Printer ink costs more per drop than expensive perfume or alcohol, a Gartner analyst said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a business computing conference in London, Stephen Prentice, general vice-president of hardware research for Gartner, estimated that printer owners are spending around £1,200 per litre on ink.
"A new printer costs £110," said Prentice. "The cost of an ink cartridge is £70. I worked it out and a litre of colour ink would cost £1,200. That's more than Chanel No.5 or a good bottle of whisky would cost."
Prentice was discussing how companies can use their products to generate value through business services. He said that the value of the iPods to Apple was not just in the product itself, but in the iTunes service that users would pay for. He then highlighted printer cartridges for similar reasons. "Printers are sold well below cost price, but the companies get their money through the sale of cartridges."
In 2002, three Minnesota residents challenged print ink manufacturer HP in court over the sale of half-full 'economy' ink cartridges.
On Tuesday HP hit back at Prentice's comments.
In a prepared email statement, Jamie Gryce, HP's sales director for UK and Ireland, said: "The premium pricing for HP cartridges and inks reflects the investment in R&D [research and design] and manufacturing processes necessary to achieve this level of quality and innovation. HP invests up to three to four years developing and manufacturing just one new line of ink. HP would encourage customers to consider more than just purchase price when it comes to value for money."
Prentice's keynote speech also covered the 'virtualisation' of storage and security technology. He said that businesses needed to make their infrastructure more flexible, and that virtual, consolidated technology could allow them to make changes at lower costs.
"You can't have fixed structures any more," he said. "The demand for storage is going to grow because you need increasing control over what and how something is being stored. You need a flexible infrastructure."