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 user 2007-02-27 at 12:16:00 pm Views: 114
  • #17434

    A closer look at Kodak’s new ink tech
    THE dog-and-Shannon show introducing Kodak’s Easyshare all-in-one
    inkjet printers wrapped up in New York City, the invited press got a
    chance to see carefully scripted demos of the new hardware and ask
    questions of Kodak engineers.

    The Easyshare external looks are
    in this season’s colors of white and off-white, so they look equally
    stylish next to a PC or a Mac. No blacks or darker colors. One reason
    why Kodak’s ink is cheaper is because they’ve moved the most expensive
    part of the cartridge – the replaceable print head – into the
    printer.Instead, the print head is a MEMS device embedded in the
    device. In other devices, you end up buying a new print head every time
    you buy a $30+ ink cartridge.

    Kodak executives talked up the
    fact the printer hardware is “more expensive” than other options on the
    market and say that they don’t expect everyone to go buy their stuff.
    Their sweet spot seems to be a print-happy Soccer Mom that likes to
    crank out photos of every event for the family scrap book and to mail
    off to the relatives. I think people are going to make the decision
    that they need to get a Kodak printer based on how much money it might
    save them over their existing print costs, be it at-home on a
    competitor’s champagne ink-drinker or compared to what they might pay
    at a department store for digital prints.

    All hardware on
    display was pre-production, with production models scheduled to appear
    in Best Buy in March and May. The low and mid-end models ($149 and
    $199) will appear in March with the high-end with fax and document
    feeder appearing in May. Best Buy has a 90 day exclusive on the

    Consumers who select Kodak can expect to see one type
    of ink cartridge for a long time. Executives feel comfortable with the
    five color pigment selection for photos, plus a dedicated blank ink
    cartridge for documents and don’t want to get into the
    cycle//inventory/shelf problem of rolling out a new ink cartridge every
    time they roll out a new printer. No answer on if you can simply bin
    the empty plastic cartridges into the recyclables pile, but one would
    hope so.Improvements will be made in hardware, adding more features
    – one could guess wireless and networking support – and improving the
    MEMS print head and other print mechanisms. Philip Faraci, President of
    Kodak’s Consumer Digital Imaging Group, said the company already has
    second and third generation products on the drawing board and is
    following a “multi-year plan.” The company hopes to secure 10 percent
    market share of (what I assume is the consumer market) by 2010 Consumables
    packaging is one area where Kodak has put in serious thought. The
    company has put together grab bags containing a stack of 4×6 inch photo
    paper, a color cartridge, and a black cartridge for under $20. You can
    get 180 prints on “standard” for $17.99 or go upscale to thicker paper,
    but only 135 prints for $19.99. The $17.99 package delivers prints at
    10 cents U.S. a copy while the $19.99 package breaks down to 15 cents
    U.S. a copy.

    Interestingly, the printer has a built-in scanner
    to determine the type of photo paper inserted in it, and adjusts
    accordingly. The Kodak photo paper is subtly coded on the back to
    indicate the difference between standard and thick/premium paper – the
    code is simply the space between the logo lines. If the printer doesn’t
    see Kodak logo lines (i.e. you put in non-Kodak paper, it goes into
    “generic” mode and slows down printing a bit. Conspiracy theorists will
    say Kodak does this to encourage you to use their paper; the engineers
    say they need to slow down because they’re not sure if the unknown-type
    paper will suck up ink as fast as Kodak-product. I’d give them the
    benefit of the doubt on this.

    It should be noted that both
    Faraci and Kodak President//CEO Antonio Perez were both with HP for
    decades (and left prior to any pretexting issues), so they aren’t
    getting into the inkjet biz lightly. Faraci worked on the first HP
    inkjet printer circa 1980. The project was greenlighted in June 2003
    and has been successfully kept under wraps until the product launch –
    Steven Jobs may be taking lessons from Kodak on how to keep secrets.

    theme that both Faraci and Perez underscored was the vast amount of
    technology Kodak had developed over the years but had failed to bring
    to market in products. Faraci said there were a group of core
    technologies that the company hoped to make money with, including OLED
    and its commercial high-speed printing technology. Kodak may have
    another surprise or two in the works, but if they do, I doubt we’re
    going to hear anyone at the company talk about it before they’re ready
    to show product.