But will cloud printing ultimately lead to the demise of printer technology?
The experts’ answer, at least for the time being, is an emphatic “no.”
To be sure, printer sales are down considerably from where they were a decade ago and they continue to slowly decline each year.
According to the latest figures from IDC, the worldwide hardcopy peripherals (HCP) market declined more than 10.5% during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the previous year. Inkjet printer sales declined more than 11%, and laser printers declined more than 10%.
There were some bright spots in the market, however. High-end color laser devices (45 ppm+) grew 8.4% in 1Q16 compared to the previous year. Also, printer vendors like HP grew their laser printer sales overall, though more modestly than in previous years.
Despite the general slowdown in sales, printing technology continues to evolve—and for good reason. For certain industries—such as healthcare, financial services and education—printing is essential for conducting everyday business.
Why paperless won't happen any time soon
At the most basic level, there will always be a tangible need for hard copies of documents. For paperless to become the mainstream standard, all documentation would have to be fused and virtualized into a single mode of communication that could be recognized by everyone, which is highly unlikely in the near future. Not only that, but human behavior would have to fundamentally change.
As Chuck Beard, president of the human resource-consulting firm Dynasource, so aptly puts it, “No matter how much you automate and digitize processes, people still want their paper.” Let’s face it, every department likes to have “hard copies” of presentations and sales reports. If nothing else, it lends legitimacy to what’s being presented and offers presenters and participants alike a sense of security. And of course, some people still prefer to read and hold the “real thing” than to view it online.
Choosing a printer that won't be obsolete any time soon
Given the fact that printer technology is not going away in the near future, how do you advise your customers who are looking to purchase printers right now?
A lot will depend on how they intend to use the printer technology (paper size, type of documents, etc.), the volume they’ll need to print and budgetary limitations.
Two other factors are also essential considerations today. Any printer they select should be optimized for mobile printing and have the latest security features built-in. Leading printer manufacturers like HP and Xerox now offer innovative technology that can make your customers’ mobile printing more secure.
Printer technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and affordable. It’s still a good, sensible purchase that will yield positive ROI.