PC and printers: Is the innovation gone?

Moderated by Josh Gingold | March 26, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: With HP merging its PC and printer units, we ask our debaters: Have these products been commoditized beyond innovation?

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Look to the cloud


Too soon to tell

Lawrence Dignan

Lawrence Dignan

Best Argument: Too soon to tell

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Look to the cloud

Chris Dawson: Do you still print? Really? Well knock it off. That's why we have tablets. And smartphones. And websites. And iBooks. And plenty of other things that aren't dead trees.

What kind of computer do you have? Does it matter? No, probably not, as long as it's fast enough to run whatever software you need and the screen is big enough to differentiate it from that tablet in your messenger bag. Unless you’re a Mac user, in which case it matters to you.

Computers are going to keep getting smaller and faster. Printers will find niche applications like 3D printing and CAM or printing adorable little QR code stickers out of your phone, but most of that doesn't really count as innovation. Computers and all the things we attach to them get smaller. Whatever. If you want innovation, look to the cloud. Everything else is just I/O.

Innovation will always happen

Larry Dignan: Take two commoditized products---PCs and printers---argue that they are maxed out on innovation. Call for a post PC-printer era. Sound like a genius. It's just way too formula.

The tech reality is quite different. We thought mainframes were tapped out on the innovation. There's an argument that server demand will only go to the cloud. And it wasn't all that long ago when you could find someone to ask what on earth would you do with 1 TB of storage.

Innovation will always happen in PCs and printers, but take a different form. There will be innovation. Handheld printers are one possibility. PCs will get smaller, lighter and faster as well as do more. The real innovation may be a PC embedded into your brain.

In other words, it's too early to say innovation is gone for PCs and printers---especially when you consider that technologies that have been long declared dead are still improving.


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  • Poll

    I have been hearing about the death of print for most of my 54 years.
    Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
    • Poll

      I still print and don't see that stopping anytime soon. There are some things that a desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone just don't do well. And that's the ability to pickup a piece of paper, see it, gather what I need quickly scribble notes and move on. Far too many people today are thinking its dead and these are the same folks that thought laptops would end desktops. The PC and Print are here for the next 30+ years. Get over it.
      Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
    • I print less, but still print

      I print a lot less since I can do so much electronically - but I still print on occasion.

      - Some places I work with still do paperwork the old fashioned way.
      - It's a lot cheaper to print and display a picture on my wall than to hang a tablet on my wall.
      - If I need something quick to display outside (such as a garage sale sign), it's still easiest to use a printer.
      - I still create designs and take notes on paper.

      I will admit I print a lot [i]less[/i] than I used to, but it's still a non-zero amount. I haven't stopped printing altogether.
      Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
    • Printing won't die as the cost of its replacement is not practical

      or something most can afford.

      In Chris's world, anyone that needs to read must own a tablet, legal documents must be signed via an elaborate electronic signature system, my proof of purchase in everyone's hand but my own.

      Schools must hand out, maintain, and administer costly laptops or tablets for test taking for every student and teacher, with an electronic document system for grading, and the results emailed to the parents machine (if they own one), ect.
      Everything is $$$,$$$, $$$, with no thought on how to pay and maintain the systems needed to replace the one simple task of printing.

      He assumes that print is a backup for electronic, when in truth, electronic is a backup for print.
      William Farrel
      Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
    • Unfortunatly...

      I work at a small community bank. Even though our MIS dept sets up applications to use less paper, we still go through 2 million dollars in toner per year and it keeps getting worse. So, ya, until big-brother implants a chip in your body, you're still going to have to use paper and actually sign that 300 paged mortgage agreement.
      Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
    • We'll still be using inkjet and laser printing

      when I hit 80 years old, but not as often as we do today. We've also cut down on printing when compared to even 10 years ago thanks to the slow evolution of the PDF format.

      However, no matter what platform you're on, you generally can't pick up a PDF and a pen to scribble your notes, draw a happy face, underline content, or do the good-old hands-on editing that involves crossing stuff out or adding carrots and more info between the lines.
      Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell
  • Freedom won't kill it. Market forces might.

    What's left to say?
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • What about everyone else?

    I print very little (aside from printable CD/DVDs), but how the hell am I supposed to stop printing period when everyone else insists on hard copies?

    I just had to submit a packet of about 50 pages to immigration. They have no facility to send it in digital form...it had to printed, some forms signed, and the whole thing mailed in. I actually had to scramble to find paper.

    I suppose if becomes too much of a PITA, I could just start going to Kinkos or The Office Despot and pay per page (this is actually what I have to do when I visit the Philippines where everyone wants hard copy, but nobody has copiers or printers!) But when a MFP costs only $100 or so, the convenience is not something I'd like to give up for good.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • PC Innovation

    I don't need the latest innovation; I need a PC that works well, and does what it's supposed to do with precision and without issue.

    I don't need it to order groceries for me, lock or unlock my doors, control my thermostat, start my car, or wash my dishes.

    I need the same thing from a printer. I need to print things at home now and then, so I need a printer that prints well and reliably.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Printers and PCs

    I have had printers and PCs for at least the past 20 years, and even though I don't print as much now as then, occasionally I do have the necessity for a printed page, and the cost for printers is certainly affordable. We have lots of things in our lives that we don't use as much as when we first acquired them. I actually use my PC every day, and since I have an i 7 Lenovo with 8 gig of ram and a 27 inch HP monitor, it is very enjoyable to use. I'm sure that a wide number of PCs in the future will have a footprint much smaller than we currently use. Laptops are pretty small, but they have some disadvantages namely making repairs on them. I have a Lenovo Laptop too, and that is a great computer too, but I have the room for a fairly large desktop, so take advantage of it. I personally will have some form of powerful computer and some form of printer into the foreseeable future. If I want a cloud, I can always look up into the sky. Oh by the way, I am a home user, so my needs may be different than for a large business.
    Reply Vote I'm for Too soon to tell