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

Closing Statements

Cause of death: existential crisis

Christopher Dawson

Innovation in the PC and printer space died of an existential crisis. Outside of some specific verticals, it no longer needed to live. This isn't to say that the market is dead, but rather already has efficient, small, inexpensive, fast computers (whether laptop or desktop) and resource-saving printers that meet the needs of most buyers. There is plenty of money to be made selling commodity hardware; HP's recent consolidation of PC and printer units is just another validation of this commodity approach. After all, how much marketing do you need to convince businesses to buy inexpensive PCs and printers?

Where things get interesting is in the cloud. HP's move, much like the shifts we've seen at Dell and IBM, is an attempt to leverage all of that commodity hardware to connect buyers to value-added services. The innovation is here, and, long-term, so is the real money.

Incentives to innovate

Lawrence Dignan

The funny thing about innovation is you never really see it coming. The PC and printer markets have become commoditized, but the innovation isn't dead. Multiple outcomes are possible because there's still a lot of money to be made in emerging markets for both PCs and printers. That reality will drive incentives to innovate. It's too early to write off PC and printer innovation. 


PCs and printers still vital

Josh Gingold

I would love to tell you that this was a difficult decision, but it really wasn’t.  As much as I enjoy Chris’s argument, I believe he thinks of things as they ought to be as opposed to the reality.  Both PCs and printers are just as vital as they’ve ever been and will continue to evolve to meet the changing demands of the market -- which is arguably the essence of innovation.

In contrast to Chris’s idealism, Larry is reliably pragmatic; and in this particular case he did a nice job of reminding us that the “funny thing about innovation is you never really see it coming.”  In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know.  He’s right.  It’s just way too soon to declare an end to PC and printer innovation.

Clearly most of this audience agrees that it’s too soon to tell if PC and printer innovation is gone and I would venture that it’s unlikely as well, at least in the foreseeable future.  Nevertheless, to those of you who agree with Chris, I say keep dreaming.  That is after all the fountainhead of big thinking which almost always leads to, you guessed it, innovation.


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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