Gemma Glen, Product Marketing Manager of OKI Europe’s North West Region, looks at how economic, business, technological and social shifts will put consumers in the driving seat.
The print industry is now entering the ‘Third Age of Print’; it’s being driven by technology and commercial developments, but the ultimate beneficiaries will be the end customer, who will enjoy more choice and bargaining power than ever before. Thanks to the technological advancements within the print industry, the way in which print is used in-store and in offices not only maximises a company’s customer-base and growth, but also assures that precision, quality and agility is met at all times. The humble printer – print service, solutions, and other related products – is at the heart of this shift, which will have a profound impact in society from family life to the workplace.
The First Age of Print was characterised by limited services such as television, radio and telephone, delivered in a highly-regulated monopolistic (or near monopolistic) environment. Consumer choice was virtually non-existent, suppliers controlled everything from service delivery to pricing. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press is widely thought of as the origin of mass communication, it marked Western culture’s first viable method of disseminating ideas and information from a single source to a large and far-ranging audience. Furthermore, in 1950, Xerox introduced a plain paper copier that made a whopping 6 copies per minute. Whilst the printing industry had to adapt with the times, it was becoming a vital part of the global economy. Overall, print machines were rare to come across daily, outside the professional space, and proved as unaffordable to the average customer. This was the beginning of the First Age of Print.
The ‘Second Age of Print’ was heralded by the arrival of competition and – most importantly – the personal computer and office infrastructure. The former transformed the workplace, signalling the death of the typing pool and much of the hierarchy that accompanied it; the emergence of the ‘open plan’ office, a PC on every desk, and a workforce able to create and exchange content directly with whom they pleased are defining elements of the Second Age of Print. Furthermore, the print industry had seeped into various sectors by this point. Apart from print advertising, which was on an exponential growth, there was a need for print within other consumer and automotive markets. Not only did printing become more sophisticated with improved quality, but the infrastructure became more advanced and capable of complex operations with varying levels of flexibility. Print finally came into its own.
During this period, technology was on a rapid growth, and so were the advancements within the print industry.
Within the home, the average printer now became easily affordable to the consumer for the first time and therefore was also increasingly purchased for personal use. Printers were being used as connected devices to facilitate other amenities such as the fax, scanners and copiers. This was marked by the development of an all-in-one multi-function printer (MFP), in the late 1900s. Businesses were now able to reduce the amount of hardware in their offices and in turn, it proved cost effective. These multifunctional printers were also smaller, occupying less space in offices or homes and slowly grew very popular amongst consumers.
Today, technology, economics and social changes are combining to provide more choice and competition than ever before; welcome to the Third Age of Print! The Internet of things (IoT), mobility, digital print services, smart homes and modern cities are all the result of these changes that typify the benefits of the Third Age of Print. For example, 3D printing has never been more popular and have been used to print a huge variety of different objects, including jewellery, clothing, medical prosthetics, food and houses.
Finally, big data is fuelling the shift in the volume and nature of information being exchanged. In the dawn of the digital age, printing got faster and more easily accessible to everyone. As the world becomes more digital, print firms have also now developed digital printing technologies that has made it possible to print straight from a digital file. The print industry has extended their offerings as other solutions like web to print software become available, allowing information to be stored, sent and printed within minutes remotely. For the busy consumer, these tools form an essential part of daily life.
The implications for print machines and print related solutions are as clear as the opportunities they deliver, secure print solutions, scalable and multifunctional printers competitively priced. Today’s consumers have never had more choice in terms of device, network and platform; whether they are securing their home from another location or downloading their favourite series, their expectations in terms of service levels, device compatibility, and security are unapologetically high.
A queue of people patiently waiting to use the printer, scanner or fax machine may become obsolete, but they are being replaced by alternatives that are equally compelling and meaningful. The Third Age of Print presents a wonderful moment for the print industry.
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