors Continue in Advance of Earnings Announcement
- One Printer Class Action against HP Dismissed, Another Ongoing
- Lexmark Seeks Suitors Interested in Hardware or Software
The big trend that immediately stands out is that half of our most popular stories are about Lexmark’s search for a buyer and the one it ultimately found in Apex Technology. That there was so much reader interest in this topic is not a surprise. This was a huge story this year and of interest to a wide swath of our audience. Moreover, the acquisition made for some high drama. A Chinese-based aftermarket supplies giant, with the help of some financial backers, was acquiring a major printer OEM. That is something that the industry had quite simply never seen before. The story was made more compelling by the irony inherent in the fact that the OEM perhaps most known for its vigorous litigation against the aftermarket was finally consumed by one.
But what surprised us is that none of our articles about the year’s other huge acquisition cracked the top 10 list. Here, of course, we are referring to HP’s move to acquire Samsung’s printing business (see “HP Makes Big Play for Copier Market with Purchase of Samsung’s Printer Business”). The acquisition is part of HP’s strategy of becoming a major player in the A3 MFP business (see “HP Goes After A3 MFP Market with New LaserJet and PageWide Portfolio”). We can’t quite explain why this big M&A deal generated so much less reader interest than the Lexmark/Apex story, as it would seem to be an industry-shaping story as well. Could it be readers feel they have seen HP try to crack the A3 market before and that this is just another attempt? Or did this acquisition simply seem more routine and less dramatic than the Lexmark/Apex deal? You are welcome to share your opinion on which acquisition is more significant for the industry in the comment section below, or email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts privately.
Three of our top stories were about HP’s firmware update that had a “dynamic security feature” timed to go off and disable third-party cartridges using third-party chips in mid-September. The move sparked outrage among affected customers, lots of media coverage, and four class action lawsuits. Firmware updates that disable third-party cartridges are nothing new, but how HP handled—or mishandled—this particular update made it one of the year’s top stories.
Two of our always popular Courthouse Briefings made the top 10 list. Our third most popular story this year is about the Federal Circuit’s decision in Lexmark’s favor in the Lexmark v. Impression Products case. The Federal Circuit upheld two of its prior decision on patent exhaustion that favor patent holders, allowing them to retain U.S. patent rights in products first sold overseas and to sell patented articles with clearly communicated single-use/no-resale restrictions and thereafter claim patent infringement if such goods are resold or reused. The Federal Circuit’s decision is currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently agreed to take up the case (see “Supreme Court to Hear Impression Products v. Lexmark”).
Finally, our ninth most popular story was about the dismissal of a class action against HP that claimed that the wireless transceivers in the HP Officejet Pro 8500 and 8600 series suffered from a design or manufacturing flaw and ceased operating after normal use. This article also covered an ongoing class action that alleges that HP advertises that some of its printers have Smart Install when HP has disabled this feature. In general, our coverage of class actions is incredibly popular and sparks lots of comments from readers. Most often those readers are seeking a forum to complain about their printers.
And that’s a message for OEMs right there. Based on the comments we receive, it seems that end users are incredibly frustrated with printer firmware updates and anything that disrupts the printing process and potentially forces them to spend time and money to address a problem, such as print-head failures and wireless connectivity going awry. The number-one comment we receive from readers is, “Can you add me to this class action?” Of course, our answer is always to point out that we are analysts covering the printer industry, not attorneys, and that we cannot help readers be added as a plaintiff in a class action or ensure that they become a class member. But we continue to be amazed by how often readers reach out wanting to sue printer OEMs.
This consumer ire with printers and MFPs is something Actionable Intelligence founder Charles Brewer encountered first hand in his experience being interviewed (and misquoted by) the Wall Street Journal (see “Misquote in WSJ Reveals that End Users Still Hate their Printers (and Copiers)”). And it is something to bear in mind as the industry continues to be impacted by declining print volumes in many market segments—especially the consumer space.
Those interested in hearing more from Actionable Intelligence as an incredibly transformative year segues into a new one are invited to attend an upcoming free webinar, “The Office Imaging Industry’s Most Transformative Year and What’s to Come in 2017,” on January 17, 2017, at 2 p.m. EST. Register today to attend this upcoming webinar!