This Week in Imaging: Amazon Throws Hat into Photo-Printing Market; A Look at Canon Financials


Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

We’ve always admired Ricoh for the quality and innovation of their products and their distribution skills. This week they introduced a slew of high-end office-imaging products that include both monochrome and color MFPs. Something that immediately caught our eye was this:

ReadSoft ScreenYes, that is one beautiful touch screen. Another feature that caught our eye was the motion sensor that detects the user’s presence and automatically wakes up the unit from standby or sleep mode – and this is actually a Ricoh feature that’s been around since the 1990s. We can see how quicker start-up times with proximity sensors are far preferable to what can sometimes feel like very long wait times when seeking to use an MFP’s scan, copy, or fax.

This week the NDA (National Advertising Division) put the hammer down on Epson for making claims that included: EcoTank printers will “save [consumers] a small fortune on ink.”

While this may fall somewhat short of the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Nutritionals claiming that “Splenda Essentials will help one lose weight, avoid disease, or confer other health benefits,” you be the judge:

Following are the results of some of our Total Cost of Ownership studies at 250 pages per month over a five-year period:

Epson L220 (ink tank) All-in-One (AiO)     $255.38
Brother MFC-J5920 (ink cartridges) AiO    $614.80
Savings                                                         $355.42

Is $355.42 (less or more at lower or higher monthly print volumes) a “small fortune?”

This week Amazon announced a new photo-printing service for its Prime and Drive (cloud-storage) subscribers with 4″x6″ prints for as little as 9¢ a piece.

There must be a bigger market for photo printing than we realize, as Amazon would not take the opportunity to compete in this market if it didn’t think it could realize a significant profit. Plus, the basic cost per print is competitive with that of what any savvy user could produce at home.

Competitive services such as Snapfish, Walgreens, FedEx, UPS, and Shutterfly will certainly feel the squeeze from the increased competition from the Amazon leviathan. We feel a bit sorry for them, especially when one considers that the cost of a 4″x6″ print is 15¢ at the online Shutterfly service (free shipping on orders over $39), and 20¢ at Walgreens, where you have to get yourself over there and do it yourself.

Whose hardware is Amazon going to invest in? Fujifilm, HP Inc., Kodak, Sony? Whoever gets the deal, it’s going to be big for them.

What’s the underlying technology? Considering the cost per print, we feel that it’s almost certain to be inkjet-based, rather than dye-sublimation-based or using traditional silver-halide photographic papers.

All things considered, the Amazon announcement is a pretty big deal.

It’s that time of year again when MFP and printer OEMs begin reporting financial results for their third quarter, so hold onto your hats.

This week, Canon Inc. reported both sales and net income down, not only for its third quarter, but for the last nine months of its fiscal year. On the bright side, sales of color MFPs appreared to continue to do well, while demand for laser and inkjet printers continued to do poorly – the latter of which is not surprising, considering the extremely competitive laser and inkjet printer/All-in-One markets.

But when looking at results for Canon’s Office Imaging group, results for the last nine months weren’t good – sales for the combined first nine months of the year for Office Imaging totaled ¥770.5 billion, a year-over-year decline of 14.2 percent, while operating profit totaled ¥92.7 billion, declining 23.6 percent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, HP Inc.’s pending acquisition of Samsung’s printer group – which, when completed, will presumably will mean that HP will no longer be a customer for Canon laser engines – doesn’t bode well in the long-term for Canon either. Canon also says the Kumamato equarthquke that occurred earlier this year also resulted in a shortage of components for its compact digital cameras. But back to the bright side, the firm says that demand for its lithography equipment used in the production of flat-panel display and manufacturing equipment for organic LED displays “enjoyed strong growth thanks to active capital investment by panel manufacturers.”

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