HP bails on always-online printers and subscription laser ink

People hate printers. They have tons of breakable moving parts and they require expensive ink refills. But it was even worse when HP started making printers that required 24/7 online connectivity and blocked third-party ink cartridges via DRM.

It was so bad that consumers started suing HP—and HP has finally decided that discretion is the better part of valor and will now discontinue its HP+ e-series printers.

According to statements provided to German site Drucker Channel (spotted by Tom’s Hardware), HP has discontinued the HP+ LaserJet series effective immediately. This includes around a dozen printer models across several series, all nearly identical to other designs but with an “e” added to the end of their model numbers.

Here’s a list of affected models. Again, all of these have similar models without the “e” on the end, which will presumably still be sold:

HP Laserjet M110we

HP Laserjet M209dwe

HP Laserjet MFP M140we

HP Laserjet MFP M234sdne

HP Laserjet MFP M234sdwe

HP Laserjet Pro 3002dwe

HP Laserjet Pro 4002dne

HP Laserjet Pro 4002dwe

HP Laserjet Pro MFP 3102fdwe

HP Laserjet Pro MFP 4102dwe

HP Laserjet Pro MFP 4102fdwe

All of these models require an active internet connection to HP servers in order to print, and they feature even stricter DRM security to try and force users to use expensive HP ink instead of third-party refills.

You probably already know that manufacturers sell cheap printers in order to get you to spend tons on ink, but HP went a step further by turning said ink into a subscription model.

The “HP+ Instant Ink upgrade” automatically ordered new toner when a printer showed its reservoir as low—which certainly wasn’t an incentive to make toner packages smaller or to not trigger that “order” button even when the current cartridge wasn’t quite empty. Nope, not at all.

Well, HP also said that the Instant Ink program is kaput. It’ll shut down later this year, though people currently using the service may be able to continue doing so. Ditto for the always-connected e-series printers, too—they’ll disappear from store shelves but existing ones won’t shut down.

But HP’s statement (machine translated since I don’t speak German) didn’t say that the always-connected printers currently in service would be updated or altered to remove this dependency. So, if you have one of the printers marketed through the HP+ program, you might still have to keep it online 24/7 to print… for as long as HP keeps those servers up.

The attempt to turn printing into a subscription service was met with instant revulsion from a huge number of consumers. While it makes sense for businesses to create a supply chain for their printing needs, home users are relying less on printing altogether—and that’s by design.

Today, you can ship packages, get into concerts and sports events, and hop onto trains and busses with just your phone. Plenty of people don’t have a printer anymore, opting for FedEx-like stores or the library whenever they need to print anything.

And HP’s attempt to lock users into its ecosystem of artificially inflated ink wasn’t any more popular. Earlier this year, a class-action lawsuit was brought against the company by US customers who found they couldn’t use third-party cartridges after a printer software update.

It wasn’t the first time HP pulled this move, nor the first time they were sued by their own customers for it. While HP’s comments on the end of their always-on printers and subscription service didn’t mention these legal issues, it seems likely that it was in the back of someone’s mind when the call was made.

As a former printshop worker, I can appreciate both the necessity of printing and the hatred it gets from the average user. I bought a cheap-as-dirt Brother laser printer years ago, and I recommend it to anyone who only needs the occasional black-and-white shipping label or paperwork. It works over Wi-Fi, starts up without a hitch after months of inactivity, and it’s more than happy to take cheap third-party toner.

Printers

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