People with inkjet printers have all considered, if not tried, clone inks from third-party vendors. It’s way cheaper, often by as much as 90 percent. Printer companies do not like hearing this, but most of the printer users playing with various brands of clone inks for 20 years and they never experienced any of the problems that you commonly read about in forums, like clogged heads or ruined warranties. “Only use the brand name meant for the printer!”
Until recently, you could buy a new printer for the cost of replacement ink. It’s obvious that the printers were the loss leaders for the ink business. In reality, these are not printer companies, these are ink companies.
Now, to prevent people from buying a new printer for the price of a refill kit, companies like HP have replaced the full cartridge sets with a sort of starter kit. The user needs to buy a second set of ink almost immediately.
Printer ink companies are also monopolizing ink cartridges for as long as they can. This means there are all sorts of different sizes and shapes of the cartridges themselves.
Here is the latest statement from HP:
We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP.
HP printers and original HP ink products deliver the best quality, security and reliability. When ink cartridges are cloned or counterfeited, the customer is exposed to quality and potential security risks, compromising the printing experience.
As is standard in the printing business, we have a process for authenticating supplies. The most recent firmware update included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned.
You can almost understand why. Nearly two years ago, the monolith that used to be HP decided to split in two. Hewlett Packard Enterprise would focus on the cloud, while HP Inc. would deal in PCs and printers. One company looked to the future, leaving the other to milk the past for all it could.
The great cleaving occurred in October. Since then, the printer business has continued to falter. In its most recent earnings report, HP said printing revenue dropped 14 percent year over year, with supplies revenue (ink and toner) down 18 percent. It fell 8 percent between spring and summer this year alone. Printing remains profitable for HP, but no one takes a double-digit decline lightly, especially when ink and toner comprise nearly two-thirds of the company’s printing revenue—and nearly a quarter of overall revenue. The golden goose is laying fewer eggs.
There’s only so much HP can do to stave off the inevitable. It controls 53 percent of the domestic printer market, according to the NPD Group, but industry-wide, printer sales are down 11 percent year over year. This explains HP’s billion-dollar acquisition of Samsung’s printer and copier business, and its decision to shut down third-party ink cartridges.
The good news for consumers is that it likely won’t last. 123inkt already has chips designed to circumvent the updated HP security. They should be available in a week or so.