*NEWS*IN REFILL-INK GAME ,WHO WILL WIN .?
*NEWS*IN REFILL-INK GAME ,WHO WILL WIN .?
2006-03-28 at 11:26:00 am #15045
In refill game, who will win ?
Ink cartridge battles could leave buyers in bind, firms in court
March, 2006Back when America’s major highways were two-lane blacktops instead of massive interstates, many a long drive was made shorter reading Gillette Burma Shave ads pitching shaving soap and blades.
Like I said, those were simpler times and dating standards were a tad different, as were open-road automobile speeds (much faster) and country billboards (legal then).It was also a time when printers were guys with shops that set type in molten lead and turned out documents with presses the size of today’s sub-compact cars.
Now, of course, printers tend to be little beige boxes the size of toaster ovens that sit next to our home computers. They guzzle the manufacturer’s ink cartridges that cost more than cans of caviar and seem to last about as long.
Maybe the answer to inkjet-style caviar dreams is cheap ink refills from third parties. (Look Ma, it only took the old guy 175 words to get to the point!)
Tribune technology writer Eric Benderoff reported on Friday how big businesses like Walgreens and OfficeMax and entrepreneurs like the booming Cartridge World chain now pitch schemes for refilling cartridges from Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, Epson, et al.
I found particularly appealing the image of dropping a cartridge off at the drugstore photo counter and coming back in 10 minutes to pick up the refill.
A lot of us recall the sense of frustration, if not anger, when we realized that today’s printermakers are exactly like the razormakers of the Burma Shave era: Sell the razors cheap and then make a killing selling the razor blades (or ink cartridges).
It costs manufacturers under $5 to make, ship and advertise cartridges that then sell for $30 and more, often a lot more.
But wait. Cheap printers tend to wear out pretty quickly, usually going to HP Heaven in the middle of a job just after you’ve inserted a fresh cartridge. Because inkjet printers are so cheap, few folks buy service agreements. Even if a warranty exists, one rarely has the time to ship and wait for a repair when a printer breaks in the middle of a project.
So you trudge down to the Beige Boxes “R” Us store to buy a replacement that will use the perfectly good cartridge(s) in the broken machine and those spare cartridges you stockpiled for emergencies.
Do I need to tell you that printers from HP, in particular, get changed so often that old cartridges are useless because they don’t fit in new machines?
New models require new cartridges. The number 56, 57 and 58 cartridges for the old HP are useless in the latest version, which needs numbers 91 and 92, even though the machines look identical and work the same as far as anybody can see.
It’s a strategy so clearly aimed at the old Gillette business model that it gives a hollow ring to protestations by the companies that new technologies improve results by ever-better designs in the computerized print heads soldered onto the cartridges.
Furthermore, they say, ink is specially formulated to give maximum performance in the company’s own machines and is designed specifically for the chemicals and characteristics of the company’s brands of paper.
I am sure this is true.But it doesn’t forgive the plight of the customer with a slightly outdated machine, and it certainly doesn’t explain away the huge profit margins.On the other hand, as any printer user can attest, nothing anymore seems simply black and white.
Refilled cartridges don’t work as well as new ones because fill-ups can’t last as long as fresh loads. And they really don’t always work as well as new cartridges because of ink chemistry issues, including clogging. Furthermore the printer-head circuitry on a cartridge’s business end is fragile and prone to wear and tear, and damage during refilling.
Already, printermakers are suing refillers over using ink that violates patents for their unique chemical formulas.
If challenges like this work, the refillers may be forced to use inferior-quality inks with resulting erosion of customer support.
Look for more court fights, talking heads arguing the pros and cons, and a blitz of ink-consuming advertising.
Cartridges run dry?
Walgreens sez “stop by”
What does this spell?
Could it be The End for HP?