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 user 2009-03-31 at 11:42:17 am Views: 32
  • #22030
    Epson Uses Integrated Ink to Eliminate Cartridges
    Could one small step forward in the struggle to shut down third party ink manufacturers mean a big step backward for a major printer maker? Epson has raised its hand and volunteered to answer this interesting question as it tests out a new cartridge-free inkjet printer with built-in ink in a select group of schools. The new EC-01 will be able to print around 8,500 pages, after which you drop it off with Epson to get it recycled and collect a monetary deposit you can use toward purchasing your next EC-01. Yes, you read that correctly – instead of replacing a cartridge, you replace the whole printer. Crunchgear had the EC-01 on its radar back in September, when an Epson spokesman apparently explained away the inefficiency with an analogy to Coke bottles – just as a Coke bottle’s value comes from the refreshment its contents can provide, a printer’s true value lies in the pages it produces with its ink. As a result, the container (i.e. the printer) doesn’t mean as much, and is therefore expendable.

    My initial reaction, after reading a few sources and an online forum or two, is that it looks like a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Epson wants to market the EC-01 as a green and recyclable alternative under its Environmental Vision 2050 campaign. But in reality, it seems more like a roundabout plan to shut out the third party ink and toner cartridge makers who have undersold Epson and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for years.

    We’ve talked about the issue of OEMs attempting to subvert third party cartridge makers, either through allegedly anti-competitive practices or good old-fashioned litigation. The main problem is that ever since third party makers started selling similar quality ink and toner cartridges at much lower prices, the big printer makers have naturally lost market share. The legal and administrative process hasn’t worked out so well, which means OEMs may have to suck it up and compete, or resort to more heavy-handed tactics. In this case, to use a playground analogy, it sort of looks like Epson is considering picking up its ball in the middle of the game and either yelling “New Rule! New Rule!” (i.e. a cartridge-free printer) or going home because it’s not so sure it can win anymore.

    There are so many questions to ask. Is it really cost-effective to manufacture and recycle an entire printer over and over again, as opposed to a small cartridge? And if it’s not, does that mean the quality of the machine will suffer? Also, how can you schedule and administer printer pickups and dropoffs without wasting gas, time and resources? And how did that Epson rep keep a straight face when comparing a cheap Coke bottle to a complex and capable machine like a printer? Perhaps there are logical answers to these questions that would erase my initial skepticism. Then again, maybe not. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how OEMs continue to address the challenges they face from third party ink and toner makers in an increasingly competitive industry.