Dell Hints At Future Printer Direction - InformationWeek
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11/17/2010
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Lamont Wood
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Dell Hints At Future Printer Direction

SMB printers themselves may not be changing dramatically, but the application software is, and interfaces will continue to evolve.

SMB printers themselves may not be changing dramatically, but the application software is, and interfaces will continue to evolve.Currently, there are no dramatic developments under way in SMB printer technology, and the focus is on user software, solutions, and how to best use the technology, especially in the mobile arena.

That was the message that came across during a recent group interview of Dell printer executives on the occasion of their latest printer product announcements. Involved were Steve Mast, global team manager, Dell CSMB Imaging Product Line Management; Don Heath, group manager, Dell Imaging and Printing Group; and Scott Gray, product manager, Dell Imaging and Printing Group.

In the wireless arena, "There is a big trend toward mobile printing, from cell phones and wireless applications, and Dell is working on a couple of solutions for our customers, for printing through Wi-Fi or the cloud," Mast said. "But we will not be ready to roll them out until the early part of next year." They will be software rather than hardware-based, he added.

Workflow and vertical applications will also be areas of focus, they added. Examples would be scanning to multiple recipients, or the scanning of school tests for grading, or of legal documents for secure transmission to court.

Meanwhile, printers with sizeable touch screens and sophisticated user interfaces have been appearing, and competitors have included stand-alone applications that link the printer directly to services in the cloud-no attached computer is needed.

At Dell, "You will continue to see smart touch screens that let the machines go from MFPs to on-ramps and off-ramps for converting paper to digital," Mast said.

With the printers turning into powerful computing devices in their own rights, will we see a third-party software market for them, as with the iPhone? They agreed that an open architecture might be possible for future machines, but was not an issue with the current generation.

In other trends, LED printers will continue to gain prominence over laser printers, as they produce the same toner-based results but are more compact. Both will continue to offer improved prices and efficiency.

While business-class inkjets are available, business users continue to prefer the printout quality and duty cycles available with toner-based products (LED and laser printers.)

They will continue to charge for refill ink and toner as if they were silver ingots. The business model of all the major vendors is to make their money off refills, like razor makers who make their money off the blades.

But at the same time, the trend is toward larger cartridges, to whatever size the market will bear. The biggest source of wear and tear to the machines is not the act of printing, but the users opening them and attempting to change the cartridges. Larger cartridges would keep these events to a minimum.

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