Figures from Context show that all-in-one inkjet sales in the UK slid 11.8 percent by volume in 2012. That figure is better than the rest of the EU where all-in-one inkjet sales fell by 14 per cent.
Wireless versions of InkJets are doing slightly better because they are popular in homes and small offices because they can be located easily, connecting to multiple devices without cabling.
As you might expect, HP is still the leading vendor of wireless all-in-one inkjets, although Epson and Canon are doing a little better. However, the InkJet market has been looking shaky for a year.
In August Lexmark announced that it was pulling out of the market completely. Lexmark made its name on the “flog a cheap printer make your money back on the ink” model which was pioneered by HP. The fact that it left the market was seen as the beginning of the end. If Lexmark could kill off an entire business, unit sales numbers must have been dramatically bad.
Other companies have been seeing the writing on the wall for about three years. Consumer inkjet sales were proving so bad that it was better to try and flog the technology to corporate. Epson spent a fortune on its WorkForce high-end inkjets and did OK. HP, which has pitched its products to the business market for years, should have been doing fine too.
However, HP CEO Meg Whitman blamed part of the company’s recent and dismal earnings announcement as a steep decline in HP printer sales. She said that this lack of interest from consumers meant HP was going to de-emphasise products for lower-end customers. It seems business customers are no longer that interested either.
It is not quite so clear why the inkjet market has been so completely gutted. There have been moves to claim that the low end market and the consumer space have become completely paperless. Pictures which once would have been printed are now saved and shared across the net. Hard copy is less likely to be needed.
Some of that might be true, but the cost and quality of laser printing has also dropped. Cartridges require filling less often and are frequently cheaper than inkjets. Mostly it is because in the consumer market inkjet sales were tied to PC sales. Cheap inkjets were often sold as packages with PCs.
It also might indicate that there was a gradual realisation among consumers that inkjets really are a waste of cash in the long term. While the high-end inkjet technology was good, particularly for photographs, most of the great unwashed would not pay over £250 for a decent inkjet with all the sub-$100 models floating around. The cheap and nasty machines poisoned the market for the others.