For small businesses, a desktop printer is relied on to perform many critical tasks. Contracts, proposals, schedules, and other daily documents are absolute necessities, while marketing-based collateral is often brought in house to avoid the time and cost of outsourcing such services.
For small- to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), desktop printers are needed. Fundamental differences among market solutions include the choice between color and monochrome as well as laser versus inkjet. Beyond these factors, the total cost of ownership, including initial investment and cost per page should be weighted against other priorities, such as speed and quality. Finally, users must choose between a single-function printer and all-in-one (AIO) device.
The desktop solution options for SMBs are limitless. Cutting-edge features, such as Wi-Fi capabilities, touch screen displays, sleek designs, small footprints, and advanced connectivity are elements continuously offered and enhanced. Many vendors lead the space in the U.S. and worldwide. Before sorting through solutions, brand identity and trust from manufacturers and vendors is an important consideration, since many solutions feature similar price points and functionality.
According to IDC’s worldwide and U.S. Hardcopy Peripherals Market Share and Year-Over-Year Growth Tracker, in the second quarter of 2011 (2Q11), Hewlett-Packard (HP), Canon U.S.A., Inc., Epson, Samsung, and Brother International held the top five market share positions worldwide, respectively. For the U.S., HP, Canon, Epson, Brother, and Lexmark held leading share positions. HP leads significantly, boasting 41.5 percent of worldwide market share and 52.5 percent of U.S. market share in this category for 2Q11.
IDC highlights noteworthy statistics in the tracker report, including that with more than 18.3 million units shipped, 2Q11 witnessed the lowest inkjet shipments since the second quarter of 2009. Laser, on the other hand, enjoyed four percent year-over-year growth in unit shipments and gained one point to 32 percent share over the same time period.
Additionally, IDC reports that monochrome laser continued its positive performance from the last six quarters in the second quarter with five percent year-over-year growth and nearly 7.9 million units shipped. All regions except Western Europe and the U.S. saw year-over-year growth in monochrome shipments with Latin America leading the pack at 30 percent. Color laser posted a decline of three percent year over year in unit shipments, the first negative trend since 2009, according to IDC.
A variety of tasks are created on desktop printing solutions. It is important to evaluate business needs to determine the type of output the printer is expected to produce with the help of a capable desktop device. Keep in mind cost per page and the device’s limits. Many small-run jobs can be taken in house. However, professional help is recommended for color critical and high-volume basic, applications.
For the SMB, the move to digital document communication is inevitable. “Moving documents digitally, as opposed to printing them, drives efficiency in a business and helps reduce unnecessary printing,” points out Susan Swieterman, worldwide product marketing manager, Lexmark. She notes that because of this, the productivity features on desktop solutions are essential. As an example, Swieterman notes that Lexmark offers a number of time-saving applications that allow the end user to scan to multiple destinations, including a shared network, email address, and FTP.
Within its desktop printer line up, Lexmark offers the X548 series and the Pro915. Both feature intuitive touch screens that enable users to access a number of one-touch shortcuts and productivity solutions.
The need for Wi-Fi connectivity on output devices continues to emerge. The demand is apparent in the SMB space. Kevin S. Price, supervisor, product planning and marketing, Canon, says that while it varies by SMB, the demand is there. “It depends on the preference of the internal or external IT person managing the network as to whether they prefer a wireless or wired environment,” says Price. “Traction is perhaps a bit greater for wireless in the home office than on the business side, but our business-focused channel partners have asked for Wi-Fi support for their customers as well.”
This Summer, Canon introduced a new line of imageCLASS printer models, of which they highlight the MF4570dw. The wireless, laser multifunction product allows users to transmit documents seamlessly and quickly with Super G3 Fax.
The use of social media networks continues to gain popularity. SMBs are aware of the trend and respond by posting blogs, updating Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, and maintaining LinkedIn profiles.
“Wireless networking gives users the flexibility to place their AIO or printer virtually anywhere and reduce the clutter of cables,” notes Shelly Radler, product manager, monochrome laser products, Brother. The company’s iPrint&Scan is designed for environments where users can’t always expect to be at their desk when urgent office activities—including printing and scanning—arise.
Brother’s Web connectivity feature allows users to conveniently connect to popular Web applications without turning on a PC. “You can easily share large files with multiple people. Also, once files or images are upload on some of the Web applications (apps), users access these files from anywhere,” explains Marie Le, director, marketing, Brother.
Rodrigo Catalan, senior product manager, business inkjets, Epson, also notes the importance of wireless connectivity and/or social sharing features to SMBs working on the go. He explains that to comply with customer demands, the WorkForce Pro series allows SMBs to easily connect through built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking.
Further, the WorkForce Pro series features Epson Connect technology, a new portfolio of mobile services that enable users to print documents and photos directly to Epson printers from a mobile device. There are two components to Epson Connect—the iPrint Mobile App and Email Print.
The Epson iPrint App is designed for iOS and Android devices to print photos, Web pages, and documents. “Customers use iPrint to preview and print files from the device, the Web, or online services such as Box.net, Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs. They even scan and save files or send them an email with Epson iPrint,” explains Catalan. “A customer emails an attachment to a specific printer’s email address and both the email body and the attached files print automatically,” he adds.
Availability and Investment
SMBs have numerous channel options for purchasing desktop printing solutions. In addition to the Internet, some vendors rely on direct or dealer sales channels and big box stores such as Office Max, Staples, Target, and Wal-Mart.
For example, the Brother MFC-7860DW is available at national office superstores, retailers, dealers, and online resellers. “Many SMBs rely on the sales staff at office superstores and retail stores to help them chose the right product, or they read end user reviews on the Web to make a buying decision on their own,” shares Radler.
Brother’s Le says the company’s SOHO line of monochrome laser printers follows much of the same nationwide availability in the market as most of its other inkjet and laser AIOs.
For Canon SMB products, the channel focus varies by product. The company’s most popular sales channels include authorized resellers—VARs, copier and office equipment dealers, office superstores, direct marketers, and e-tailers. Products are also available directly through Canon.
Epson’s sales program reaches verticals through the retail channel—both online and in store at office superstores, distribution, resellers, and directly through epson.com. Via Epson’s comprehensive marketing program, verticals are engaged with advertising, direct mailing, and social media outlets.
Lexmark’s Swieterman notes that some of its models, such as the X548 series, are available through online IT resellers. The Pro915 is available through select office superstores. Additionally, products are sold directly though Lexmark at lexmark.com.
Depending on the exact model, features, and technology, an investment in a desktop printing solution ranges from under $100 to upwards of $500. For a sample of solutions and market pricing, see the accompanying chart.