Printer vendors stress user-friendliness

As Palm Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., demonstrated by the offering of free rides on Segway human transporters, the message that vendors hoped to get across on the second day of the 27th annual FOSE government IT trade show was that technology can make life easier.

Ease-of-use is certainly a competitive selling point for companies offering printers at the show. Both end users and system administrators should find plenty of time and sweat-saving features in the new printers demonstrated at FOSE.

Xerox Corp. Stamford, Conn., is demonstrating a line of Phaser office printers that employ solid ink blocks that can be easily replaced through the top of the printer via a pop-up cover. Replacing blocks of ink is easier than replacing cartridges on today's printers, the company claims. The ink is liquidifed for printing by the application of heat, said Joshua Stevens, trade show manager for Xerox.

Stevens also stressed that since the Phaser printers have only half the number of moving parts that other printers do, they are less prone to mechanical malfunction.

Hewlett-Packard Co. Palo Alto, Calif., is also stressing ease-of-use for its printers. Its 4600 line of LaserJet printers are designed so that all maintenance can be done?such as unsticking a paper jam or replacing a toner cartridge?from the front of the printer. No more reaching around to the back of the printer to clear crumpled documents.

The company also demonstrated a line of ink jet printers that featured removable cartridges for each color the printer uses. Instead of replacing the entire cartridge whenever one of the base colors?such as yellow, magenta or cyan?runs dry, a cartridge with just that color can be replaced.

Even the veritable high-throughput dot matrix printers from Tally Printer Corp, Kent, Wash. have been updated with new maintenance-friendly features, such as the ability to sent alert notices by email or pager when a printers runs out of paper or malfunctions, said Chris Folk, a product manager for the company.

Tally has also introduced ribbons for its printers that, through the help of an embedded ink pump, can print up to 250 million characters without fading, Folk said. Tally is marketing this printer for agencies that need to do large printing jobs with very little maintenance support. Folk said that the Tally's printer can output 1800 liners per minute, or about 30 pages worth of copy?approximately twice as fast as the fastest of LaserJet printers. Folk emphasized the ruggedness of the dot matrix design.

"We have service contracts for printers that are still running that we stopped manufacturing 10 years ago," Folk said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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