Ease of use, lower cost driving inkjet demand

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Moving media to your printer

You should expect to find a PictBridge USB port and media card slot on all but the most budget of inkjet printers currently on the market. A PictBridge port lets you print directly from the vast majority of digital cameras as well as a USB flash drive while a media card slot allows for printing directly from a range of flash storage cards. One vendor recently introduced an inkjet whose PictBridge port charges your phone or camera while it pulls media from it, a veritable win-win. And with a full-color LCD screen on the printer, youíre able to preview, and in some cases even edit, your photos before printing.

If video is more your thing, there are inkjets with a feature called Full HD Movie Print that lets you print an individual frame of a video. It comes with a noise-reduction option that will smooth the edges of an image a bit before printing your photo. It's great for those moments where you were shooting video and wished you had your 'still' camera instead.

Many vendors have embraced the computing power of todayís smartphones and tablets. Youíll find free apps from the major printer vendors in the various smartphone app stores, each of which lets you print media directly from your Android phone, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod Touch and/or iPad.

Tackling high ink costs

While most of the recent advancements in inkjet printer technology have focused on increasing a printerís ease of use, functionality, and compatibility with an increasing number and types of mobile devices, another significant area of focus for vendors has been ink costs. In fact, one leading inkjet vendor told us that "value and ease of use" are two of the most important features to its customers.

Manufacturers are making major marketing pushes around ink costs and in many cases itís not just marketing blather. While keeping to the traditional printer pricing strategy of selling low-cost printers, they are bringing down the high prices on the consumables, ink and paper.

Vendors are also simplifying its inkjet cartridge offerings, selling fewer cartridges across only a few lines. Often, vendors feature dozens of different cartridges across a dizzying array of lines, needlessly confusing the purchase of replacement cartridges. Hopefully, this trend of more reasonably priced ink and simpler cartridge replacement will continue, with more vendors following suit.

With advancements in inkjet printers centering on increasing their functionality, ease of use and reduction in ink costs, itís easy to wonder whatís on the horizon. Add to this a new class of printers announced recently at CES 2011 that indicate a move from a 2D to a 3D world.

A handful of printer vendors at CES demonstrated products that offer a "3D photo creation and printing experience" that will let users "easily create 3D photos with no special equipment." What this means is that printers and print technology has yet to reach its high water mark and new and exciting systems continue to change the face of printing as we know it.

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