Kodak announced new inkjet printers which will use much cheaper ink according to Kodak. However the printers are priced quite a bit higher than competing printer models from HP for instance. Will people buy a more expensive printer just to pay less for ink refills? And what will this do to the cheap "no-name" replacement ink market?
It will be interesting to see if the "cheap ink" produces the same image quality as the ink in comparable printers from other sources. Also, I wonder of the ink will really be cheaper, or will buyers just be paying for it in advance with significantly higher printer prices? Stay tuned, I guess......
I don't have any idea what the actual selling price of the new Kodak printers will be, but the news release indicated greater than what the competition is selling similar printers for. Kodak estimates their ink will cost 50% of what other printers using printer manufactured ink costs. And although not specifically stated, apparently these new Kodak inkjets will actually be made by Lexmark.
Are these being marketed as photo printers? Seems unlikely if Lexmark is the manufacturer.
HP generally has the highest cost for replacement cartridges. The reason is that with most (maybe all?) HP printers the print head is in the ink cartridge so when you buy a new cartridge, you get new print heads as well. HP seems to think this is a positive marketing ploy. Perhaps it is to people who don't know a new print head is not necessary every time you change cartridges.
Canon and Epson cartridges for general purpose printers are priced that badly. Typically somewhere in the $12 to $22 range, give or take a few bucks, depending on the printer and depending whether colour or black. That's not horrid so unless Kodak is going to sell their inks for much less than that, I don't think you'll find many people taking the bait. In addition, when you can get a desktop printer for $40 or $50 and replacing them is so easy that you can just replace the printer when the inks run out for the same or less than replacing the inks, it would be difficult to see why people would pay much more for a printer.
Third party inks haven't captured that big a slice of the market. I was doing some research recently on cross-price elasticity of demand of printers relative to ink which showed that in the UK it was maybe 17%. But in order for the Kodak printers to have that big an impact a majority of the people who are using third party inks would have to switch to Kodak printers and buy Kodak inks. Not likely to happen. Couple that with the fact that they can spend $40 or $50 on a basic desktop printer and buy inexpensive third party ink and it looks like just another bad business move on Kodak's part.
As Bill said though, time will tell.
I can't argue that your perspective is not realistic. But at the same time if this forum is any indication the attitude of many, many photographers is that inkjet ink purchased from the printer manufacturer is very much overpriced, and the assumption is made that like Polaroid, the hardware is made cheap because the real profit is in selling the consumables afterward.
So apparently Kodak wants to break that cycle and tap into consumer resentment of "high" ink prices. I would agree that it is a long shot, but there are enough resentful people who still buy branded ink and won't go the continuous flow bulk ink route to maybe allow Kodak to sell a few printers even at twice typical prices just to get half off the cost of ink.
But I would not bet Kodak wins this one either, not because its not a good idea but because its a day late and a dollar short, most users are already committed to a particular printer brand.
Well, David, if this makes anyone feel better (and I don't know why it would), it's not just the printer gnomes that market their products that way. I learned this from my bride of 30 years, who recently ordered a "free" coffee maker from the folks in Sweden who sell Gevalia coffee. All you have to do is buy a certain amount of their coffee, which is not cheap. But the coffee is so dang good that now I'm hooked - the same way I'm hooked on Epson inks, I guess....
Besides also being hooked in inkjet printing, and in my case both Canon and Epson ink, I am very much a coffee addict/devotee. But my closest friend locally in town is a Swede, and he finds the Gevalia coffee phenomenon here in the US hard to understand. The reason he gives is that Gevalia in Sweden is just a middle of the road brand in both quality and price. Of course Sweden is very much a coffee drinkers place, they love the stuff. In fact all the Scandinavians that were once the core of the population in Seattle was the basis of a local trade deal with their sister city Milan, Italy a generation ago to promote espresso from Milan marketed in Seattle, which was the kernel that eventually grew to be the Starbucks phenomenon.
Personally I got hooked on espresso before I lived in Seattle in the '80's and that was when I was traveling and working in Europe beginning in the late 60's. Now the most expensive fixture in my kitchen is an espresso machine. But I found after much wasted money on exotic coffees, some imported from Italy, that our local Costco, which brings in sacks of green coffee beans and roasts them in the store and sells the beans as Seattle Mountain brand is both the best and the least expensive medium-dark roasted coffee available ( I prefer the Sumatra variety).
I don't disagree with your thoughts David but I wonder if we're comparing apples and oranges. I did some research after I posted earlier today and it seems as though the Kodak printers are not aimed at the high end, specialist, photographer market. From reading the presser on the Kodak website, these are consumer level, multifunction machines (although they will use pigment ink).
I agree completely that the price of inks for photo printers (Epson 2200, 2400, Canon iPF5000, etc.) are astronomically high (upwards of $10,000/gallon in some cases) but that is a specialist market and as such manufacturers charge what the market will bear and they also have to recover their R&D costs in developing inks that perform the way professional and advanced amateur photographers want. Even inks for consumer printers are expensive when viewed in that light. At $10 and $15 per cartridge, the Kodak inks aren't too far behind.
The 17% I noted earlier for proportion of users in the UK who went with third party inks was a general number, not just photographers. I think among the specialist, photographer community, that number would be much, much lower. And I doubt that many professional photographers would be using multifunction machines for their high quality photo work. So I don't know that the members of the Shutterbug fora are the intended market for these new products.
I'm not sure that even in the general printing market these printers will gain much of a foothold. I don't know that people will be willing to pay more upfront in order to pay less in the future. I looked at the Best Buy website (where the Kodak printers will be sold) and there are 20 multifunction machines priced at the same level or less than the least expensive Kodak and 33 others priced at or less than the most expensive Kodak. I think people will go for spending less upfront.
I think it irrelevant what market level is involved at the moment as far as the particular printers are concerned in light of what the Kodak initiative does to reinforce the perception that ink is over-priced and a major source of revue to companies who make inkjet printers like HP, Canon and Epson. Kodak is saying the established, orthodox business model of selling printer at very low (possibly under cost) and then making their profit on consumables, should be turned on its head, and printers should be sold for closer to what they are worth and ink should not have a built in exaggerated margin in its pricing providing the bulk of profit to inkjet companies. To what extent the actual numbers support Kodaks claim of reversal in this regard, no one not on the inside can really know. But it is not that up-ending the inkjet business model is real or not, if Kodak can use the public perception that the "polaroid strategy" is a fact and that Kodak is the good guy giving the consumer a fairer break, they have achieved an advantage no matter how real of illusory it is in terms of what it actually costs to make a printer or produce and sell ink.
The size of the consumer population actually buying third party inks is really irrelevant to whether this Kodak marketing strategy is significant or not. There may be much more than 17% of the ink market population that believes printer manufacturer brand inks are grossly over-priced, but do not join the third party market because price is not the only issue involved, and issues of quality, reliability and color matching keep them buying the printer brand inks even though they'd rather pay less. This part of the inkjet market is a prime target for the Kodak inkjet pricing strategy.
If Kodak has any success of consequence that they consider supports their new inkjet printer business plan there is no reason they cannot extend the printer models to include higher performance photo printers.
But the interesting possibility may be if this Kodak initiative gets the people at HP, Epson or Canon thinking. And if any of them do think they could increase their market share by adopting a similar business plan it could turn an already heated competition into a real free-for-all.
Iwonder sometimes if we professionals and dedicated hobbyists fail to remember that it is the NON pro, the NON hobbyist that drives the market; the type of person who used to shoot 3-4 rolls of iso 400 24ex. per YEAR.
For this person, it is much less expensive and really quite similar to previous practice to simply drop off the card medium off to Wally World or the drug store where prints average out at UNDER 20 CENTS a pop.
Perhaps this is the market that Kodak, etc, are trying to tap a bit deeper.
All very valid points David. You're right too about the reasons more people don't use third party inks. They're concerned about quality and things like voiding the warranty, or damaging the printer and having to buy a new one. Printer manufacturers do a pretty good job of scaring buyers into thinking that only OEM inks will work.
I'm not for a second saying that the marketing strategy most printer manufacturers currently use isn't flawed from the standpoint of the consumer. From the standpoint of the manufacturer it's brilliant. Suck people in with a low cost printer, convince them that they must use your consumables or something akin to the world ending will happen then hammer that captive market with the higher cost on those consumables.
It would be interesting to see statistics on the number of people who simply replace with another inexpensive printer when the carts. that come with the printer when new run out. I've done this several times. I know many others who do the same thing. Anecdotally I think this is becoming a strategy that's being increasingly used by consumers. It's still going to be a small percentage of the market but an increasing one, it seems.
I think it does make a difference what market we're looking at as well. The specialist market is very different from the consumer market. High end photo printers are not sold the same way consumer desktop printers are. Those printers are already quite expensive and I think as a result, those users are more likely to put up with the higher cost of ink because their initial investment was higher. In addition, if a photographer is happy with the results s/he's getting from, say, an Epson 2400 there's likely going to be a greater reluctance to switch because of uncertainty over the print quality and a new learning curve to go through with a new printer. Canon, for example, is making some terrific printers now and using pigmented inks in some of them and while I haven't seen sales figures, I'm not sure they're making huge inroads into the lead Epson has in this category. Maybe they are, as I said I haven't seen sales figures so can't be certain and am just going on anecdotal information.
That does not make a lot of sense for Kodak to put their name on a series of printers they aren't manufacturing themselves if it is not to attract buyers with a substantial interest in printing photos. There is a snapshooter market that may have a lot of uses for a color inkjet printer, especially with kids in the home that are in school, and who are not pros or serious photo enthusiasts but make a lot more than the equivalent of 3-4 rolls of 24 exposures in digital pictures they would print.
Much as we might not like it, especially as shareholders, a lot of companies do things that seem odd, David. Kodak is no exception and given the way the company has been mismanaged for several years now, this wouldn't be a first for them either.
David, it's rather unfortunate but you seem to get your back up when people respond to your comments and don't simply agree with everything that comes off your keyboard. Others have opinions on these matters as well and are able, in most cases, to express those opinions intelligently and in an articulate manner. That's all I was doing. I acknowledged points you made that I thought were valid and explained how my thinking differs on others. Nowhere in my remarks did I say you were wrong. I merely expressed a different perspective. This defensive posture of yours is very counterproductive to furthering a discussion. I wonder why Shutterbug even has discussion forums given (a) the low volume of activity and (b) if opinions that don't necessarily agree with the editorial staff of the magazine are treated with the derision that seems to happen more often than not on here, which may be partially a cause for (a).
With all of that said, I grant you David that there are photo enthusiasts who are probably where Kodak is targeting these printers. I acknowledged that this consumer market does exist. I was distingusishing consumer from professional/advanced amateur and in that "consumer" bucket would be included photo enthusiasts and/or snapshooters. My belief, though, to reiterate, is that I'm not sure people will be inclined to spend more upfront; especially if that extra upfront is a somewhat significant amount as it appears it may be with these Kodak machines. I may be wrong. At this point there's no way to determine. So, as I said initially in quoting Bill - Time will tell.
Obviously we see this issue from somewhat different perspectives. I really do not know what the consumer response will be to this Kodak strategy, but from the hundreds of e-mails I have gotten from readers I do know ink cost is a negative factor, so what Kodak is offering is a possibly positive alternative. Is it attractive enough and to sway potential purchasers? Your guess is as good as anyone's, but it is conjecture because no one can speak for consumers in general. If any of us could our opinion would be worth millions and we wouldn't be giving it away here.
I always argue decisively on issues, in part because I deal with this full-time and have been at it for longer than most, so have acquired some confidence in my views and I am not afraid to express them boldly. Sorry you mind my taking the stance I do, but I am not about to apologize for having particular perspectives. And I'm not at all put off that I am not agreed with or that I ruffle some feathers, in fact I hope I sometimes provoke an equally strong response. Bland is boring and paints a less than clear picture of what is and is not.
But I would not be so decisive as to charge Kodak with mismanagement. That they did not have a perfect crystal ball to foresee the speed and direction digital would go is not mismanagement. Kodak had probably the biggest investment in traditional analog photography, but they also invested early and heavily in digital. Kodak is still competitive, which says a lot more for them than what Ilford, Agfa, and Minolta have managed to do.
I have a child in the home (and so use a lower-cost inkjet printer for that printing). For photos, I also print less than if there were high-quality, low-cost inks more available. I like Kodak's strategy, although who will be attracted to the higher initial costs and the all-in-one concepts will be left to the market.
Some will find what Kodak is offering is an attractive advantage. It seems these first printer models are directed to small office users, which seems to be a rational strategy. If it attracts enough buyers I am sure Kodak will expand the range of printers.