The IT world moves fast. Products change in response to customer feedback, and new technology arrives, blowing the market open with features you never knew you needed. So amidst all this, what does 2011 have in store for the printer market? Even more importantly, where do you want it to go? Physical changes Printer manufacturers will continue to improve printing efficiency. Whether pushing the world’s smallest colour laser printer or trumpeting power usage (or lack of it), printer companies are trying to rid themselves of the environment-killing stigma whilst also providing better value for money. Network changes The future is in the cloud. You won't just be able to create and edit documents stored in the cloud, but you'll also be able to send them to any printer you have permission to print on, from wherever you are located. The benefits will be subtle but far reaching:
- You can share a document immediately, without each person having to load up their emails and print it themselves.
- No need to stay in the office waiting for an out-of-hours fax. Just foward incoming documents to your desired printer.
- No more fuss with printer setup disks or complicated network installation. Web-enabled printers can access everything they need in the cloud.
- Fewer delays when uploading or sending files for printing by email. The files are already stored in the cloud, so printing is almost instantaneous.
Using an internet-enabled printer together with cloud-based software like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live will give you a complete working environment, no matter where you are. There are additional features planned for printers such as newspaper feeds, where you can subscribe to your desired newspaper and have it printed at home ready for your morning cup of tea. With your preferences taken into account, you'll even be able to choose only the topics that interest you, saving you wasted pages. Hardware changes Functions we take for granted are also getting a revamp. For example, some new printers now have a high definition a digital camera built in. This acts as a super-fast scanner. These can scan pages in less than a second, so look out for them in the next year. Connectivity changes The last few years have seen USB, card readers and camera connections become standard for nearly every printer on the market. Expect the next year to be focused on smartphone and tablet connectivity. It is surprising that manufacturers are yet to embrace the boom in these bits of equipment, but you can be sure there will be an app from every printer manufacturer soon to allow you to print directly from your new piece of kit. Changes that you want All of this investment in new features is pointless if manufacturers ignore their customers. What do you want from your printer next year? Ignoring the idealistic world of 'no paper jams' and 'bottomless ink', what functions or features do you think are missing? Me personally? I want manufacturers to stop saturating the market with very similar printer models. There should never be the situation where a consumer is looking at several different printer models from the same manufacturer, all of which take the same cartridges, and have similar performance. Give me that, plus an easier way to tell cartridges apart, and I’ll be a happy man. John Sollars, is MD of Stinkyink.com