HP wants you to pay up to $36 a month to rent a printer you never own

HP spits out bad news about itself faster than you might print it—DRM ink more expensive than champagne, scanners that run out of ink, the CEO's contemptuous remarks about customers—but its razors-and-blades business model reaches its bottom with printers it rents to you that monitor your actions.

But HP enforces an Internet connection by having its TOS also state that HP may disrupt the service—and continue to charge you for it—if your printer is not online.

HP says it enforces a constant connection so that the company can monitor things that make sense for the subscription, like ink cartridge statuses, page count, and "to prevent unauthorized use of Your account." However, HP will also remotely monitor the type of documents (for example, a PDF or JPEG) printed, the devices and software used to initiate the print job, "peripheral devices," and any other "metrics" that HP thinks are related to the subscription and decides to add to its remote monitoring.

The effusive promise "never own a printer again!" is quite something. It's a consumer electronics analog to the Nigerian official email scam: by "repelling all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select."

HP makes good products other than printers, and it's important to make clear that the printer situation can be seen as the result of a dying sector. HP makes great workstations and displays. But the printers-as-loss-leaders thing is starting to look more like the company's DNA than a market-specific strategy and it makes me wary of trusting anything else it makes. I want a Z2 Mini but if the worst happens—say, pre-installed software that makes it difficult to trust—I won't be able to say I didn't see it coming.