Death of the Printer: R.I.P.

By:  Lee Pietrowski

In today’s world of technology everything is changing rapidly.  Just when you decide to buy something on the cutting edge of  technology you open up your newspaper, magazine, or tune into your favorite news channel to find out that it has already been replaced by a better and faster product.  Sound familiar?

It seems that technology is getting smarter, faster and more useful;  except when you take a look at printers.  Printers have always been just what they are, putting ink on paper.  Whether it is in the form of laser or ink there have been no great leaps for these products, that is unless you talk about the change from dot matrix or crash printers.  Basically they are used as a single function device.  I believe that the reason for this is that the supplies for these units are huge revenue makers for the printer manufacturers.  Just look at the high cost associated with the supplies for these units vs. the relatively low yield.  The physical unit, which most look at, is very inexpensive.  This catches the purchaser’s eye and is probably the single most relevant reason most schools and companies have printers everywhere you look!

Copier companies tried to take part of the printer market away when they started manufacturing the MFP (Multi Functional Printer).  This device was manufactured to do several functions in one standalone systems including copying, printing, scanning and faxing.  The marketing by the copier companies did make sense and was responsible for the decline in printer purchases;
however one small problem existed.  Were people ready to part from the convenience of a “desktop” printer to walk to a centrally located system to get their job?  The verdict is still out.  From my perspective the answer is “no”.  You will get excuses of every type from “I have to have a desktop printer, I print confidential material” to “I cannot leave my class alone to walk down the hall to pick up my prints”.  I feel that the copier companies did well in the concept of this, but what they did not look at was the size of these units.  Whether the MFP was 20 pages per minute or 100 pages per minute, the footprint was just too large which meant the units could only be placed (or would only fit) in certain areas.  One other problem is that the small printers can sit on a desk and print out 25 or 30 pages per minute; whereas a copier based MFP of this speed would take up the space of a desk and chair.

In today’s world all of us are looking at reducing our carbon footprint, sustainability of the products we purchase, and consolidation where applicable.  I think that Apple has made great strides in this arena with the invention of the iPhone, iPod and iPad.  These systems have the ability to add applications (apps.) so that the system can do more as technology changes which in turn make your investment last longer.  This is why more IT managers are looking at these systems to implement in the classroom and work environment.

You might now be asking how this applies to the printer market.  Lexmark has introduced a line of XS systems that have what they call embedded Solutions Framework or eSF for short.  This new system will allow you to purchase applications that will help with your work flow.  Not only do they work as a copier, printer, fax and scanner but you can add applications to the system specific to your environment.  These applications are separate or you can get an industry specific bundled package for education, insurance, health care, legal, real estate, CPA etc.  These apps are downloaded to the system via a certified dealer service representative and work much like your Apple apps with icons listed on the main screen.

Lexmark also has host systems for these applications that will take the updates and managing of the applications out of your IT teams hands so that they can be more productive doing what they should be doing – keeping your network up and running!

This innovation is the reason that the printer is dead and I invite you to go to the funeral.  The day of the stand alone system is done, there is no excuse anymore, as these systems have different models for different environments; they even include a desktop model if so needed!  What is even nicer on these products is that the purchase cost is in line with what stand alone printers cost today and they have an operating expense that is just as or lower than a 20 page per minute copier that you might have.  You get the best of both worlds.

With the introduction of this new way of printing and moving information, IT Managers, Purchasers and Administration owe it to themselves to look into these products by doing a print analysis to reduce the number of systems currently doing printing, scanning, copying etc. and facilitate a ZONE APPLICATION mentality that will give staff more resources to do their jobs, reduce costs, and reduce your carbon footprint.