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 user 2007-08-23 at 12:25:00 pm Views: 44
  • #18610

    The fall of the inkjet
    22, 2007 -With extraordinarily cheap inkjet printers now lining the
    shelves of electronics shops all around town, the cost conscious
    consumer could be forgiven for thinking the moment has finally arrived
    to print out all the family snaps sitting on their hard drive.But once
    their brand new $49 printer has cranked out all of last year’s happy
    snaps, a rude shock awaits; there is a very good chance their ink
    refills will cost more than the printer did.

    So how do the
    printer manufacturers get away with charging so much for their
    ink?While they claim that the cost is relative to the calibre of their
    product, to those initially suckered in by the lure of a cheap printer,
    it might feel more like highway robbery.The truth is that the vendors
    have adopted a business model we do not normally associate with
    technology products. To illustrate the ink sales model, think of razor
    manufacturers who almost give away their latest five-blade model, and
    then charge a small fortune for replacement blades. So, as inkjet
    printers increasingly sink below the $100 mark, the price of
    replacement ink cartridges creeps ever higher.

    But a recent
    study conducted by Choice magazine reveals that, often the cheaper the
    printer, the more expensive it will prove to maintain over time.In two
    separate inkjet tests run in the past year, the magazine concluded that
    the cheapest models on the market cost substantially more to own over a
    year than those which cost more and which had the lowest running
    costs.In the most recent study, it concluded: “We’ve done some simple
    comparisons including the purchase price as well as running costs. The
    cheapest printer to buy (Canon Pixma MP160) is still $110 more
    expensive to own for three years than the cheapest to run (Canon Pixma
    MP530).”Although comparative price-per-page data for the full range of
    printers on the market is hard to come by, internet chat forums are
    stuffed full of tips on how to lower average printing costs, and
    third-party ink suppliers are doing a roaring trade, despite
    manufacturers’ dire warnings that these products will produce inferior

    But Rishi Ghai, an IDC research analyst says that the
    printer makers’ sales models continue to work in spite of cheaper
    alternatives on the market because many buyers of inkjet printers
    “don’t want a high involvement decision” when it comes to procuring
    replacement ink cartridges.Indeed the sales model promises to become so
    profitable for printer makers that the low end of the market is
    becoming increasingly crowded, with machines costing less than $100 now
    accounting for more than 33 per cent of the total market, up from less
    than 7 per cent in 2005, Mr Ghai saidThe first to kick back against
    that trend is Kodak, a new entrant to the inkjet market. The company is
    hoping to grab headlines with the news that its new Easyshare 5300
    multifunction inkjet printer due to hit the shelves here in September
    will slice up to 50 per cent off the average cost of ink. Although the
    machine will not compete in the sub $100 segment, the company believes
    the $299 inkjet will have broad appeal owing to the lower cost of
    replacement ink.Magnus Felke, product marketing director at Kodak,
    says: “When I talk to customers they talk about how much they limit
    themselves or their kids in printing because of the cost of ink. We are
    embracing a very different business model. We want to be
    disruptive.”However Robin Kenyon, managing director of Calidad,
    Australia’s largest seller of printer refill kits, argues that it isn’t
    necessarily cost that prevents people from printing out their photos at
    home.”Price may be important but the key reason that people are not
    printing their photos is because they don’t know how. The technology is
    still too complex.”He says that, despite an excellent range of printers
    on the market, the expertise required to combine the camera, printer
    and their associated software is still too much for the average
    user.Not only that, but he says the biggest stumbling block of all is
    that most people still believe that they can only print photos on A4
    sized paper at home  when in fact most printers can easily handle
    smaller prints.”The printer manufacturers have created beautiful
    equipment, but I cannot count the number of times I have asked people
    with printers what they do with their photos only to discover they are
    still in their camera or the computer. So there is a pent-up demand of
    people who would like to print but are unaware of how to achieve it
    using the technology they already have,” he says.

    concern that is often voiced by potential buyers is image quality.
    However Mr Kenyon says that technology has now reached the stage at
    which most inkjet printers are able to produce very attractive prints,
    so it is matters such as the speed at which photos are printed, and
    additional functions, that will determine the final price of the
    unit.But there is still the issue of durability of those photos that
    you decide to print.  A total of 23.1 million printer ink cartridges
    were bought in Australia last year, and, of these, 3.2 million were
    cheaper third-party refill inks.”We do not claim to have the same print
    life or quality [as original manufacturer ink],” Mr Kenyon said. “We
    offer value and choice and we are not claiming to be the same. However,
    the point is that, regardless of the ink, precious photos are generally
    well cared for and well protected, and far less subject to harsh
    environmental influences that are known to diminish their quality over