UK:LICENCE TO PRINT MONEY
UK:LICENCE TO PRINT MONEY
2005-06-07 at 9:52:00 am #9545
Licence to print money
Even small businesses can
now afford a laser printer that scans, faxes and copies as well,
It makes sense to have a printer, scanner
and copier all in one device, but until recently, it was too expensive for
manufacturers to include laser printing in systems aimed at small and
medium-sized businesses. But now, thanks to the decline in cost of laser
printing engines, that is changing.
Last month, Epson announced a colour laser multifunction printer with the
Aculaser CX11N series that cost about £500. This was followed by
Hewlett-Packard’s similarly priced LaserJet 2800 series. The 2800 AiO
(All-in-One) is network-ready and prints 19 pages per minute (ppm) in mono and
4ppm in colour.
printer (MFP) or all-in-one is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the printer
market. Typically, these devices combine print, scan, copy and sometimes fax
features in one unit. At the higher end, they also offer network connectivity,
the ability to email scanned or copied images to other users, and to print on
both sides of the paper.
Several manufacturers have launched colour inkjet MFPs that are raising the
bar on speed and quality while blurring the line between inkjet and laser. For
example, Xerox’s WorkCentre 2424, which costs £1,900, is the first MFP based on
the company’s solid-ink technology, which can produce high-quality colour
prints. Meanwhile Oki’s C5510, priced at £869, uses single-pass printing to
deliver 12ppm in colour and 20ppm in mono.
Such is the confidence of the manufacturers that Lexmark predicts all MFPs
will be colour by 2007. But their success will depend partly on whether people
think they can afford to print more in colour, which is typically about seven
times the cost per page of printing in mono.
With MFP prices ranging from about £200 to £2,000, buyers may be confused
about the relative merits of different devices. Most buyers consider print
speed, price and form factor, but experts say the cost of ownership should be
taken more seriously now manufacturers sell the hardware almost as loss leaders.
Peter Maude, an analyst with Charisco Printer Labs, says manufacturers are
beginning to wage a war over the cost of consumables such as ink cartridges.
“One of the most impressive characteristics of the HP device is that
consumables, unlike those for the Xerox 2424, have not been keyed to create an
artificial monopoly,” he says. “The same consumables fit both its LaserJet 2550
and the new All-in-One device.”
Maude says Oki and Xerox have adjusted the price of toner so that black and
white printing is cheaper on the MFP than on their printers, but colour is more
When it comes to print speeds, consumers are right to be cautious about
advertised figures. Many manufacturers, including Xerox, admit that print speeds
given in brochures are misleading. “There is no agreed standard, which makes it
very difficult to compare,” says Ken Salmon, manager of Xerox’s monochrome
business unit. “We refer buyers to independent tests that look at a range of
tasks to get a better comparison.”
Xerox’s MFPs compare particularly well in tests by the US-based Buyers
Laboratory, which runs 15 different print jobs when comparing printers.
It’s even harder for buyers to evaluate an MFP’s ability to perform more than
one task at the same time. The cheaper products can only handle one task at a
time, but some high-end MFPs can juggle printing, scanning, copying, and faxing
simultaneously. They can also save paper costs by printing on both sides.
But one of the biggest changes in the printer market is the shift to online
sales. All the manufacturers are keenly aware that with Dell’s arrival, they
must now prune their costs and compete directly with online sales.
Dell began selling printers in the UK two years ago, and now offers a dozen
printers aimed at consumers and small businesses. However, it does not have a
laser colour MFP. “We are keeping an eye on how this market grows and will
review our range as the market develops,” says John Kelly, printer business
manager at Dell UK.
Whatever the sales model, MFPs are beginning to make inroads into
medium-sized firms that would traditionally use separate devices. For example,
Bournemouth-based law firm Lester Aldridge, which has a staff of 350 across five
sites, has gone from using a mixture of different printers to MFPs from Canon.
IT director Neil Prevett says there are many benefits: “It makes organising
consumables a lot easier and more predictable, and because the devices are fully
networked, we are able to accurately measure printer usage and integrate digital
scans into our document management system.”
But another IT manager, who prefers to remain anonymous, suggests MFPs have
some way to go. “There is no point giving colour MFPs to most staff – they
hardly ever use most of the functions,” he says. “Besides, if I give them
colour, they will just waste money printing out party invitations and the