Selling SoHo Printers: “It’s Airprint, Stupid”

Finding a current table of color laser Airprint capable multi-function printers (MFP) with prices and features is impossible. [If you are an Android user, just replace every reference of “Airprint” to “Cloud Print” since it is essentially a copy of Airprint, and would help Android users to find printers too] So, gathering info quickly to recommend a printer is laboriously slow at best. Adding Airprint capabilities to product page table lists and being able to filter by it (as “wireless” and “color” are valid filters on most company and shopping sites) would speed up information gathering. I only found out about Airprint coming to Xerox when I visited MacWorld Expo and asking a Xerox engineer. Worse, is this info has dropped Airprint off of HP’s list pages — but is at least still buried in each printer’s page in fine print.

When I spoke to the Xerox engineer he said some Color MFP under $1000 (for SoHo) and all Enterprise models had (or would have) Airprint, but looking at the official list today there was nothing to compete with HP’s $400 retail (~$300 street price) Color LaserJet M175nw MFP [now replaced by the M177fw] which offers Wireless print through Airprint — thus iOS devices can print without loading any software (and scan with software). Also, Canon had imageCLASS MF8580Cdw, at $600 coming out. At the show the Xerox rep, pointed out several sub-$600 Xeroxes that either had the feature or would get it with a firmware update. But since then, I have forgotten which ones those were. So, when someone shot me a quick email “Hey, saw that printer ____ and they told me to ask you about it. Which models would you recommend?” I looked it up, which led me to the first line of this post.

Airprint means that visitors do not have to go through an arduous process to print documents. No one has to call tech support, anyone with an iOS device can print simply by…

  1. pressing the silly “square with an exiting arrow” icon* (which seems to mean either “upload,” “export,” “transfer” or “share” depending on context) in any app capable of printing (which is most apps)
  2. pressing “Print” from the submenu. (luckily that icon is clear)
  3.  pressing “Select Printer >”
  4.  selecting (pressing) a printer that comes up in the “Recent Printers” list (assuming it is on the network)
  5.  pressing print.

…and within a minute (or more if it is a large file) can walk over to the printer and pick up their freshly printed color laser page all for about half the cost of playing an arcade game ($.12–$.16 depending on print coverage/density). Don’t let those inkjet sales people trick you. (In fact with any sales on the line consider the source of the info, and if they gain from pushing you toward one choice, they are biased — seek a second opinion)

I mentioned the price a few years ago and someone shot back that color laser printers are too expensive, and called me an overpaid consultant (I WISH!). Sorry buddy, every TCO/ROI study shows the cost of color lasers to be less expensive than inkjet. How many people have blown through pages of their inkjet carts simply cleaning the heads — especially if they print infrequently. Question: How many prints do you get from the starter pack of toner vs the starter pack of inkjet carts? Answer: it is usually a 3:1 or 4:1 or more ratio, which means that by the time you replace a toner cartridge once you would have blown through the price differential in toner cartridge costs. I knew this, and the Xerox engineer had a convenient price per print page with him that also showed just Xerox products price per print. 


Because of this, I told the engineer the price per print and Airprint are a huge selling points that should be emphasized to both SoHo and anyone thinking of buying a printer — with big loud blaring trumpets and a marching band. Hell I could write a commercial in 5 minutes:

split screen:

screen (right): (in drab blotchy colors an inkjet user has to clean the print heads after a bad print

screen (left): (in sharp vibrant color) an iPhone user follows the steps above and prints out a marching band photo.

The marching band comes to life with music and sound through actual printed pages flipped in front of a camera and marches toward the camera. The band turns to the right (pushing the inkjet user frame off who has just barely finished cleaned the print heads)

As the bass drum turns to the side the copy on the drum reads:


no timewasting clean

Airprint! print _and_ scan!”

with a big ole’ company logo

In 30 seconds: your point is made using facts and experiences most people with inkjets can identify with, and is often a source of frustration and wasted time. Sure “sex sells,” but that only gets you remembered. Connecting through showing empathy and showing a straight-forward solution gets you sought out.

I told the engineer that if more people knew about airprint and the price differential, printer sales would probably trickle up to Enterprise. I know this is a trickle up can happen because displaying this feature to visitors has resulted in them taking this knowledge back to their office and also buying Airprint printers in a domino effect — especially when they can afford to put one in any office environment ($<400 vs. $3000+).

Oddly, Xerox does not seem to want to compete in this market because finding a quick table of Airprint capable printers with prices and other specs is not possible — even after telling the engineer about it being a real selling feature (and not one of those features that doesn’t improve the user experience — like a 4K phone display), which makes sense because I bet most a lot of their income is in printer maintenance contracts. However, I would think that Xerox would rather cannibalize its sales itself rather than have a competitor do it.

(Who said, “If we’re afraid of cannibalizing our cash cow, then someone else will”? I did a search, but it comes up with 2 people: Jack Welch and Steve Jobs. It was probably Welch then —considering how lesser known people’s quotes are often mis-credited to more popular people when they say them.)

Anyway, I found the info I sought — eventually — and I sent two recommendations (the Canon and HP mentioned above) off to the SoHo client. Xerox is out because I can’t find the info, and it had taken longer to try to find it than it did to write this — “search is a lie.” So, yet again, a sale is lost. I have passed my time on to you. Feel free to update me by posting a comment if you know the Xerox info, and thanks for reading. 

(Once again, all spelling errors, I blame on stream of consciousness writing and draft editing: I blame Polerand. I would rather push this now than never push it “until its perfect” since the salient points are clear.)

*Silly/Nebulous icons with no info, contextual help, and no published/official name in documentation is a topic unto itself.


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