*NEWS*KODAK’s INK CTGS & THE END-USER

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*NEWS*KODAK’s INK CTGS & THE END-USER

 user 2007-02-16 at 12:23:00 pm Views: 54
  • #17408

    Kodak’s Ink Jet Cartridges and the end-user
    PARIS
    It has long been a mystery and irritation to consumers: Why are ink-jet
    printer cartridges so expensive?You can buy an entire printer for the
    price of three or four ink refills. For people who print a lot of
    photos at home, it feels like punishment for being a fan. For people
    who might be tempted to custom- print their own, it is a real barrier
    to even starting.Mostly, the out-of-kilter pricing is a quirk of how
    the printer business evolved. It’s the razor-and- blade model: The
    razor comes at an incredible value, but you are stuck buying expensive,
    proprietary razor blades for as long as you shave.Kodak, struggling for
    a way to reclaim its past glory in the digital age, has decided to
    up-end the approach. This week, it got into the home ink-jet printer
    business, but it was the printers’ replacement cartridges that got all
    the attention. The more expensive color ink is priced at $15, while the
    black ink cartridges go for $10.For those of us paying $30 and up each
    time the printer runs dry, this is a godsend. Of course, Kodak’s
    printers will not come at the dirt- cheap prices that we are now used
    to, but at around $200, the all-in- one printer-scanner-copiers are not
    completely out of reach, either.Hewlett-Packard, the biggest seller of
    ink-jet printers, hasn’t officially responded to Kodak’s tactic. Nor
    have Canon, Lexmark and the others.

    The inevitable result of competition like this can only be good for the consumer, right?
    You
    might think so. But it may be too little, too late. Most of the
    printing of photos from digital cameras is not done at home, but
    through either Internet services or retail kiosks. Self-printing
    accounts for only about 30 percent of the snapshots that end up on
    paper, relegating us home-printing types to nearly the same niche
    status as home darkroom developers of the film age.O.K., so if Kodak
    can make printer cartridges at a profit for $10, why can’t the others?
    My brilliant suggestion to Jaime Cohen Szulc, the chairman of Eastman
    Kodak Europe, was for Kodak to make $10 cartridges for the other
    printer manufacturers.Ah, but there’s a catch: One of the reasons Kodak
    can cut the price and still claim to maintain high printing quality is
    that it moved the “print head,” the mechanical device that actually
    does the spraying of the ink, from the ink-jet cartridge to the printer
    itself.The conventional approach of the other printer makers is to
    craft the print head, at some expense, onto the cartridge. So Kodak’s
    cartridges, even if they were slightly rejiggered to fit a Canon
    printer, would still need to be re-engineered to include the print
    head. Szulc said that this just was not going to happen.Besides, the
    disgruntlement over ink prices isn’t just about the $30. It is also
    about being locked into an HP replacement, for instance, if you have an
    HP printer, and Kodak has not changed that part of the equation. The
    existing printer manufacturers have made it difficult, if not
    impossible, for outside companies to make knock-off (i.e., cheaper)
    generic replacements.Szulc said the Kodak’s research has repeatedly
    shown that dissatisfaction with the price of ink cartridges is
    consumers’ No. 1 complaint about home printing. Most also say they
    would print more if the cost were more reasonable.”We’re late to the
    market,” he admitted. “That’s why we couldn’t come in with something
    that’s only slightly better than what already exists.”Although Szulc
    called his company’s tactic a “breakthrough” on pricing, he also said,
    “We’re not doing this because we’re nice people. We intend to make
    money on each printer and cartridge.” Kodak aims to be among the top
    three printer makers in the world within three years, he said.Still,
    Kodak is to be applauded for the move to cheaper cartridges, which will
    roll out globally in stages. (Two of its new printer models will be
    sold in Europe this spring before broader availability later in the
    year; no specific plans have been announced for Asia.) It may yet
    change the dynamics of the printer market.