The biggest potential area of growth for the color printer market, in both the Mac and Wintel environments, is among general office users — a market that’s been sluggish overall to move out of the monochrome world.
“This is one of the biggest areas of the color printer market that we’re looking to target,” Todd Hatfield, one of HP’s color gurus and a key member of the team responsible for the development and strategy behind many of HP’s color business printers, told MacCentral. “These are the users who buy the largest number of monochrome printers today. We think they’d like to colorize their world, but have seen color printing as being too complex, too expensive, and not offering quite as high a level of quality as monochrome printing.”
In recent weeks,
Hewlett-Packard has made several business inkjet and color print products announcements. And they’ll be unveiling a new laser product in early June. Over the past few years, color products have moved from the realm of graphics professionals who have specific needs for color printing, to small office-home office (SOHO) and home users, said Hatfield.
“As technology matured, inkjets moved up in class and offered better performance, even as color laser technology moved from the $6,000 price point to the $1,000 to $2,000 range,” he said. “This means that we’ve seen the adoption of color technology move out of the professional level and into the office space. After all, there’s a certain acceptance of professionalism that’s accepted when color is used in printed materials.”
Business inkjets remain in the $500 to $700 range, while consumer models cost under $300. And multifunction devices (which can print, scan, fax and copy) are growing in popularity, though they’re still predominantly monochrome systems, Hatfield said. However, he expects that to change due to the “digital convergence” trend.
“All-in-one devices are unbelievably popular in both businesses and home offices, as well as for personal use,” he said. “Inkjet technology allows us to integrate features into one device in a way that we couldn’t have done before.”
And look for more and more color work to be done in-house rather than outsourced to print shops. Color printing and copying technology is maturing to the point where it’s becoming economically feasible to do at your own place of business, saving both time and money, Hatfield said.
Don’t look for high-end digital copiers to explode, however. Hatfield said that they currently have a very small amount (about 4 percent) of the office copier market share. Though color will become increasingly pervasive, he doesn’t expect analog color copiers to explode in popularity. Instead, Hatfield sees the functionality rolled into all-in-ones and multifunction devices.
As color becomes increasingly desirable in the general office market, HP will be rolling out more products with more automatic color management features. And you can expect them to be Mac compatible.
“The Mac market has seen a resurgence in recent years with the iMac and G4 systems,” Hatfield said. “While we see Macs being used by everyone from the hobbyist and home user to the graphics professional, we still service a large number of general office users who like the ease of use of the Mac platform. We expect this to continue. Of course, the digital imaging and pro graphics markets are very steeped in the Mac platform, and HP will continue to service them with Mac compatible products.”