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This has been a year of evolution, rather than revolution, in the printer world. Trends have accelerated, both in increasing use of certain technologies and in the decline of some product niches, but there’s been no killer tech which will see the end of certain types of printer.
The technologies on the up have been LED printing, touch screen controls and direct Internet connection for printers. On the down have been dedicated photo printers, carousel-style colour laser printers and, in at least one case, a Night of Long Knives attack on a product range.
Last year, Lexmark introduced the idea of connecting a wireless printer to the Internet and downloading specific printing apps to store and run in the printer. HP has run with that idea this year and extended it. Each of its Internet-aware printers can have its own email address and be sent emails to print, a bit like a glorified fax. It’s still not clear how useful this will be, but it shows some thinking out of the box.
For over 20 years, laser technology has been the primary method of producing high speed black and colour print for office work. Only OKI pioneered the use of strips of high-intensity LEDs to do the work of the laser beam. Perhaps some patents have expired, as two major players in the laser printer market are about to introduce ranges of LED printers and as LED offers a much simpler and cheaper technology, it may mean lower printer prices.
Nearly all makers have abandoned carousel-style colour lasers, where colour pages take four times as long to print as black ones. If you’re buying a laser printer for more than very occasional colour print, the extra wait soon becomes a nuisance.
Lexmark introduced its Home Office and Professional range of all-in-ones last year, all of which use the same print engine, offering the company excellent economies of scale. With the first stage of the strategy complete, it has now quietly discontinued all its other inkjet printers and all-in-ones, leaving room to discount some prices in the new ranges to fill the gaps.
Spurred on by the success of the iPhone and iPod touch, many companies have introduced touch screens to, at least, the high-end all-in-ones in their ranges. Selecting menu options and switching parameters with a touch is as useful as it is on a mobile and no doubt the technology will slide slowly down manufacturers’ ranges in the coming year.