Home Printers. Why are they usually rubbish?

Think back to your first ever home inkjet printer. Mine was an Apple stylewriter in 1993.

Look at home printers today. They still look pretty much the same – they haven’t moved on much. Why not? We’ve been having the same gripes for more than 14 years now:

  1. The feed area is not big enough for a ream of paper. Yet you always buy paper in a ream. You end up having to put that paper somewhere, why not IN the printer?
  2. Paper in the feed area isn’t properly supported. After a week or two it starts to curl.
  3. Some of the main parts are designed to slide-in and out. Implicit in this is the idea that you “put away” your printer when you are not using it. Who actually does this? It’s not worth the effort if you use your printer more than once a week. Plus the slidey bits often break.
  4. You can’t place anything on top of the printer. Office printers may be chunky but at least you have a large output tray where you can leave a pile of print-outs without them getting in the way of anything.
  5. And they are never shipped with a USB cable. It must have taken a special kind of evil genius to think of this and somehow manage to get almost every manufacturer in the world to comply.

It seems to me that home technology is usually considered the cheaper, flimsier sibling of office technology. This really shouldn’t be the case. Look at home furniture vs office furniture. Aesthetically, a lot more care goes into choosing it. Space-wise, the consumer is a lot more contrained, but this doesnt mean they want to always be putting things away and taking them out again. And in terms of durability, it may not have as much throughput but the usage it does get is likely to be intense (kids, teenagers, usage-while-eating, etc).

Home technology should be better looking, more compact and more foolproof than office technology. Will this ever happen for printers or will consumers always be motivated by the cheapest deal?