Lexmark’s next-generation printers are getting smarter

The era of the smart printer has arrived.

Lexmark International Inc. has just gone through a big modernization phase, equipping its new printers and multi-function devices with enhanced management platforms, touch screens and even less fiddly toner cartridges (hint: they’re easier to remove and best of all, you don’t have to shake them anymore).

Todd Hamblin, the recently appointed president of Lexmark Canada, guided me through a demonstration of some of these next generation printers, which range from mid-sized monochrome printers with basic user interfaces to towering colour laser multifunction devices with 10.2-inch colour touch screens.

Hamblin says the company has done a “complete overhaul” of its monochrome line, and significantly updated its colour printers. While some of the improvements are in areas like printing speed (one model, the MX812 monochrome laser MFP, is capable of printing 70 pages a minute, and can print the first page in four seconds), much of the emphasis has been on enterprise print management.

Access control to Lexmark printers is managed through a Web-based platform that can assign certain privileges to users, such as what devices they can use, and keeps track of their pending print jobs. Users can release queued using a personal access card. And if jobs are forgotten and remain in the queue, the printer will automatically delete them. The result, says Hamblin, is a more efficient-and less wasteful-workplace.

Nowadays, printers are no longer the slaves of computers. They’re getting more autonomy, and in some cases, even get to take charge. For example, printers like the Lexmark MX812 feature a large colour touch screen and have their own basic operating system (based on Linux). Using its tablet-like display, it’s possible to scan documents and publish them directly to Google Docs, SharePoint, and even to ERP systems, said Hamblin.

Lexmark has also developed iOS and Android apps allow tablet users to communicate with printers via a cloud-based platform.

The company’s guiding principle has been to “take a few steps out” of the printing process, he says, adding that Lexmark is helping companies consolidate their printing rooms. “Almost always that involves a reduction in devices,” he said.

Like many companies that have historically sold hardware, Lexmark is moving into the services space, Hamblin says. The printers themselves are doing their part: new models are capable of automatically ordering new toner and even requesting service calls.

All in all, Hamblin says the company is announcing a total of 42 new product and 76 upgrades to existing products, from small business products to enterprise powerhouses, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. This marks one of the biggest product overhauls in the company’s history, according to Lexmark.

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