Ease of use, lower cost benefits continue to drive
inkjet printing demand

By Matthew Elliott

First in a Series

Small and affordable printers have always been popular among consumers who are looking for the best option for light printing duties and reproducing digital photographs for family and friends. As more people work from home, however, or rely on printers as output hubs for a variety of devices, ranging from smartphones to desktop PCs, printers are evolving to become more versatile and convenient.

Kodak

Many of today's inkjets, often the printer of choice for home users, can now be easily connected to your home network while some can even accept print requests over the Internet. Others are small computers in their own right, running apps that let you print out recipes, maps and games without the need for a PC.

Along with these added functionalities, two other areas inkjet vendors have focused on recently are ease of use and the 'hidden cost' of printers - ink and ink supplies. Ease of use issues are being solved by adding some degree of intelligence and control in printers that essentially let them operate without the need for a host PC. Managing the costs associated with ink and inkjet cartridges is a bit more complicated, with some companies completely revamping the technology and approaching design from a cost-savings angle.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at recent inkjet printer advances that cover these areas, as well as discuss how printers have evolved to be more ‘cloud-based’ and accessible.

Mobile connectivity: The new printing norm

More than increases in speed or quality, the latest advances in inkjet printer technology have centered on increasing mobile connectivity. While every printer has a USB port to connect directly to a computer, and many business models feature an Ethernet port for a wired connection, more and more printers meant for home use feature integrated Wi-Fi, which makes it a snap to send print jobs to the machine from any PC, laptop, or tablet on your wireless network. In most cases, you need only to activate the wireless connectivity on a printer, and it will find your Wi-Fi network and prompt you to enter the password.

While Wi-Fi printing adds unquestionable convenience in the home, a couple of inkjet vendors now let you send print requests from the cloud. Web-enabled mobile printing is no more complicated than sending an email. Instead of emailing that interesting article or fantastic recipe to a friend's email address, you email it to the printer's unique email address, which will then print out the email and any attachment for easy retrieval upon their return home. Or, set grandma up with such an inkjet, which would allow you to send her pictures of the grandkids (just make sure granny keeps the paper tray stocked with photo paper).

Home users may not find the need to frequently send remote print requests to their devices, although, many will regularly utilize the touchscreens of a Web-enabled printer. Your current printer may have a small, monochrome control panel that lets you manage and adjust basic parameters of a print job, but some of today’s inkjets feature large, color touchscreens and downloadable apps that let you create print jobs without the need for a PC. So, with a small inkjet tucked out of the way in your kitchen, you could print out recipes, movie tickets to the theater, coloring pages for your kids, Sudoku puzzles and so on.

There’s even an app that locates the nearest store with your printer’s ink cartridges. Additionally, some inkjets feature apps that help you organize the various photos you have spread across social networking and photo-sharing sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa. Lastly, what family wouldn’t like a little help with daily tasks such as grocery shopping and homework? Some inkjets feature preloaded templates for grocery lists, sheet music, and graph paper.

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