Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lexmark gets the boot

I've had a love-hate relationship with inkjet printers for years. Coming from dot matrix printers, inkjet was a huge step forward. And no one but a business could afford those huge laser printers, so everyone was happy to see them come out.

Fast forward to 2008, and ink jets kinda suck. About the only thing they're good for now is low to mid-quality digital photo prints, and sucking up your money in ink refills. Cheap lasers easily outshine them for text printing, and color lasers are starting to catch up in quality and price.

So, when Best Buy decided to drop Lexmark injets from its stores, it got attention. Aside from Lexmark, Epson, HP and Canon are the only big names in inkjets. Yes, there are specialty photo printers and dirt-cheap (ie. disposable) printers, but those four are the names anyone who wants a decent printer looks for. Knocking Lexmark out of one of the major chain retailers across the USA is a big blow for them, and ink jet in general.

Of course, this may just be a marketing strategy gone bad. Lexmark announced higher-than-expected earnings for Q1 '08, but notes that part of that is due to intentionally under-selling its lower priced inkjet printers. The idea was to push consumers towards buying the (more profitable) higher-end printers and ink cartridges. Cutting back supply may have influenced Best Buy's decision to cut the brand entirely, which may come back to haunt Lexmark.

It's especially relevant to Kentucky, as Lexmark is based in Lexington. They're a major employer in the city, and something that affects their growth will also affect the local economy.

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