It’s become customary for every new printer to be just a little bit faster than its predecessor or, maybe, a little bit cheaper to buy or run. Radical new features are few and far between nowadays, but Lexmark has come up with a new angle it hopes will change the way businesses look at what printers can do — a built-in touchscreen.
OK it’s a little bit more than that with, behind the touchscreen, the ability to run applications on the printer. The example cited is a forms printing program, enabling common business forms to be produced without the need to go to a PC. A lot of printers have this facility already but the touchscreen adds a new dimension, making it a lot easier to use.
Add network/internet connectivity and you could build applications to do all kinds of tasks direct from the printer, as Lexmark provides what it calls its Embedded Solutions Framework (eSF) to make such developments possible.
Now, there’s nothing particularly new about the idea of a touchscreen. Multifunction printers have had them for a long time, but Lexmark reckons it’s the first to build one into an ordinary single-function printer.
The first such product is the T656dne (from £1219 ex VAT), a monochrome workgroup laser able to print at up to 55 pages per minute. As well as a 7in. colour touchscreen, the new laser features an internal 80GB disk and a number of built-in applications to get you started, among them the aforementioned forms and favourites program plus a showroom to demonstrate the potential of the technology.
Whether it will really take off is debateable. It depends largely on whether anyone can think up any other applications beyond being able to print forms without a PC. I’ve tried and can’t come up with anything of any real value. Others with more imagination may do better, but Lexmark will need to deliver a lot more than just the platform for it to have a real chance of success.