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Despite retail's relative share gains, home printing continues to the method of choice for the majority of digital camera owners, and more camera owners are printing at home than ever before.
According to a recent survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), 82 percent of digital camera owners who print do so from home and 75 percent consider home printing as their primary method.
According to Ed Lee, InfoTrends, photo printing trends service director, a recently completed consumer survey showed a 2.5 times increase over 2003 in the percentage of digital camera owners who owned a “photo-centric” printer.
Inkjet printers and multifunction devices are expected to enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6 percent and an install base of 75 million units by 2008, according to I.T. Strategies.
Inkjet consumables — the papers and inks that produce prints and documents — are also forecast to enjoy healthy growth rates in both units and dollars through 2008, I.T. predicted, with inks growing the fastest.
Despite positive forecasts, vendors highlighted several key hurdles left to clear: lowering the cost per print and improving ease of use of home photo printers.
“The reality of home printing is that it's not easy; it's too PC-centric; and it's wasteful. We've crossed the chasm into a mass market consumer, and now we have to make it simple,” said Rowan Lawson, director of home printing, Kodak.
“That's the challenge,” said Brian Cruz,, category marketing director, Hewlett-Packard.
Pricing is another concern. Many powerhouse retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart leverage enormous economies of scale to offer digital print pricing as low as 19 cents per print. Home printers have recently begun marketing paper and ink bundles for a 29 cents per print cost, but Cruz noted that because so many different variables factor into the equation, consumers don't understand the cost structure of home printing.
“Cost per page has been an inhibitor,” admitted John Lamb, marketing manager, Canon. “That's why we expanded from 20-sheet to 120-sheet paper packs. People are looking for volume discounts.”
Printer makers were unanimous, however, in one assessment of home printing: The quality of the output exceeds that of retail printing.
“You are guaranteed the best quality at home,” Lamb said.
HP's Cruz noted that despite third-party validation, consumers still believe home printing suffers from inferior quality. “The message is not getting out there,” Cruz said.