Network printers mean solid sales for many resellers. But not only do they cost more, buyers have to put more thought into the choice. That means thinking about compatibility, reliability, operating costs and the new concept in the marketplace . . . colour. We talked to several manufacturers to find out how they fit into the market. Most agreed that, while the market for personal office printers continues to grow, the network printer market is growing faster, and the cost of operation is the main factorJames Koefoed of Xerox believes that IT departments have gone beyond focusing on computer hardware and operating/application systems and are finally beginning to put output solutions on the priority list. "Now that network setups are maturing, rationalisation to improve cost and performance is occurring" Koefoed said.
Those that ARN talked to who have faith in the growth of the personal printer market cited such advantages as convenience, security, the resurgence of shared workgroup printers and suit- ability to the SOHO market.
Alastair Watts of QMS agrees that within certain office environments people will still want to have a personal printer on their desks "but the bigger issue is the overall cost of ownership and that makes the network printer a much more viable proposition". He believes that the network printer market will grow as companies focus on overall cost versus performance.
Paul Cosgrove of IBM predicts that, because of the growth of the network printer market, "personal printers will become very inexpensive 'give away' items in the medium term, but running costs will remain very high". Oki's Jeremy de Silva claims that such dramatic price reductions will ensure a growing market share.
On the subject of cost, Allan Toner of Dataproducts claims that the sale of network printers is an "extremely aggressive aspect of the market with price constantly being a dominant factor in the purchase consideration". He is amazed at some resellers selling competitors printers at margins as low as 5 per cent. "We genuinely believe that our network of distributors and resellers would not tolerate such a profit return."
What makes it different?
Having established that the network printer market is growing, what are the trends within this new market which will differentiate between competing manufacturers products? Factors cited by our respondents include speed, colour, Windows NT connectivity, multiple bins (input and output), ease of use, multiple original printing, paper handling, cost of ownership, productivity, security, printer management, serverless printing, print-on-demand, solution selling, service and support.
Watts of QMS says that users are more aware of their own demands and they are realising the benefits of having "a true network printing strategy". Users are no longer just buying the latest technology available: "now the users make the demands and the manufacturers react to it".
Customers are beginning to prefer multiple high-quality prints in favour of photocopies. Toner of Dataproducts claims that MOP (multiple original printing) will allow customers to print these multiple copies "without the usual PC lock-up effect". He says that Dataproducts will have MOP available at the end of this year.
Neale Gallagher of Tektronix claims that MOP is more reliable, flexible and faster than using copiers. The multiple prints are also cost- and time-effective. "The cost per copy of printed versus copied is about the same when the high level of service required by copiers is factored in." Gallagher quotes a survey conducted by Dataquest in the US which claims that "45 per cent of laser printer users are already utilising printers for MOPs".
Jeremy de Silva believes that Oki's range of network printers, which is aimed at the small to medium enterprise market, gains its market share by offering greater speed and paper handling capabilities. It will soon be introducing 16ppm printers and "the paper handling capacities are the largest in the entry-level end of the market, offering standard capacity of between 250Ð500 sheets". In addition "Oki's time to first print is the fastest among all mid-range network printers with 11 secs to first print on the 12ppm OL1200 and 14 seconds on the 8ppm OL810e".
Dataproducts' Toner predicts that more sophisticated finishing options, such as sorting and stapling within the printer configuration, will be a feature of network printers before long.
Koefoed of Xerox cites the analogy of what has happened and continues to happen with PCs - they are becoming more and more powerful. Printers are available for the same price or less than previous, less powerful models. "Whereas 8Ð10ppm was OK before, the standard is now 12Ð17ppm for office networks, and the price points are similar."
As manufacturers compete to bring higher price/performance solutions to the market, document management within the network is becoming an important business issue for medium to large organisations. Koefoed explained that "new printers must also be able to cope with changing applications like printing from the Internet and more memory-intensive output, such as graphics".
IBM's Cosgrove agrees with the need to fit into this more complex environment, and adds that "they also need to be able to be managed via the same tools that are used to manage other network resources such as servers and hubs".
Smith of Kyocera, however, argues that the trend for faster network printers is manufacturer driven rather than customer driven, "because Kyocera has noted no lessening of sales for its top- of-the-line 18ppm printers. Additionally, sales of Kyocera 10ppm models have increased".
He states that the industry standard resolution has remained at 600dpi and there is no genuine customer demand for 1,200dpi in monochrome. There does appear to be a strong demand, how-ever, for "Kyocera 300dpi products for text and forms work".
Keep it secret
One important trend is the option of security for document output. Most manufacturers agree that the need for security of documents is related to the environment of use. Areas where security is important include situations where people are working remotely (teleworkers and mobile workers), in banks and HR departments, although Rob Hartnett of Hewlett-Packard feels that security is really becoming very important for all larger workgroups.
While some manufacturers pass the security issue back to using personal printers, others have reacted to the need for security by including these features within their network printers. Dataproducts deals with the problem through its high-end laser printer systems which have multiple output "locations" including a lockable output container. Xerox offers a mailbox option with up to 10 lockable output trays, accessible only via a password entered at the printer user interface. Hewlett-Packard has a LaserJet 5SiMX printer which offers a "multi-bin mailbox" feature, which consists of five output bins, each able to be user-specified so that a particular user's output will always be found in a certain bin. IBM offers a lockable 10-bin mailbox option on the new IBM Network Printer 17 which is accessed by pressing a user-defined PIN on the printer.
Another trend in the market is colour printers. Some industry observers have predicted that colour will take over as the standard for network printers. Again cost seemed to be a major stumbling block, in addition to speed, cost of consumables, ease-of-use of driver and management software, and price. Once these problems have been overcome, however, a number of respondents could see that colour printers will certainly increase as a proportion of total sales. Koefoed of Xerox feels that this will happen "as a result of changing user application use and understanding of the power of colour in high-value documents like proposals and presentations". He predicts that within the next two years "it is likely that colour will move from five times the price of black and white to around two times".
Tektronix has just released its Phaser 350 colour laser-class printer which Gallagher claims "is positioned at half the price of competitive laser colour printers and can print a full colour page at half the cost of other colour laser printers". A lower cost per page is achieved with this machine because Tektronix is providing black ink free with each box of colour purchased for the new Phaser 350. Says Gallagher, "this eliminates the need to switch from the office laser printer to the colour printer - now all documents can be printed on the one device".
Also released this month is Digital Equipment's Colorwriter LSR 2000+. The series includes a reasonably priced entry-level printer and a higher priced, superior performance model, which targets production-quality printing. This high performance model is designed for Windows 95 and Windows NT as well as Macintosh.
Digital's Richard Watson believes that the Colorwriter matches laser copiers in quality and speed for a fraction of the cost. "In addition to saving on acquisition costs, running expenses will be reduced since the Colorwriter prints on plain paper and special transparencies, eliminating the need to purchase special paper for colour prints," he says.
IBM's new Network Colour Printer uses a similar "RIP while print" technology to Digital's LSR 2000 and also boasts the ability to increase both print and output speeds for colour pages and application release times. Already on the market is IBM's full colour postscript printer with LAN, MAN and WAN connectivity.
QMS says that the way to approach the colour print market is to sell a network laser printer that happens to print colour as well. They are continuing to promote the development of engine technology which will eventually see this network printer printing as fast as the 24ppm 2425Print System network printer - but in colour, for the same running costs.
Dataproducts considers that the acceptance of colour network printers as a standard is still some time off. Instead it predicts that the next demand will come for a reasonably priced second colour option, where the printer is able to produce both a black and a second colour print on the same page. These will be a fast and economical option and Dataproducts will be releasing such a printer next year.
Kyocera considers colour to be a natural extension to the continuing monochrome printer network requirement but it does not consider that colour printers will be a viable standard machine in the short term.
Hello, are you OK?
With the increasing use of network printers instead of personal printers, end-user control and interrogation of the often-remote printer becomes an important issue. This facility is required by both users and network administrators.
Users want to know the status of a print job and to easily change output options from their desktop.
Network administrators and help desk people have to support printers on the network, so they want driver setup to be easy and they need to be able to interrogate printers remotely and be able to handle issues pro-actively.
Watts of QMS says that the onus is on the printer manufacturer to provide software to gain this control. "The QMS CrownAdmin has many levels of support for both users and administrator."
Dataproducts offers a printer management utility known as PrintWatch.
Lexmark, in cooperation with Microsoft, has developed MarkVision for Windows NT 4.0. MarkVision is a set of printer management utilities which addresses both end-users' and administrators' needs across a broad range of environments. Its ionised view of the printer provides real-time alert driven printer status monitoring. Administrators are able to remotely set up, con-figure and manage printers in LAN or WAN environments.
Some manufacturers are using a browser such as Netscape Navigator to look at the printer and queue. Tektronix released a browser-based printer information tool, Phaserlink, early last year. IBM's Cosgrove argues that even though WWW browsers will include more capability over time, it will still be necessary to utilise some printer vendor software in the short to medium term. "IBM provides both free and fee solutions in this area and has established (with Hewlett-Packard and Digital) the Palladium management solution. IBM has chosen SNMP for printer management as it is the most open vehicle available in a multi-vendor environment."
What does it really cost?
How aware are manufacturers, resellers, buyers and end-users of the actual cost of ownership of a printer?
All manufacturers we spoke to said they are acutely aware of the actual cost of ownership, but resellers, buyers and end-users usually are not. Koefoed of Xerox qualifies this by stating that some manufacturers fail to fully understand the costs by not taking into account the full life cycle of the document being produced - "from design to output".
Dataproducts believes that in the commercial sector the price of the printer is often considered separately to the cost of consumables. The IT manager may have the capital budget but he may not have the consumables budget.
The company goes on to state that "government customers and astute commercial customers often recognise that the cost of the consumables and maintenance can significantly outweigh the initial price of the printer". The company "sells hard" the very low cost of ownership of its high-end laser printer systems.
Several people we spoke to noted the trend for larger and/or more astute organisations to take a "whole of life costing approach" to printer purchasing. Kyocera believes that considerable savings can be made by customers when this approach to costing is taken.
Laser is still king
A unanimous response was also received to the question of a predominant technology in network printing. Laser technology dominates and will continue to do so because of its reliability, cost effectiveness, speed and ability to produce the best-quality documents. IBM's Cosgrove adds that "the use of standard plain paper and plastic (foils) is a must".
On the question of operating systems in use and how this influences the choice and/or use of network printers, most respondents stated that their printers were flexible enough to operate in most of the operating systems available on the market today. Toner of Dataproducts goes on to say that "printers have largely been open in nature, well before it became 'fashionable' to be open".
Koefoed of Xerox believes that NetWare has the largest base, "but Windows NT is growing very fast". "Suppliers like Fuji Xerox need to understand the requirements of producing and outputting in these environments in order to best satisfy the users."
Kyocera argues that Windows environments ("in which Kyocera is very strong") will continue to be the first priority for most vendors. Watts believes that the final release of NT version 4 "will have some sort of effect on the network printer market because of the transitional stage many end-users have been in with Windows 95".
Lexmark's MarkVision is the only printer management utility on the Windows NT 4.0 CD-ROM. Ian Clohessy of Lexmark says "we've developed MarkVision for Windows NT 4.0 in direct response to customer requests for TCP/IP support, printer connectivity and management on Windows NT 4.0, because we view Windows NT as a strategic platform for printing and printer management".
MarkVision provides a common printer management interface with Windows 3.x. and Windows 95 as well as Windows NT. It is available free of charge on the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 CD-ROM and future updates will be available free of charge from Lexmark.
Cosgrove believes that the ability to work in all operating systems is a good test of whether a printer is truly a network printer. Even though the choice of network printers seems to be influenced very little by operating systems, those which cannot operate in all systems may be discriminated against as Windows NT establishes itself in the marketplace.
100Mbit/sec network connectivity will be important to network printing because the faster files are transferred from source to output device, the more pressure there will be to avoid any "bottlenecks" or delays when the print file reaches the printer. The printer on the network will need to be able to cope with the data transfer and spool jobs internally.
Higher bandwidth will also be important for colour if quality is to be retained. Kyocera has experienced an increase in demand for 100 Mbit/sec connectivity this year and Dataproducts predicts that this facility will become more relevant within two years. Kyocera provides a network option for this technology and Dataproducts is planning to introduce one.
Digital Equipment Corporation
Colorwriter LSR 2000+
l Entry-level model with 16Mb of upgradable memory, for high-quality office colour printing including desktop publishing, overhead transparencies and proposals.
List price $12,625 excluding tax.
l High-performance model has 32Mb for graphics, pre-press and digital printing. Comes with a Professional Colour Kit comprising the LSR man-ager, downloader, spooler, and print calibrator. Newly designed for Windows 95, Windows NT and Macintosh.
100MHz processor and an EFI Fiery Driven XJe controller.
RIP-while-print function. Allows images to be processed while other images are being printed.
Centronics Parallel and Ethernet connectivity - using Ethertalk, Novell IPX and TCP/IP Protocol. Connectivity is therefore suitable to mixed platform workgroups and Macintosh environments.
Paper handling: 350-sheet capacity via dual paper input trays (100- sheet multipurpose and 250-sheet universal tray for letter, legal, A4 and B5 paper). Print speed 3ppm colour or 12ppm mono.
List price $14,180 excluding tax.
Both models have one year, on-site warranty.
Digital Equipment Corporation
Asia Pacific Printing Systems Business
Tel: (02) 9561 5252
Fax: (02) 9561 5888
Network Printer 12
Processor: 33MHz Intel 80960
JF. 32bit RISC
Price : $2,792.78
Network Printer 17
Processor: 33MHz Intel 80960
CF. 32bit RISC.
Price : $3,374.85
Network Printer 24/24PS
Processor: 66MHz Intel 8090
HD. 32bit RISC
Memory: 4Mb/68Mb - NP 24
12Mb/68Mb - 24PS
Price: $6,280.55; 24PS $7,444.69
Network Colour Printer
Speed: 12ppm mono/3ppm full colour
Processor: 100MHz M/PS R4600. 64-bit
Memory: 16Mb/46Mb. 341Mb hard Drive.
Price: $14,563 (16Mb model);
$16,630 (32Mb model).
Distributors: ITG, Computers and Technology, Printer Wholesalers IBM Tel: (02) 9354 4956 Fax: (02) 9354 9098DataproductsDesktop SystemsTyphoon 8 - 8ppm up to 1200 x 1200dpiTyphoon 16 - 16ppm 600 x 600dpiFloorstanding Laser systemsTyphoon 30 - 30ppm, duplex, 300/400dpi s/w switchableTyphoon 40 - 40ppm, duplex, 300/400dpis/w switchableTyphoon 60 - 60ppm, duplex, 300/400dpi s/w switchableDistributed by Mitsui, TGE, ATI, CSM (ACT), Kaleidoscope, MooreInfo Systems, Sleebs (Tas)DataproductsTel: 02) 9451 3533 Fax: (02) 9975 2984Info: www.dpc.comOKIOKI 8ppm LED Page Printer: OL810ETarget market:
High-quality personal desktop publishing,shared workgroupsFeatures:
14 seconds to first print
PCL 5e emulation
45 scalable fonts
250 sheets standard, 550 sheet optional
OKI driver, watermark capability
Price (excluding tax): $1,385
OKI 12 ppm LED Page Printer: OL1200
Small workgroup in shared and heavy dutyapplicationsProfessional desktop publishing environments.
11 seconds to first print
500-sheet input tray
45 scalable fonts
Multipage printing on one page
Price (excluding tax): $2,092
OKI (IPL Datron)
Tel: (02) 9698 8211 Fax: (02) 9965 2271
Price: $6,495 RRP
Lowest cost per print, 10 cents for typical colourpage, free black inkUp to 120gsm paper stockEnvironmentally friendly - no tonercartridges, imaging units or fusers to dispose of.
5ppm colour, 14ppm black and white
Up to 1,200dpi
Largest consumables capacity
More memory capacity
Colour Printing and Imaging Division
Tel: (02) 9888 0100 Fax: (02) 9888 0125
HP LaserJet 5N - 12ppm, up to 6 users,
600 x 600dpi, $3,487
HP LaserJet 5M (with extra memory and
PostScript for Mac), $3,838
HP LaserJet 4V - 16ppm, up to 9 users,
600 x 600dpi, up to A3 size output, $4,423HP LaserJet 4MV (with extra memory andPostScript for Mac), $6,272HP LaserJet 5Si - 24ppm, 10 or more users600 x 600dpi, $6,435HP LaserJet 5Si MX (with extra memory andPostScript for Mac), $9,243Multi-bin mailbox, additional input tray, duplexunit available as optional extrasHP Colour LaserJet 5Ð10ppm in black, up to3ppm colour, 4 or more users, $14,040Extra memory and PostScript available.
HP DeskJet 1600 - Colour inkjet printer, 9ppm in black, up to 4ppm colour. Up to 6users, $2,802With extra memory and PostScript, $4,089Distributors: Tech Pacific, Prion, DigilandHP Tel: 13 1347 Fax: (03) 9898 7831Info: www.hp.com.
Lexmark has printers which span the entire range from low-end to high-end users. Here is a selection of these models.
12ppm mono and 3ppm colour printing,
600 x 600dpi.
PostScript Level 2 and enhanced PCL5 withcolour.
250-sheet input tray, 100-sheet output bin.
CYMK colour process, parallel, serial,
Memory expandable to 64Mb.
One year on-site warranty
24 ppm A4 and 13 ppm A3 printing,
600 x 600dpi.
Postscript Level 2 and Enhanced PCL5
500+500 sheet input tray, 500 sheet outputbin with bin-full sensing16Mb memory expandable to 64MbMarkNet XL Ethernet 19Base2/10Base-TCoMbo INA CardOne year on-site warrantyRRP: $7,694.95Optra E6ppm, 600 x 600dpi.
300 x 300 with PQET
Enhanced PCL 5, PPDS
150-sheet tray, 100-sheet output bin
1MB expandable to 5Mb
One year return-to-base warranty
Lexmark International (Australia)
Tel: (02) 9930 3500 Fax: (02) 9930 3550
FS-1550 and FS-1600: 10ppm
FS-3400 and FS-3600: 18ppm
FS-6500: A3 model
Kyocera Electronics Australia
Tel: 1800 631 500
Features that differentiate between brands and modelsl colour printingl cost of ownershipl ease of usel multiple bins (input and output)l multiple original printing (MOP)l paper handlingl printer managementl print-on-demandl productivityl securityl serverless printingl service and supportl solution sellingl speedl Windows NT connectivity