The prints and the paper

  • ARN Staff (Computerworld)
  • 29 September, 1999 12:01

The printing industry has survived for centuries, but rarely has the printer played such an important and direct part in the day-to-day lives of the average Australian as it has over the past decade. ARN looks at the state of the market and the latest offerings.

Since the early '90s the growth in home printing has been little short of phenomenal and it has been due solely to the boom in personal computing. For several years a printer has been the first peripheral the majority of PC owners purchase. Without one, a PC loses much of its value.

The printer has survived some pretty dire predictions for its future, including the much-vaunted paperless office. Despite assurances from the experts that the personal computer would spell the end of both paper and the printer, the opposite has happened. The average household now uses considerably more paper that it ever did.

This printer boom has not been confined to the home. Offices of all shapes and sizes are responsible for the printing boom, aided by improved printing quality and falling prices.

Jobs that were previously outsourced can now be done in-house thanks to affordable colour laser or inkjet printers.

As the printer not only survives but continues to gain in strength, other home and office devices have been added to the functionality of printers. Faxes, scanners and copiers have now begun to converge into an all-in-one multifunctional machine that had the printer at its core.

The mechanised equivalents of the Swiss Army knife have become particularly effective for small or home offices.

While they often sacrifice print quality and speed, the convenience of being able to send, receive and print out faxes, and scan and copy documents or pictures, all in the one printing device, outweighs the reduction in print quality. If you don't want to use the fax application you can always e-mail a scanned document, something you cannot do with just a fax.

But one of the biggest attractions of printers nowadays is the major reduction in cost of purchase and total cost of ownership. At the bottom end of the market, sub-$1000 multifunction devices have found their way into a wide range of homes and small businesses.

Although their print resolution is often as little as 300dpi, they handle basic printing jobs easily and well.

The scanning features are basic but suitable for small volume jobs and have the benefit of being able to convert a document to an electronic file for editing, or just copying.

The fax functions usually give the user the option of sending directly from an electronic document or from hard copy and the print functions are best and most economical in mono, rather than colour.

Most of the major printer companies, including Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Brother, have moved into the home and small office convergence market and have extended their ranges to include networkable multifunction devices that provide all of the functions of a printer and a photocopier.

The middle range sells for less than $5000 but provides better resolution and printing speeds. Larger offices have also become increasingly more interested in convergence, but they demand better quality, higher speeds and a much greater paper storage and printing capacity.

Some companies prefer to mix and match their network printers, using the multifunction device as a workhorse that produces a large number of copies or prints, rapidly and at reasonable quality. They then add one or more dedicated high-resolution printers to the network to produce printer products such as brochures and glossy reports.

In 1996, Dataquest released figures showing that 74 per cent of documents being copied on a photocopier in a large office originated from a PC.

More recently, analyst International Data Corp (IDC) released a white paper on what it describes as "the digital office face-off" - the battle between the multifunction laser printer and the new digital copiers.

According to IDC, "there is a convergence underway within the hard copy peripheral market", especially in what the corporation refers to as "the office output sweet spot" - monochrome devices intended for the shared office environment that have an output of 16 to 35 pages per minute.

"Increasingly, networked laser printers and digital copiers are not only competing for the same corporate budget, but are adopting similar features and functions. For example, leading traditional network printer vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark and Xerox are now offering multifunction capabilities. Leading players in the digital copier market such as Ricoh, Xerox and Canon offer optional print capabilities to their devices."

However, IDC is predicting network multifunction laser printers will be a clear winner over digital copiers.

It says that while the digital copier market has been experiencing compound annual growth rates of 70 per cent since 1997 and was expected to continue to do so until 2002, the real growth was deceptive because it largely represented replacement of older analog copiers. However, in the low end of the corporate market, sub-30ppm monochrome laser printers "dwarf the presence of digital copiers", it added.

The battle is expected to be much closer in the mid-range 30 to 45ppm or 31 to 44 copies per minute market, with IDC predicting no clear winner, while the high-end 46-plus ppm printer and 45 plus cpm copiers market will continue to be dominated by copiers.

One of the greatest differences between printers and copiers, according to IDC, is the buying process. Copiers are primarily leased but printers are typically purchased, and that is expected to remain the status quo. The initial purchase prices of workgroup printers are predicted to remain a fraction of the cost of digital copiers; connectivity, compatibility, output quality and reliability will continue to favour printers, but copiers will maintain their advantages in speed and higher-output volumes.

"Print quality has been and remains of utmost importance to users. At present printers are generally perceived to offer better output quality, in part because they typically offer resolutions of up to 1200 x 1200 dots per inch, while standard digital copiers are 600 x 600dpi or less.

"What has changed in the last several years," says IDC, "is the increased importance being placed by buyers and users on not just the initial purchase cost but the total cost of ownership, which encompasses the true total cost of the device over its effective operating cycle."

IDC has also found the TCO of laser printers, particularly in the 16 to 24ppm market, was up to 62 per cent less than for digital copiers.

It concluded that with the network printer and digital copier markets converging at an increasing rate, the issues and complexities facing buyers and users of shared-office, hard-copy peripherals were also changing rapidly.

Quality, ease of use, and cost are consistently mentioned among the leading user considerations in peripheral acquisition plans. Printers are generally favoured in lower cost of ownership, ease of use, management, connectivity and reliability, while copiers tend to offer benefits in multifunction capabilities and paper finishing options.

Hewlett-Packard was one of the first into the multifunction laser printer market when it launched its first mopier in 1996.

The original mopier, so called because it made MOPies (multiple original prints), was in fact the LaserJet 5Si and it arrived on the scene about the same time as digital copiers.

HP's market development manager, Anthony Reed, said digital copiers worked fine stand-alone but were very difficult to hook to a network because of problems with printer drivers and so on.

HP's early mopiers had no copying facilities so it was no more than a printer with paper handling, however, that has now changed and all of the current models have walk-up copy facilities.

Reed said the company's approach had been based on data showing the importance of printing.

"In the typical workgroup the majority of jobs are printer based and our view is that the printing engine and network connectivity is the most important part of these new multifunction devices," he said.

The later mopiers have copying facilities and can even be connected to the Internet and copied documents can be sent by e-mail.

"You can walk up to the mopier with your 10 pages of hard copy. You don't have electronic originals and you need to send four pages to people outside your organisation, two copies to people inside it, and you would like an electronic copy of it to save having to file paper.

"With the digital sender you can type in the four e-mail addresses, and your own so you can receive the electronic copy. You can also make the additional hard copies and when you return to your desk file the e-mail in your electronic filing cabinet."

Hewlett-Packard might have provided the lead, but it does not have the printer/copier market all to itself.

Canon is making a major push into the market, having done its own research as to the market's potential.

According to Stephen Morgan, the product manager of the digital office group at Canon Australia, network-capable multifunction devices represented about 25 per cent of Australian copier sales last year and he predicts they will displace more than 12,000 network laser printers sales in 1999.

"Multifunction devices that deliver both printing and copying will continue to displace stand-alone equipment of both kinds. Better cost-management capabilities tend to be delivered from the copier side, and this is the way the market is heading," he said.

Canon estimates that, given a maximum product life of five years for both printers and copiers, and a current Australian installed base of more than a million printers and copiers, the value of the local digital convergence market is more than $500 million a year up to 2004.

In fact, Canon is so convinced of the direction of the market it has set up a new business imaging solutions group (BISG), with a staff of 800 operating from sites throughout Australia.

The industry agrees one of the key drivers of the market and the implementation of convergence on enterprise networks will be the sharp focus on total cost of ownership of the new equipment.

According to Canon's BISG national sales manager, David Phillips, the total cost of printing systems in major enterprise networks has rarely been addressed in mainstream analyst reports to date. "The focus of TCO has been on computing costs up until now, despite the fact the paperless office never happened. In fact, the desktop computer has encouraged an enormous proliferation of outputs. Now, with the convergence of printers and copiers, booming new applications such as network colour, and the proliferation of apparently low-cost printing devices available for network connection, the need for disciplined management of print networks is pressing," he said. Canon launched a new range of network copier/printers designed for the small-to-medium enterprise earlier this year.

Whereas Hewlett-Packard has made a conscious decision to lead the fax function off the Mopier and rely on e-mail capabilities, Canon has included the facility in its new range.

The range starts with the $5000 entry-level GP 160, which can be configured as either copier/fax, printer/fax or printer/copier/fax, and goes all the way up to the $40,000 high-volume, high-speed GP 605.

Lexmark has a range of colour and monochrome printer/copiers, many with scanning and fax facilities. Its OptraImage modular solutions allow the user to add functions in colour or monochrome options, so they can build up their own multifunction solution for an entire workgroup.

Brother, on the other hand, has based its multifunction devices around the fax facility rather than the printer, and offers up to eight functions in the one device. However, the range is aimed at the low end of the market, even though some of the devices can be networked.

International property giant Colliers Jardine is a good example of the cost savings that can be achieved with a multifunction printer/copier.

The company produces 50 reports a week of between 30 and 70 pages. The reports feature colour photographs of properties on each page and the company produces between 8000 and 10,000 A4 pages a month. Colliers previously outsourced the scanning and copying required in the production of the reports and then printed them on an inkjet printer. However, it has since replaced the system with a Canon CLC 950 printer/copier deployed on its Melbourne office 100-plus Windows NT network.

The CLC 950 is primarily used by in-house designers and production secretaries for producing submissions, valuation and property reports. It also manages a series of digital short run jobs such as generating brochures, colour location maps and organisational charts.

Because the device can scan and copy as well as having an optional print function, Colliers' administration manager, Kate King, estimates it has reduced outsourcing costs by around $3000 a month.

Relatively slow

The CLC 950 is a high-resolution colour printer/copier that prints at a relatively slow seven pages per minute.

By comparison, the Mopier produces around 33 mono pages per minute while Canon claims in excess of 40 pages per minute with some of its high-end models.

Major South Australian construction company Built Environs uses 10 Canon GP215 multifunction devices, two of which are networked at the head office together with a CLC 800 colour printer and 6085 copier. The other GP215s are located at larger construction sites where they are used for reproducing plans or parts of plans up to A3 size and providing a fax communications channel with head office.

The company had previously used separate fax, copy and print devices on-site, but often found them unreliable. The all-in-one solution has proven more reliable and produced noticeable savings on downtime, according to the company's financial controller, Peter Basedow.

HP turns your front room into a photo labBy James NiccolaiHewlett-Packard has unwrapped a small army of digital cameras, printers and other products for home users and smaller businesses as part of the company's technology framework that it said will allow Web portals to offer a range of online photography services.

The products are part of an aggressive drive by HP to tighten its grip on the burgeoning market for digital imaging and printing products. They also include all-in-one scanner/printer/copiers starting at under $US400, and new printing paper designed to let users create professional-type photographs at home, HP said.

The technology platform, called Cartogra, will enable services that allow users to store and publish digital photographs on the Web, as well as share them with friends over the Internet, HP said. The company will launch its own online service based on the platform in the fourth quarter, at, HP said.

HP's Cartogra platform could be used by "just about any portal out there you can think of", and will work with any kind of digital camera, not just HP's, spokeswoman Pat Kinley said. "If you can get your photos into a digital form, by scanning them or using a digital camera, this will work," she added.

HP's digital cameras compete with offerings from a slew of other firms including Olympus America, Sony and Eastman Kodak. Fortunately for HP, the growing demand for such products is fuelling a cycle of demand for its other, complementary offerings, officials said.

"The increasing use of digital images is driving growth in personal printing and imaging, as more and more people print and e-mail photos or upload them to Web sites," Vyomesh Joshi, senior vice president of HP's Inkjet Imaging Solutions, said in a statement.

The products announced include the following:

The DeskJet 970Cse/Cxi printer, expected to sell for $US399, and the HP PhotoSmart P1100/P1100xi printer, expected to sell for $US499, are both aimed at professionals looking for photo-quality printing, HP said.

The PhotoSmart will be available in the US in about two weeks.

The DeskJet 830/832C printer, expected to sell for $199, is aimed at more price-sensitive home users who want comparable printing capabilities.

The PhotoSmart C500 digital camera, expected to sell for $799, and the PhotoSmart P1000 printer, expected to sell for $399, allow users to print photos directly from their digital cameras without using a PC. They are both expected in the US next month.

The PhotoSmart C200 digital camera, expected to sell for $299, is aimed at first-time digital-camera buyers.the PSC 500 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, expected to sell for about $399, is aimed at consumers, while the OfficeJet T Series all-in-one, expected to sell for $499, is an integrated all-colour printer, scanner, copier and fax designed for home-office use.

New high-quality ScanJet scanners include the HP ScanJet 3300C color scanner, expected to sell for $149, and the HP ScanJet 6300C, 6350C and 6390C professional series, expected to sell for $399, $499 and $899, respectively.

Premium Plus Photo Paper, with the same 9mm thickness as silver- halide photographs, is designed to allow consumers to create and print professional-quality photographs at home. The paper is due to ship on October 1, priced at $18 for 20 sheets of 8.5 x 11, or $9 for 20 sheets of 4 x 6.

The HP No. 78 tri-colour inkjet print cartridge, designed for use with the HP DeskJet 970Cse/Cxi and the HP PhotoSmart P1100/P1100xi/P1000 printer, contain advancements that HP says deliver realistic photographic images and fade-resistant colour images. The cartridges will be priced at $US33.

Most of the announced products are currently available in the US and Canada only. Availability dates are for Australia will vary depending on the product.'s new from . . . LexmarkLexmark offers three OptraImage print/copy/fax stations. The OptraImage SC 1275m ships with the Optra SC 1275 Color Page Printer, which comes with 64MB RAM. The scan unit is based on an AVision 810c colour scanner and there is a 50-sheet automatic document feeder.

The OptraImage Color 1200m comes with the Optra Color 1200 Page Printer, 64MB RAM, 2.1GB fixed disk, a 250-sheet drawer, and an AVision 820c colour scanner. The OptraImage 2455m ships with the Optra S 2455 Monochrome Printer, 24MB RAM, two 500-sheet paper trays, two output expanders, a Ricoh ISO1 monochrome scanner, and a 30-sheet automatic sheet feeder.


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What's new from . . . Canon

Canon's GP range is aimed at small-to-medium enterprises and comprises a combination of printer/copiers and digital copiers with printing function.

Its new entry-level GP160 is a digital laser printer/ copier/fax capable of producing up to 16 pages per minute at 1200dpi (equivalent) x 600 dpi, and is capable of handling pages up to A3 size.

The GP210 offers 2400 x 600dpi equivalent digital printing at 21ppm, has 32MB of memory, upgradeable to 96MB, supports a broad range of platforms and software and has easily upgradeable scanner and fax component options.

The GP215 offers 1200dpi (equivalent) x 600dpi copy resolution, an upgrade path by combining copy, fax, printer and scanner functions in a single unit, 21 A4 pages per minute and automatic two-sided copies standard.

The GP335 produces up to 33 copies per minute at 1200dpi (equivalent) x 600dpi, intelligent, memory-based copying and can be expanded to include fax capabilities and serve as a high-speed network printer.

It also has a 5500-sheet paper capacity. The GP405 supports a broad range of platforms and software, offers 1200dpi equivalent resolution, and has online finishing capabilities, standard stackless automatic duplexing, and 5500-sheet paper capacity, while GP605 also has production- level finishing capabilities, duplexing at rated engine speed, and 7650-sheet paper capacity.


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What's new from . . . HP

Hewlett-Packard's Mopier is based on HP's LaserJet technology and comes in two models - the 24ppm 240 and the 32ppm 320.

It is a mono printer that uses the company's proprietary FastRes 1200 (1200dpi) resolution technology and recognises four printing languages including standard, PostScript Level 2 emulation, HP PCL 6 and HP PCL 5e.

Both models come with three paper trays as standard, but they can take up to five trays with a maximum paper capacity of 3100 pages. They have a 3000-page output capacity (stapler with stacker) and can handle A4, executive, A3, B4, B5, envelopes and transparencies.

The 240 comes with 24MB of memory as standard, which can be increased to 192MB, while the 320 has 48MB as standard and can go to 208MB.

Standard connectivity comprises IEEE 1284-compliant bi-directional parallel, HP JetDirect 600N (EIO) internal print server for Fast Ethernet 10/100Base-TX Connectivity, while HP JetDirect 600N (EIO) internal print servers for Ethernet 10Base-T and 10Base2 Token Ring and LocalTalk environments are optional. Both models come with automatic I/O switching and automatic network switching.


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What's new from . . . Brother

BROTHER'S multifunction devices provide a lower-priced alternative for the small office by combining as many functions as possible.

The HL-P2000 multifunction printer is primarily a 10ppm, laser printer offering 600dpi print resolution for both graphics and text. It has 2MB of memory, as standard. The in-built copier function provides both a Photo copy and a Text copy choice for up to nine copies, via the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF). The integrated, 8-bit scanner allows up to 10 pages of text and photos to be stored on your PC automatically via the ADF, at resolutions of up to 600 x 600dpi, interpolated.

The Multi-Function Centre MFC 970MC is a fax-based multifunction device that can print and copy. It has a 14.4Kbps high-speed modem, 10-page auto document feeder and 100-sheet paper cassette. In addition, the MFC 970MC offers 200 x 200dpi class printing at up to 2 pages per minute; up to 99 copies with sorting function, a zoom function for the copier, and a TWAIN-compliant scanner capable of 400 x 400dpi interpolated. It also includes a 15-minute built-in digital answering machine.

Its bigger brother, the 1970MC, has double the paper capacity, but printing resolution and speed, copying function and scanning capability remain the same. The answering machine's capacity is doubled to 30 minutes.


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