The doldrums that struck the printer market last year did not extend to multifunctional devices, as convergence in output technologies begins to make its mark on the IT industry.
Speaking at the launch of HP's new multifunction printers (MFPs), Don Dixon, a senior analyst at Gartner Dataquest, said that while the single-function printer market is showing all the signs of maturity, MFPs are increasing in popularity, especially in the inkjet arena.
Gartner figures show printer shipments in Australia in 2001 were down 17.7 per cent on the previous year, to 157, 051 units. "But when you take a look at what's been going on in MFPs, shipments have jumped approximately 40 per cent in the last year," Dixon said.
MFPs have come a long way from their humble beginnings, where they were often seen as a poor compromise of technologies.
"You used to have buy a device that was fax-focused but a terrible printer or vice versa, now all functions are first-class," Dixon said. "We believe phase two of the [MFP] transition will be the move to bring down the cost of colour. This will occur within before 2006 when we will see an explosion in the popularity of colour MFPs."
HP has added three new printers to its range, focusing on the simplicity of the user interface and the integration of the device onto the network. The vendor is looking at increasing its partnerships with resellers with experience in both printing and copying technology.
"The challenge today is we have three content-generating environments: the desktop, business processes and formal business communication," said Lee Caldwell, HP's chief technology officer for imaging and printing systems.
"We are focusing heavily on content-transformation infrastructure, which is very different to our competitors," he said. "HP's strategy is to solidly link devices into the digital universe and Internet protocol so that the devices are simpler from both a usage and management point of view."
Key to that philosophy is the network, Caldwell said. "Getting networking is not something that happens easily -- it is something that is learnt over an extended period. For us to extend that technology is second nature."