Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The end of the ink jet printer – and the twilight of printing

My old Canon Pixma IP 4000 is sitting in the office lunch room with a “free – take me” note on it. I’m surprised to realize it’s about five years old, which is ancient by ink jet standards.

The printer works as well as it ever did, which means it suffers from the curse of Canon’s OS X printer drivers. Problem is, I almost never used it. I don’t print many photos, and it was a fussy photo printer at the best of times.

So I was paying for unused ink, even though Canon’s system is much less parasitic than the HP equivalent. More than that, I need the space this printer took up.

I have a hunch it will still be in the lunch room tonight, which means it goes to the recycler.

It feels like the era of the ink jet printer is over. I don’t know sales figures, but my bet is they resemble the sales figures for computer mice.

We still use my four year old Brother MFC-7820N (why can Brother more or less do OS X drivers when nobody else can?). There’s still a lot of paper in our life, and I think we’ll be printing gray scale for quite a while yet.

Still, how much more printing will we ever need? Like photo scanners, printers feel like they’ve reached the end of the road. As we get more display surfaces, from iPhone to iTab to giant LCD, there’s less interest and need for relatively dull looking printed color.

Sure, there’s room for improvement in printer/MFC size, noise, and power consumption. MFC class devices need better networking and standalone (no computer) document scanning abilities – basically incorporating more features from high end office devices. Device drivers, operational cost, and hardware reliability can always be improved.

Still, things will be quiet in this world going forward.

Beyond the end of the ink jet, this feels to me like the twilight of the printer.

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