“Printers are being designed for the living room”

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Canon claims to have brought a technological edge in printers with its Full HD Movie Print that allows consumers to capture and print favourite moments from Full HD movies. It has also come up with an intelligent touch system and Wi-Fi connectivity in its printers.

V.P. Sajeevan, director-consumer system products (CSP) division, Canon India, speaks to Uma Bansal, executive editor at EFY, about these and many other trends in inkjet printers. Excerpts:


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V.P. SAJEEVAN

JUNE 2011: How is the demand for multifunction printers vis-a-vis single-function printers in India?
There is a drop in the sales of single-function printers (SFPs) because people are shifting to the convergence of copy, print and scan. More than 90 per cent of consumers are going for multifunction printers (MFPs). This demand is driven by home consumers. Also, the prices of inkjet MFPs have crashed to sub-Rs 4000. Inkjet MFP sales have grown 35 per cent over last year.

Why is this shift towards MFPs?
The reason is if you look at India, more than 70 per cent of users are beginners or still in colleges or schools. In more than 98 per cent of category-A houses, students get their homework or projects done on the computer. In fact, there are instructions from the school to download and print the learning material from the Internet. So there is a push from the school side and demand created for Web logging and Web printing. The printer is becoming a vital part for homework. They also then start looking for the external document to be copied.

Another interesting factor which we have recently found is scanning. We had thought that scanning will not have much importance at home but the scenario has changed now. Today, people who have MFPs at home have started scanning their important documents like passports, property documents and marriage certificates and keeping them in electronic format.

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What’s the cost difference between single-function and multifunction printers?
Around 2000 rupees. But it makes a huge difference. The reason is if you buy a scanner, it costs Rs 3000 and you don’t get all the features of an MFP.

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What are the trends other than multiple functions and reduced price?
Aesthetics is playing an important role. Printers are being designed for the living room. These are miniature and come in varying curvatures.

Next is convenience. Today, homes have gone for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi printers from Canon let you print from anywhere in your home. The tray automatically opens.

All Wi-Fi printers come with duplex printing—that’s part of commitment to the environment as you use fewer number of papers. Instead of implanting a tree, you start reducing your consumption of paper. Wi-Fi printers cost upwards of Rs 5500.

Today, all inkjet printers come with a printing speed above 20 ppm. The reason is, at home you don’t have time. We think that home printers can be slower than the printers in offices. But actually we spend very little time at home and therefore need everything faster when we are at home—be it refrigeration, air-conditioning or printing. Keeping this in mind, consumer products are given fast engines for inkjets.

Coming to the innovation part, what’s new?
All new printers look like a beautiful box when switched off. The moment you give power and touch (the printers are touchscreen), the required buttons light up, unlike the keypad or switchboard of regular printers.

We are looking at how we can make the consumer ‘wow.’ We have launched a new technology called HD DVD print that lets you take print from the HD DVD movie shot by a camera.

Canon has also launched printers with apps for Android and Apple devices. So if I want to take a printout of your photograph from iPhone, I will just click to send the photo right to print from a Wi-Fi printer.

How useful is this HD DVD print technology?
Traditionally, if you want to take a photograph of someone in your home for some special purpose, you look for a professional photographer. You want a good photographer because you don’t know which angle to shoot from and how much lighting to use.

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That’s where the HD DVD print technology helps: If you have a Canon camera, set it in HD mode and then shoot a video of the object by taking a circle around the object. By rotating 360 degrees, you actually get 360 different angles. If you take 20 frames per second, there will be close to 1800 frames, 360 angles in one minute. Just connect the printer, choose the angle at which you or the object looks better and take the print.

What’s the focus area right now?
Inkjet printing is home printing. The driving factor this year is HD DVD print. It’s a tool for Indian consumers to enjoy photo printing at home.

Today, the number of photos clicked through mobile or cameras is very high. A survey says Indians love images. There are two formats of photographs: One is on print and the other on the screen. In a survey, 40 per cent of people in the age group of 18-25 years love print, while 60 per cent love images on the screen because they can manipulate or zoom in on the screen. As many as 70 per cent in the age group of 26-35 years love photographs on print because print gives emotion. Touching the photo on print gives you the feeling that you are actually touching the person. That’s the reason why photo printing at home is catching on.

What are the common issues that consumers face with inkjets?
Primarily, it’s awareness about the operating cost amongst consumers. If the vendor is not educating the consumer about the cost of cartridges, he will be misguided. That’s the reason why people really go for refills and all.

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The vendor wants to sell a box, not actually a solution. So consumers must ask and understand what is their cost of printing. If you look at quality, you need to pay for it. When you use a genuine cartridge, then only what we commit can be met. Most of the time consumers don’t get this input from the dealer. They buy the printer and the next time they go to buy the cartridge they wonder, “Oh my God, this is the cost of cartridges!”

How is it helping you to be present in both camera and printer spaces?
The inventions of digicam and printer are both connected because they protect our photography interest in the market. If you take a photo with a digicam and I am giving a lot of tools to print the photo, it makes a ‘wow’ factor. A lot of software for photo printing comes with Canon printers by default. It’s really helpful when you have the printer and camera of the same brand as they are designed to handshake. For instance, Canon camera understands the Canon printer and vice versa.

Your advice to printer buyers?
Keep three questions in mind: What am I going to print—am I going to print a B&W or colour photo, or Web logging, or do I have any specific complicated application? Do I have scanning or copying need also? Do I own a camera or not, or do I plan to buy one within the next six months?

Inkjet is better for colour printing. For copying and scanning even once in a while, it’s better to go for an MFP. If you have a digicam, buy a printer that is capable of photo printing. Also look at the capacity of cartridges that the company is offering. Many companies offer cartridges with only 3 or 5 ml. Anything above 8 ml is considered as the optimal capacity. If it’s 3 ml, very soon you will have to come back to buy the cartridge.


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