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Business Ink to Become a Game Changer for Office Printing

30 Oct, 2015 By: Deborah Hawkins

Over the years, color inkjet printers have become an established device in U.S. households and small offices. Nevertheless, inkjet printers and all-in-ones (AIOs) have been slow to migrate to the general office environment. Inkjet devices have been viewed as too slow or too expensive for everyday office output. Through technological innovation however, InfoTrends believes inkjet now has a lot more to offer.

There have been numerous improvements in the throughput speed and print quality of color inkjet printers. Until recently, it has however, been the high cost of ownership, the high cost of inkjet replacement cartridges, and the corresponding per-page printing costs, that have been the strongest barriers for many to accept these devices as an alternative to laser-based technology for general business applications.

In recent years, we have seen significant decline in the market for what we refer to as consumer inkjet devices. These are mostly those designed for home and personal use. That market has been depressed by the advance in substitutive technologies – increased tablet and smartphone use and applications, as well as the increased portfolio of photo printing and sharing applications which have replaced much of the need for personal printing. At the same time, inkjet device manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Canon, Epson and Brother have invested in the technology and brought products to market that are more acceptable for business applications and so have opened up the choices for business printing either in a SOHO location or an office environment. 

Today’s inkjets for business now offer standard features including network connectivity, duplex, automatic document feeders, wireless support, high capacity ink cartridges and a lower overall cost per page.  A broad range of devices are available to serve SOHO users at the lower volume scale and higher end business users at the higher end of the volume scale (see graphic) . At the very top of the pyramid of inkjet today is the Page-wide technology which InfoTrends considers to currently be able to compete with color laser devices.

[*Note: Chart is available in “View Digital Edition” – click Nov. cover thumbnail image]

Research Suggests
InfoTrends’ most recent research suggests that inkjet technology has become more suitable for business use although there are differences depending on the technology you currently use. In fact, 90% of business inkjet users were much more likely than laser users (52%) to say that inkjet devices are suitable for business use.  The most current business inkjet devices display significant improvements in print quality – a feature however that most find difficult to measure.

InfoTrends research shows that legacy laser device users are most interested in the quality of the text and the type face and consider text printing to be one of the strengths of laser technology. In comparison to laser users, business inkjet users are more likely to consider “Photo/graphics/colour printing” quality as a benefit of their current technology and demand this for future devices. Across all users, laser or business inkjet, the use of higher quality paper, always increased the level of acceptance of quality. Those people that most like the quality of inkjet prints most often have lower weekly print volumes of up to 50 pages per week. Those people that most prefer laser tend to have a higher weekly page volume overall.  And so a volume equation emerges – depending on the user’s print volume, the choice of devices will differ.

The study results found that there is a disconnect between how laser device users view business inkjet technology; for example, many did not know that speeds have increased to as high as 70ppm. Speed is however not the only factor - the perception of cost is one of the main driving forces behind the bias against inkjet technology, and in the past many have stumbled over the replacement cost of ink. Most recent comparison, however, shows that for small businesses (5-19 employees), with a monthly page volume of roughly 1,200 pages if we factor in initial acquisition cost, total costs per page and total cost of ownership, the total cost of printing with a business inkjet device can be less than half that of an equivalent color laser device, and this is expected to be the game changer for this market.

In small offices today, there is a place for both inkjet and color devices to handle specific applications, volumes and cost levels. InfoTrends believes that we will see more vendors enter the business inkjet market, with an even broader offering in the near future. Laser devices will coexist with business inkjet, but we see the latter taking up the majority of the lower volume business applications. Now that the cost factor is out of the way, buyers will have more choice from improved technologies which will encourage them to upgrade to a newer device, allowing for further investment and future improvements by manufacturers.


Deborah Hawkins is Associate Director, Office Document Technology Group, InfoTrends, a division of Buyers Lab. Contact Hawkins at deborah_hawkins@infotrends.com  or visit www.infotrends.com 

About the Author: Deborah Hawkins

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