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惠普遭遇打印机之痛

Kevin Kelleher 2012年03月31日

打印机业正经历着一场漫长而缓慢的衰退——惠普的业绩更是加速下滑,打印机市场上这个曾经的王者似乎正在重蹈柯达的覆辙。

    今年1月,伊斯曼柯达公司(Eastman Kodak)申请破产时,没人感到意外。这家已有131年历史的“百年老店”曾在20世纪70年代控制了美国90%的胶片市场。但随着数码相机的崛起,它迅速地被取而代之,退出了历史舞台。柯达帝国的分崩离析,前后经历了数十年的时间。

    现在,一场性质类似、旷日持久的衰退正在向打印机行业袭来。长期占据市场霸主地位,市场份额超过40%的巨头惠普公司(Hewlett-Packard),可能也正在慢慢迎来它自己的“柯达时刻”。

    长期以来,打印机一直是惠普的摇钱树。但是今非昔比,随着人们开始在云端分享照片,在平板电脑和智能手机上浏览照片,这些机器正迅速失去青睐。衰退的势头已经日益明显。2008财年以来,惠普打印机和影像部门的收入已经下降了12%。打印机部门的收入在集团总收入中所占比例不断缩小,去年仅占20%,而个人电脑部门和IT服务则分别占到31%和28%,而在过去,打印机带来的利润要丰厚得多。

    如今的利润空间已经大不如前。2011财年,打印机部门的营业毛利是收入的15%,与个人电脑部门6%的水平相比仍然高出了一大截。但是,仅仅两年前,这个比例还能达到18%。

    如果这种情况还不算太糟糕的话,现实是,惠普打印机业务的业绩似乎正在加速下滑。公司称,最近一个季度,打印机收入与去年同期相比下滑了7%。营业毛利则下降到了12%。为什么会突然出现这种颓势?这是因为在圣诞季里,买打印机的人明显减少了,导致个人打印机收入与去年同期相比下降了15%。

    打印机部门曾被惠普新任首席执行官梅格•惠特曼称为“惠普的命根子”。为了挽回目前的颓势,她将打印机部门并入了个人电脑部门。而上一财季,后者的收入也下降了15%。这一招能解决一个问题:通过整合打印机部门与利润率更低的个人电脑部门就能掩盖前者不断下滑的利润率。从更实际的角度说,这么做还能让惠普在与零部件供应商砍价时获得更大的筹码。

    数年前,在卡莉•费奥莉娜掌舵时,惠普就曾采取过类似举措。但她的继任者马克•赫德却又把这两个部门给分拆了。现在,惠特曼的目的不光是合并两个部门而已,她还想努力实现更大作为。不过,投资者则希望看到惠普能采取更大胆的举措。

    When Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January, no one was surprised. The 131-year-old company once controlled 90% of the U.S. film market in the 1970s, only to be displaced by the rise of digital cameras. It took decades for Kodak to fall.

    Now a similar kind of long, slow decline may be afflicting printer industry. And Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), long the market's giant with a market share above 40%, may be approaching its own Kodak moment.

    Printers have long been a cash cow for HP, but they are losing popularity as people share pictures in the cloud, looking at them on tablets and smartphones. The decline has been increasingly evident. HP's printer and imaging division has seen its revenue decline by 12% since its 2008 fiscal year. The group comprises a smaller portion of revenue – 20% last year, compared with 31% for PCs and 28% for IT services – but it's historically had fatter profit margins.

    But even those profit margins aren't what they used to be. The printing division's operating margin was 15% of its revenue in fiscal 2011, still much better than the PC division's 6% margin. But it's down from the 18% operating margin that printers saw only two years ago.

    And if that's not bad enough, the decline in HP's printer business seems to be accelerating. In its most recent quarter, the company said printer revenue declined 7% from the same quarter a year earlier. Operating margin for the division dropped to 12%. Why the sudden decline? During the holiday season, fewer shoppers bought printers – consumer printer revenue slid 15% on year.

    HP's new CEO Meg Whitman, who calls the printing division "the lifeblood of HP," responded to the decline by folding it into the PC division, which saw a 15% drop in revenue last quarter. That will solve one problem: concealing the extent of the decline in HP's printer margins by blending it with lower-margin PCs. More practically, it could give HP greater leverage in negotiating prices with component suppliers.

    HP made a similar move under Carly Fiorina years ago, but her successor Mark Hurd split up the two divisions again. Whitman is trying to do more than simply rearrange deck chairs, but investors want bolder action.

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