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TCPglobal celebrates 10 years – origin, influence and anticipation (a buzz commentary dedicated to Total Cost of Printing)

Issue #1206 – Celebrating its 10th birthday, CharisCo Printer Labs’ ezine, TCPglobal, is pushing ever forwards with news and reviews and highlighting issues in the industry that affect the bottom line of printer and MFP users. “If it affects your pocket, it’s fair game for TCPglobal”. This article offers a potted review of the decade and gives pointers towards developments in the future.

Origin
CharisCo Printer Labs launched TCPglobal to the printer market in May 2002. Having reviewed the potential for such a publication, the trigger ultimately proved to be an article in the Financial Times that an analyst colleague pointed out to me on an outward European flight to an industry briefing.

That article slammed printer manufacturers for potential anti-competitive behaviour regarding the marketing of inks and toners. This was the perfect launch pad for an ezine focussed on Total Cost of Printing and industry issues.

What followed over the next few weeks and months included articles on issues such as:

  • environmental responsibility
  • hard copy as a core asset
  • what really concerns the manufacturers
  • supplies price reductions
  • What is Total Cost of Printing?
  • new products
  • the lack of standards in the industry
  • and pricing consumables to balance user need against purchase planning

TCPglobal gained instant acceptance and popularity within the industry, acquiring readers from industry players themselves – manufacturers and dealers alike, from VP level to administrators, sales staff and engineers – and also with large and small business users.

Over the years, an enormously wide spectrum of issues have been addressed, some of the most recent of which have included:

  • the exceptional value of business inkjet
  • the quality of inks
  • A3 for the small office
Paper stackThe paperless office??

Interestingly, TCPglobal was only about 18 months old when a senior manager at one of the leading manufacturers expressed amazement that the publication was still going and that I was finding enough to write about. I have NEVER had difficulty finding suitable material and issues to write about. In fact, the general scenario is that I consistently have to pass over many opportunities because there is not enough time available to address all of the interesting topics.

And, I don’t see that situation changing until the paperless office becomes a reality (when is THAT ever likely to happen??).

Influencing the industry
Over the years, articles have covered many of the issues surrounding usability and the efficient use of printers in the home and business environments. For instance, CharisCo Printer Labs and TCPglobal lobbied manufactures for years over the importance of providing duplexing and network interface as standard basic features in business print devices, and the value of independent ink cartridges – now there is no need.

We’ve also seen:

  • Colour laser printers go single-pass (yes, Hewlett-Packard joined the single-pass scene late with the Colour LaserJet 4600 – 10 years old next month)
  • Managed Print Services take centre stage as selling printers to large organisations evolved into selling pages
  • Cost Per Page being driven in a generally downwards direction
  • Low cost office inkjet gain a strong foothold in the market
  • International Standards Organisation release ISO/EEC standards for toner and ink yield measurement

Several times over the two-and-a-bit decades I have been involved with the IT industry, I have looked at the printer hardware market and thought, ‘this is beginning to get boring, nothing much is happening and there’s no sign of any exciting developments to come’! Every time I have thought this, I have been heartily relieved, and excited, to see the next big thing come along shortly afterwards.

Web connectivity certainly ranks in the ‘big thing’ category, as did: three- and four-function inkjet and laser All-In-Ones bringing versatile multifunction to small offices; single-pass laser engines; auto-duplex printing as standard, especially in lower-end devices; A3 inkjet AiOs bringing large-machine functionality to small offices; mobile device print/scan drivers; and photo-printing kiosks.

The future
As we now look to the future, we have already begun to see hardware prices begin to rise again following the general flattening out of the price-erosion curve over the last few years. We believe that this trend will continue as the focus shifts to a lower Total Cost of Printing model, as demanded by present day businesses, rather than a low acquisition cost model that characterised the nineties. This trend is particularly being driven/pioneered by the business inkjet ranges from Brother (A3 MFC), Epson (WorkForce), and Hewlett-Packard (Officejet Pro). Hopefully it will migrate into the laser arena as well, where there have been no significant indications so far, certainly not at the low end of the market.

My wish-list for the next couple of years would be to see:

  • beefed-up A4 inkjet AiOs from Brother to compete with Officejet Pro and WorkForce business inkjet models
  • A3 inkjet AiOs from Epson and Hewlett-Packard that will truly compete with Brother A3 models
  • low-cost (not cheap) colour laser AiOs for the small office

Following on from the developments we have seen regarding the adoption of duplexing as a standard hardware feature, one other issue that could still do with more attention from some manufacturers is simplifying the printer driver interface. For instance, switching on/off the duplex, n-up and booklet features should be accessible to the user with only one (or maximum of two) additional mouse click(s), whereas a minimum of three mouse clicks is usually required, sometimes requiring a frustrating degree of searching around the driver dialogs just to find the feature. There is no reason why these features should not be at the top level of the driver – but they are not always there.

PDF Reader UIPDF Reader presents easy access to all commonly used features at the top level

Passionate about Total Cost of Printing
There can be little doubt from these comments that I am hugely in favour of inkjet in the office. I believe that the Total Cost of Printing model that we see in the key products from Brother, Epson and Hewlett-Packard will push these devices deeper and deeper into the office market as companies become more and more concerned about costs and their bottom line. With Total Cost of Printing currently coming in at less than 50% of the cost of using equivalent colour laser models, and with ink being used increasingly at the production end of the market (thus proving its capability), I believe that ink will pick up a greater share of office printing in the future than anyone might imagine possible.

tcprojector

In fact, CharisCo Printer Labs is currently working on the final stages of its Total Cost of Printing web app, tcprojector, designed to run on both PCs and tablets. Capable of providing personalised projections for entire fleets of printers and MFPs, comparing existing installations a planned or optimised installations, tcprojector will demonstrate savings to be achieved through custom adjustment of page volumes, types and coverage, while using the dealer’s own prices.

UK and Euro zone dealers are invited to apply to beta test the product, starting in the next few weeks.

Epilogue
To round off, one of the paramount aspects of CharisCo Printer Labs and TCPglobal is that it is independent and free to read. All product testing or project activities are based on independent methodologies and the client (manufacturer or user/customer) gets the bad with the good. All reports and articles are written with the user/customer’s perspective at the centre and manufacturers are praised where praise is due and questioned, or even criticised, according to their product features, business practices or attitudes towards customers – where appropriate.

In the meantime, we look forward to many more years of TCPglobal and to entering into continuing dialog with all parties.

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