Some recent product advancements are also set to shake up the office printer market. Market leader, HP, is hoping its Edgeline technology will give resellers something new to talk about. Essentially, the technology puts more ink nozzles on to the print head so units can spray ink faster and at higher densities than seen before. It is being pitched as a real alternative to office printing, producing laser-like image quality and performance at lower running costs.
According to the company, the ink-based printing engine is designed with printheads that span the width of a page, which means the paper moves, not the printhead. For increased printing speeds, edgeline printers use large, stationary printheads - arranged in a line - to dispense ink across the entire width of the page as the paper passes beneath them. The company said the result is more accurate ink-drop placement and fast, crisp, printshop quality output.
HP expects to lower the total cost of colour inkjet printing, compared with department-class colour laser MFPs. With printer costs a big drain on most enterprises, technology advances like edgeline would be good news for users, particularly in the mid-market space, the vendor claimed.
While some analysts say the technology will create even more intense competition in the mid-market enterprise print sector, IDC's Ghai said he was unsure how the strategy would play out in the local market, or what it would mean in terms of local product releases. "It's not a new technology," Ghai said. "It's a new way of doing the same thing. It may be faster and the TCO is good, but I haven't seen any shipments yet, and it's hard to say how end users will react.
"We find end-users are resistant to any kind of new invention attached to the devices, particularly larger places that are on a contract."
He suggested edgeline could potentially cannibalise HP's own entry-level mono laser market.
"It's not a bad strategy to cannibalise one's own product rather than have the competition do it," he said. "Certainly, edgeline is an important strategy, but how it chooses to play with it remains to be seen."
Office workhorse shines
Workgroup printers are also experiencing a revival, according to Fuji Xerox Printers operations manager, Paul Harman.
The vendor recently released a model which caters to the small workgroup environment (the Phaser 3428), along with a colour laser network printer that's designed to be an office workhorse (the DocuPrint C3210 DX).
Harman said some top value-added features of the Phaser 3428 include standard automatic duplex (two-sided) printing, watermarks, N-up, posters and booklets, plus USB, parallel and Ethernet 10/100Base TX at the ready, which translates to quicker turnaround times, improved productivity and low running costs.
In the workgroup space, top of mind concerns were high print quality, a small footprint and low TCO which maximized office resources and efficiency, he said. Workgroups of all sizes would particularly like the new direct transfer imaging system feature for vibrant colour built into the DocuPrint C3210 DX, which provides crisp, accurate documents with the touch of a button, Harman said.
Fuji Xerox is seeing 130 per cent overall growth in year-on-year revenue, which he attributed, in part, to the recent vertical segmentation of the business. Resellers are now urged to position product in five key areas: SOHO, SME, general office, government and graphic arts.