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HP Hardware

Dell Takes the Low Road Regarding Ink Cartridges 430

Posted by chrisd
from the rev-engineering-to-take-about-five-minutes dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "Dell released a line of printers today, manufactured by Lexmark. As covered by by Yahoo they '..contain a chip that disables the cartridge if it is refilled and replaced in a Dell printer..' and 'The cartridges are different sizes than cartridges from other printer vendors, including Lexmark, the spokesperson said. This will limit the amount of knockoff cartridges available, but only until someone figures out how to reverse engineer Dell's cartridges.'" In the interest of full disclosure, note that the poster sells knockoff carts.
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Dell Takes the Low Road Regarding Ink Cartridges

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  • Funny (Score:5, Funny)

    by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandywinehun[ ]d.org ['dre' in gap]> on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:29PM (#5612029) Journal
    usually on slashdot using technology and not legalese is the high road to preventing things you don't want.

  • Not suprising.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gortbusters.org (637314) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:29PM (#5612030) Homepage Journal
    If Lexmark does it on their own, would Dell's version be any different?
  • The Low Road? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drunken Coward (574991) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:30PM (#5612032)
    Saying that Dell taking the low road by preventing the sale of third party ink cartriges would be akin to saying the same of Microsoft and the X-Box. Dell sells printers at close to cost, making up for it because of package deals and the extra sales of their proprietary cartridges. Don't knock them for trying to make their money back.
    • Re:The Low Road? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:33PM (#5612045)
      Yeah, yeah. And it isn't even *slightly* deceptive to drop the cost of the lead in product and then force the purchase of specific stuff later. Not at ALL. Its not necessarily a 'low road', but anyone who calls it even remotely 'high road-ish' is talking out of their distended ass.
      • Re:The Low Road? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by galaxy300 (111408) <daltonrooneyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:07PM (#5612213) Homepage
        I agree. Ever buy a razor and wonder why you got such a nice deal on that fancy Gillete Mach 12? Buy a Nintendo Game Cube for $129? It's because they make their money on the products that work with and for the products they sell at cost or below. This is nothing new and it you're not wise enough to the game by now (100 years after they started doing it) you deserve to lose the $$ you spend on the razor blades.
    • Re:The Low Road? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hard_Code (49548) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:41PM (#5612091)
      Then maybe they should just sell their printers for more, and market standardization as a "feature". Unless of course they want to force people to upgrade printers whenever they feel like...no that's couldn't be it...
      • Re:The Low Road? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rodgerd (402) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:18PM (#5612273) Homepage
        Actually, Canon printers are somewhat more expensive that their Epson equivalents, but have much cheaper running costs due to lower cartridge prices. So some manufacturers are taking the higher inital cost/lower long term cost route.
        • Not to mention the fact that I can still get cartridges for my 8 year old Canon copier.

          After dicking aroung with cheap fax machines and flaky fax servers for too long, I bought a Canon laser fax/printer/scanner/copier. Should have done it years ago.

        • Well, first off HPs suck. I don't know how they got the reputation that they were so good, but my experience has been they don't last. I've had 3 of them, including one I bought for a rather expensive $350 around 5 years ago. It stopped working after a year. The next HP bit it too.
          So I bought a Lexmark Z51 - it did decent printouts and it still works. But the ink is quite expensive.
          But Canon - I got an s800, and it prints out beautiful pictures. Then it stopped working after only a year! Damn. But it turned
        • Most people don't realize the Japanese word "Epson" translates in English to "Paper Jam".
    • Re:The Low Road? (Score:2, Interesting)

      I knock them (and Lexmark, and many other inkjet manufacturers) for trying to rip people off! They sell printers at below cost and consumers think "Mmmm...what a great deal I am getting", until they find out they have to buy $5 worth of ink for $40.

      That's like buying a toaster and later finding out only Black and Decker bread fits in it, which is $10 a loaf. Or like buying a KIA car, then finding out oil it uses costs $20 a litre.

      Hmm...this kinda sounds like some software company that everyone complains
      • Oh come on... who would willingly buy a KIA ;)

        Isn't this kinda like what the phone companies in the early days got slapped down for? Didn't the phone company used to make you use their phone in order to use their phone service?
        • Re:The Low Road? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @11:17PM (#5612625) Homepage
          Isn't this kinda like what the phone companies in the early days got slapped down for? Didn't the phone company used to make you use their phone in order to use their phone service?

          Actually, AT&T owned the entire phone system, including the phone wire in your house! They only made you use their phone instruments because, legally, they were theirs. In the MCI vs. Ma Bell case, they got clobbered over long distance service competition. No longer [owning/being responsible for] the phones and the house wiring was something the Regional Bell Operating Companies that were spun off from AT&T wanted.

    • Re:The Low Road? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:06PM (#5612210)
      I damn straight will knock them for trying to make their money back at the cost of infringing on free markets. Corporate whoring is bad enough at the government level--they get tax breaks, special breaks on zoning laws, etc.; now it's become that such corporate benefits are not enough, they are using legal leverage, which in turn costs the government and hence nation a vibrant, changing, improving marketplace.

      The DMCA is being used to restrict product usage and as a barrier to entry of competitors. You are so ready to assert that Dell has the right to make their money back. Guess what? No one said they couldn't. What you miss is that they are preventing others from making money too. What about them? Oh, you forgot. Golly gee. You are quick to point out that Dell sells printers at closet to cost. Know what? So what! That's THEIR decision to. I don't have a problem with them deciding on their prices. No one said they couldn't.

      Hell, if they want to epoxy their ink cartridges to their printers I don't care. I care when there is a law that says I can't take a Dremel to the epoxy and get more use out of it (which, thankfully the DMCA doesn't not cover).

      Don't cry to the customers or voters if their loss leader costs the company. Consumers are not there to bail you out of your sorry ass decisions. I would gladly purchase a printer for $500 if I had a choice of reasonably priced brand name as well as alternative ink sources--oh, wait, I did--it's called a laser printer. Yeah, I bypassed the problem that is inkjets.

      Dell leveraging stupid, overly broad laws (it's a DMCA violation, as Lexmark has already tested in court, and there is at least another case law example you can use re the DMCA and this sort of technology involving, of all things, garage doors) and changing the business fight (in this case, based on evolving technologies) to a legal one. If you honestly believe Dell has the right to be in the marketplace, drop all the other crap and make it a business slugfest.

      Oh, btw, I do say the same thing of MS and the Xbox. MS knew full well that crypto'ing their code they were not only getting protection by crypto but also legal protection via the DMCA protection. (Note that I did not say copyright protection, because the key provents flat out code usage, including user rolled applications--so much for a company that "innovates" and puts out DRM crap->they can't even tell the difference between pirated copies and apache). MS bleeds on Xbox, and I'm glad they do. I don't buy from Xbox, and now I won't be buying from Dell (I used to buy about $2,000 of equipment through their accessory store).
    • by FFtrDale (521701) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:28PM (#5612312)
      Antitrust laws prevent car manufacturers from owning oil companies, don't they? Here we have Lexmark and, now, Dell, using laws to create an economic situation that the antitrust laws were written to break up (customers' dependence on the company's commodity products to operate big-ticket items). It's pretty odd that, in the case of automobiles and oil, the economic costs and benefits created the situation and the Congress stopped it, while now the legislature and the courts are being used to create a continuing customer dependency in a situation where economics would prevent it.

      • by mkldev (219128) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:21AM (#5613374) Homepage
        Antitrust laws do nothing of the sort. A car manufacturer could buy an oil company if they want to. It's a vertical merger. Antitrust laws would, however, prevent GM and Ford and Nissan and eight other companies from merging into a single huge car company.

        A car company, however, can't require you to use only their parts. This has nothing to do with antitrust laws, however, and the laws that prevent such activity only apply to automobiles. Sorry, thanks for playing.

        Simply put, what they're doing is legal. Unethical, yes, immoral, probably, consumer-unfriendly, sure, but legal nonetheless. They have a right to do this, just like you have the right to tell them where to shove their products.

        That having been said, it wouldn't hurt to do a nationwide advertising campaign that explains to people why they should look for third-party ink refills before choosing a printer---educate the masses. When they see their business drying up, they will reconsider this stupidity....

    • Re:The Low Road? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ShadowDrake (588020) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:06AM (#5613305)
      The problem is that after a point, they've made back their money, and they're just gouging.

      A comparable situation is the contract requirements with mobile phones. They rig them in a way that makes them back the subsidy they've given you on the phone, BUT they don't tie you there after they've made their money back.

      Possible technical approaches to making the money back without permanently locking in the consumer include:

      1-- storing the cartridge chip ID; after some number of different official cartridges are recorded, unlock the printer.

      2-- sell only a package of the printer and cartridges at a price that covers costs; additional cartridges are reasonably priced or clonable.

      3-- sell the printer at its true cost.
  • Next... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:32PM (#5612035)
    New cars' gas tanks will not be able to be refilled. If you need new gas, you will have to buy a new gas tank from Ford, GM, etc. This will ensure you get the highest quality feul that will ensure the maximum life of your car. A smart chip will prevent manual refilling.
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:32PM (#5612042) Journal
    I bought my HP laserjet for $240. About the $289 dollar inkjet from Dell. Inkhet printers are typically $200-$100.

    After switching to laser I will never go back. I do not need color for most documents and the quality and reliablity are so much better. My epson inkjet blows goatballs and always jams.

    • $289 is for the pro quality inkjet. There is a big difference between bottom of the rung inkjet and pro quality inkjet. There bottom feeder inkjet is $139 with Scanner built in.

      Got to agree with you on the Laser printer though, they are just so much better and very cheap laser printers are actually quite good quality and speed (eg 12ppm).

    • This really is true, ink jets are just problems waiting to happen. I always hated how if I left my printer alone for a month unused, I'd have to buy new ink cartriges because the old ones couldn't be cleaned. Epsons seem to fall apart in a year or two and just start having problem after problem (quite nice untill then though). HPs start to streak horridly within a month, at least in my expirence. The only ink jet that I have that I like is my old HP DeskWriter C that I bought when I bought my old Apple LC I
      • It might not be too long before a standard ink cartridge format develops, and the days of $40 prices disapear faster than big-mouth-billy-bass ads did.

        Yeah, it'll be a LONG time before that happens. I saw people everyday at my old job bitching and moaning because of the ink prices, and our store had them intentionally inflated MORE to generate extra revenue, but they still bought the shit. I still had to restock that shelf every night for all the ink that was sold. Their business model, as illogical as
    • That is a personal laser printer for $289.00. The only inkjet offered by Dell is the $109.00 (witb rebate) all in one.
  • that I hate printers? They're clunky, they rarely work right, and the ink costs a fortune.

    Dirty smelly nasty printersesses ... I hates them!
    • Amen. If it's not the printer giving trouble, it's the drivers trying to be too damn smart and just getting in the way.

      I HATE PRINTERS - the worst part of computers. I had been printer free for years then my wife decided she needed to print some things - just waiting for the ink cart to die.
  • would be in direct violation of the DMCA.

    Unless you are basing your operation in a more civiliezed part of the world, that is.

  • by mosch (204) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:37PM (#5612070) Homepage
    My Summary:

    Dell has released an extremely cheap printer. This extremely cheap printer uses ink cartridges which create a revenue stream for Dell, but also wear out and stop functioning to spec after a certain amount of time.

    Some third party is upset that they cannot refill those cartridges, even though they were not designed to be refilled, and are at the end of their lives.

    Consumers have a multitude of options regarding printing technology, at widely varying costs per page. Dell's decision has not eliminated any of the other suppliers or technologies.

    In short, unless you manufacture inkjet refill kits, don't worry about this, it doesn't matter and it would change your life in the least.

    • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:48PM (#5612122)

      Some third party is upset that they cannot refill those cartridges, even though they were not designed to be refilled, and are at the end of their lives.

      They're more pissed that they are being prevented from refilling the cartridges by technology put there for the purpose, and that they are unable to manufacture knockoffs due to the DMCA.

      In short, unless you manufacture inkjet refill kits, don't worry about this, it doesn't matter and it would change your life in the least.

      Unless you happen to like the idea of competition, that is. Allow this, and you will see more and more things that you buy come with strings attached regarding usage, and those strings will be backed up by legal force.

      • How do copyrights restrict the manufacturing of printer cartridges?
        • How do copyrights restrict the manufacturing of printer cartridges?

          Simple: incorporate a chip in the ink cartridge that interacts with the printer. This chip is required for the cartridge to be recognized, but it uses some form of encryption, so duplicating it may violate the DMCA. HP has already used these tactics to limit or prevent sale of third party cartridges.

    • by lingqi (577227) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:48PM (#5612124) Journal
      I am not the only one who realizes that it's cheaper to buy a new printer than a set of replacement catridges.

      So, what do you think happens to the old printer? it gets tossed; and then it gets dumped in a landfill or china - neither is a very good option.

      I don't see how does that *not* impact my life.

      Besides, environmental issues aside, while cheap, printers DO COST MONEY TO MAKE, and throwing them away because the manufactures decides on a fucked-up business model only drives up the cost eventually.

      I really don't like this model the inkjet people has taken on. I mean, I understand it with games consoles, but the analogy don't really compare. It's like if Xbox costed less than your typical came and always came with coupon for a free game of your choosing - or a car that's so cheap you will buy it for the tank of gas that the dealer gives you. It's not a good business model anywhere else, why would the printer people get all drunk over it?
      • That would be true if you still got full cartridges when you bought a new ink jet. But the last time that I bought one (and when others I know have gotten them) they now come with either 1/2 or 1/4 full ink cartridges, so you have to go out and buy new ones almost immediatly.
      • Except with printers, very often the most complicated part-- the print nozzles-- are attached to the ink cartridge itself. There is a technical reason for this actually, the ink nozzles tend to get clogged over time. Thus printing quality over the life of the printer will be better if you change the nozzles every time you change the ink.

        This is also a good argument against refilled/remanufactured carts. Now, I'm not saying printer ink prices are reasonable or anything.. But laser is actually cheaper than i
  • by worst_name_ever (633374) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:42PM (#5612097)
    ...when you refill ink cartridges, you're refilling terrorism!
  • by tizzyD (577098) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `dyzzit'> on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:44PM (#5612107) Homepage
    I don't think it will.

    As long as most people blindly accept the pap they get from Dell, they will buy printers like this one as well. The end result? Dell sells printers and ties them to the cartidges. They're just looking to capitalize on their place in the market . . . appealing to the ignorant buyers in households who know no better options.

    Real markets depend upon easy access of producers and consumers, and an informed consumer on the products of the market. In this case, we have neither; ergo, we have no market. We have another Windoze in the making.

    It's situations like this one that make me doubt the "free market."
    • Transparency! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by icknay (96963)
      Rather than getting annoyed at Dell or working to circumvent their technology, this would be a great time for a little transparency. Printer manufacturers should be able to sell whatever dorked combination of printer and ink, but the package should be clearly labeled ot indicate what sort of ink it takes and what the expected costs are.

      "The market" can work things out if the consumers have the information. You can imagine a series of printers that cost more but take "commodity" ink being popular with som

  • Dot matrix (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wee (17189) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:47PM (#5612117)
    Screw all this inkjet/laser nonsense. I want a dot matrix printer. It doesn't even have to be a 24 pin either. As long as it can do long, long sheets out of a whole friggin' box of alternating green and white lined fanfold tractor paper, then I'd be on it like white on rice. All I ever print is basically 7-bit ASCII anyway. And I could redirect STDOUT to it in a pinch (or syslogd even).

    The only printer I have working now is the old receipt thermal printer from my former cash register [27.org]. It's blazingingly fast, but only does 60 columns. And it's really small text. Great for grocery lists, for code not so much. And I only have two rolls of the free Service Merchandise paper left.

    Anyway, there's my random thought for the day. Thought I'd share. I think now I'll head over to ebay.

    -B

  • by capologist (310783)
    This sort of thing only bothers me when the manufacturer takes action to restrict the customer's ability to use the product as the customer desires, and the customer doesn't realize this until he gets it home.

    As long as the customer is made aware of the artificially engineered restrictions, then I figure it's cool. Customers who don't want to accept those restrictions don't have to buy the product. It's not like DeLL has a monopoly on printers.
  • by nuggz (69912)
    Well if it is so great to make printers that easily accept third party cartridges, why doesn't someone sell one, advertise it as such.

    Then they could make the money on the printer, rather then these high priced cartridges.

    That being said, my experience is that the third party refills or cartridges suck and you're better off with the OEM ink.
    • Canon?

      Their printers are kinna pricy, but the ink is dirt cheap ($15/cart as opposed to HP's $70/cart (!!!!) )
    • well when joe user goes into best buy looking for a printer they are not thinking about how much the ink costs they just want the fastest one for the cheapest price, which is why thoes crappy 50$ lexmark printers sell as much as they do. my first printer was a lexmark 1000, after having to deal with poor quality and lack of good drivers (not to mention no linux support) I no longer buy printers under 200$ even the expensive printers still have to use thoes shitty 30$ ink carts but they last a lot longer
  • First of all, only a certain set of Dell cartridges have these chips according to the article. You can choose to buy the standard cartridges rather than the chip-laden "use and return" cartridges. The only barrier to buying the standard cartridges from anyone but Dell is the size mismatch issue, but that'll be solved by third-parties in a matter of 6 months, tops. And, sure, you have to buy "Use and Return" cartridges only from Dell, but that's why they're cheaper in the first place.
    So, why is anyone c
  • Designing in explicit incompatibilities and obsolesense is very annoying and a greedy ripoff, but there is nothing leagally wrong with it (except in the EU), as long as reverse engineering is permitted. However as soon as something like the DMCA is invoked by Dell (which Lexmark has already done [slashdot.org]), then the real low road will have been discovered.

    Imagine what might happen in the future, say with some new kind of organic ink. Well if that ink contains some sort of DNA strand, and you got that patented, a

  • by cyber_rigger (527103) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @09:58PM (#5612174) Homepage Journal

    It's as easy as that. I usually "buy" (i.e.price) the cartridges first.
    • My god, have you looked at how many print cartridges there are? Compusa has a whole isle just for them..

      I wish someone would read slashdot, and get story ideas for a computer magazine. Really, this is what people want to know.
  • Just my 2 cents worth: I considered this issue when I bought my last printer, got a Canon printer with individual ink tanks. Very easy to refill (drill a small hole in the side above the ink line, fill and seal) and there is no chip counting drops of ink used or stopping you from removing the print haed assembly for cleaning, transporting, storage or other reasons. I'm extremely happy with it.
    • I currently own an old Canon printer and have been very happy with it, but am looking for a new printer to replace it (It busted just a couple days ago). I've ruled out another Canon as a possibility because the LinuxPrinting.org vendor report card [linuxprinting.org] gives Canon a C-. What printer do you have, which driver does it use, and does it work well under Linux?
      • I'm using the BJC-3000, although there are other ink tank based printers that I like even better (and I'm not sure the 3000 is still available). But I can't give you Linux feedback, sorry.
    • I have a Canon i550... best printer I've ever owned. It prints fast and well on lower quality, and absolutely beautifully at high quality. Borderless prints, the cartridges are dirt cheap, and even if I wanted to get my hands covered with ink I could, there's no chips that I have to mess around with.

      I don't use Linux at home, so I don't know how it works under that OS. Under XP it's a dream.
  • It strikes me that trying to make carts really expensive in today's fluid markets is like Chris Rock's super-expensive bullets- it's hilarious, because you just can't control other manufacturers. As complicated as you can make a cart, it's still pretty damn easy to reverse engineer, and they're consistently broken within months. I think the printer manufacturing industry ought to work hard to cooperate and raise the price of printers (not illegal collusion, just establish some price leadership like the airl
  • a thought... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NOLAChief (646613) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:03PM (#5612199)
    My dad ran a laser printer cartridge recharge/refurbish business for a while several years ago. IIRC, a lot of printer manufacturers would also collect these old cartridges to do the same and resell them as used. What's preventing Dell/Lexmark/whoever from doing something like this? There's obviously a market for it, they'd save on manufacturing costs and empty cartridges would stay out of the landfills for a while.
  • "Chipped" Ink Carts (Score:5, Informative)

    by bigdoof (566322) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:05PM (#5612206)
    This "feature" in Dell printers reminds me of what Epson does to its entire line of ink jets. Personally, I own an Epson Photo 1290 that I use very regularly in my studio to print photos to be framed for sale. Buying loads upon loads of Epson OEM ink is certainly not very economical. So instead, I bought a continuous inking system. Basically, several large bottles of ink are piped directly into a modified ink cartridge, essentially providing a cartridge with mega-capacity. It's economical, it's more convenient, and most of all, it's more versitile. Instead of standard Epson ink, I can choose from inks with different characteristics and color gamuts. You haven't seen beauty until you've seen 4-tone black and white photos from a fairly-standard ink jet printer!

    Unfortunately, the chipped Epson cartridges poses a problem. Not only will the chips tell the printer when the cartridges run out of ink, it will also disable the printer until it is replaced. Moreover, the chips don't even check the level of ink remaining. Instead, it counts the number and size of pages printed, and guesses when the ink is gone. With a continuous inking system and it's near-infinite capacity, this is not ideal.

    As a result, several groups have developed workarounds. Some have made write-protected chips that are "reset" when the printer is turned off. Others have made devices to alter the ink-level information stored on the chip. And last I heard, there was work being done on a software workaround. Certainly, there are bypasses, and they have already been used for other printer manufacturers.

    If anyone is interested in printer-mods, check out CIS [nomorecarts.com] and Chip Resetter [epsonchipresetter.com].

    If these workarounds were not available, I would certainly have no bought an Epson printer. But at the same time, I can understand the manufacturers' position on third-party carts. Ink cartridges, not printers, are where the money's made!
    • by Animats (122034)
      How long before the print heads wear out? Is that a problem at all?
      • by Reziac (43301) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:43AM (#5613167) Homepage Journal
        I don't know about current printheads, but I refilled my old Canon BJ200 carts enough times that... well, the printer wore out (twice -- once under warranty, once afterward) before the carts did. The only one I lost was due to bumping and damaging the printhead itself. I used the same 3 carts for about 5 years total.

        Generally when they started printing poorly, the only thing wrong was that either the printhead or the print path was dirty. Nothing a good cleaning couldn't fix. I soon learned to swish the printhead in alcohol whenever I refilled the cart, to keep it pristine, and sometimes I'd run a little alcohol thru it prior to refilling.

        As to whether some are now *designed* to "wear out", that's another question.

  • by John_McKee (100458) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:08PM (#5612224) Homepage
    Everyone please come down, this is self-regulating capitalism in action. It is well known fact that there are little to no margins in printers themselves. The way Dell is going to make up what is more than likely a loss on the printer itself is to sell printer cartridges. Think of it as a loan, they sell you the printer at or below cost so the consumer does not have to bite the bullet and pay for the full cost of the printer (And the manufactures profit). Consumers like it that way! People like a cheap upfront cost!

    It is the exact same way with cellphones, look at the cost of a unlocked (gsm) cellphone compared to the cost of getting the same phone under contract with a cellphone provider that locks you into the use of that one provider. Granted, some people do go for the unlocked phones, but the vast majority are fine with a locked phone from the provider because it is the same phone but much cheaper. Same with DirecTV who eat a loss of somewhere around $200 for each reciever they sell. Oh, and it only works with DirecTV.

    If there was a market for printers that used some sort of universal cartrage, someone would make it thanks to capitalism. If you want something close get a laser, there is much less focus on consumables in that market, but of course you are going to pay a much higher upfront cost. (I have a laser and personally I wouldn't use anything else)

    If you don't like it don't buy an ink jet printer, and/or make the market known for a inkjet printer that is not subsidised and uses an open design for cartriges, but frankly gripping at length at how Dell is trying to screw the consumer with a perfectly legitiment business model (And one that most consumers like) is not productive and gets quite tiresome.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:10PM (#5612233) Homepage
    You know as well as I do that many people look at the printer price, not some complex calculation of cost per page, pages per cartridge, cartridge price and # of pages over printer lifetime, at least not when this big red sign "SALE: Only XX.99$" is beaming towards you.

    Personally, I would consider "ink" as a commodity product. Just like I expect my car to run on gas from any petrol station (assuming right octane at least :p), or my printer to accept paper of any color, and not only paper with a hidden "printer" watermark.

    I don't have a problem with the business model though as long as it is clearly labeled. "Can only be used with [brand] ink cartridges. Third-party cartridges or ink refill is not possible. Attempts to circumvent this is illegal under the DMCA and punishable by [whatever it is]." in red. That should kill sales pretty quick...

    Kjella
  • This isn't anything new for Dell. They have played this game before. Anyone remember their standard yet non-standard "ATX" power supplies [google.com]?

    Out of fairness, newer Macintoshes also have standard yet non-standard power supplies. And back in the days of 286's, lots of manufactuers had their own connectors for everything from keyboards to memory.

  • I have an epson 1270 printer. There is a chip in the cartridge that will prevent printing when its out of ink. I think there already are ways to work around this problem for 3rd party ink vedors.

    The only problem I have is that when the 5 color ink cartridge is "out" is still seems to have alot of ink left.

    My next printer will have induhvidual (sic) ink cartridges.
  • ink prices (Score:2, Insightful)

    by upt1me (537466)
    How can a few onces of ink cost $30 - $40????????
    • Re:ink prices (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lxy (80823)
      it's called a loss leader.

      They give the printer away at cost (or less). They then jack you with the cartridges. Even the refillable ones leak, and generic cartridges all suck anyway. The solution? Buy an Apollo printer (HP 648 with a different chassis and different name) for $35. When the ink runs out, throw the whole thing away and buy a new printer.
  • Since the days (20 years ago) when scammer Mikey Dell placed a dozen two-page spread ads (unpaid for) in PC Magazine pretending to be 12 different Texas companies, he's pretty much decided it's more comfortable down there.
  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:15PM (#5612259) Homepage Journal
    There is no reason to buy one of these Dell printers when you can buy another brand that doesn't have this "feature." Depending upon what you're printing and how much, it may be worthwhile to invest in a decent laser printer. The price per-page on laser printers is far less than that of inkjet printers. If you print a lot, a laser printer will eventually pay for itself. You do have to be careful of course in what you buy since not all are made the same. I couldn't tell you what to buy right now, but I bought a Lexmark 12ppm laser printer three years ago and I've yet to run out of toner for it. The price was $499 on clearance. When I do need to replace the toner cartridge I can buy 3rd party and refilled cartridges very cheaply. If I want to add more memory to the printer I can do that very cheaply as well because it works with standard 72-pin EDO simms.

    Here is a little bit of printer tivia for you. The printer division of HP makes derives 75% of its profits from the sale of ink and toner cartridges. Remember that the next time some company tries to lock you in to buying cartridges from them.

    Lee
  • What I like about Epson inkjets is that for just a few dollars more than replacing the cartridges, I can replace the whole printer. Since their printers really do get better year-to-year, why not?

    Now, I can't believe they're making money on me, since the printers sell for cost ... but what they hey?
  • That's it folks. Unless you do very low volume printing, a cheap printer can be mighty expensive to own.

    That's why it's always smart to look at total cost of ownership for a printer.

    Let me give you an example. I bought my HP laserjet some 6 years ago. It wasn't cheap. But it's printed a boatload of pages, and have yet to replace the toner cart.

    My Ex's sister bought a cheap little HP inkjet. But she prints so little that she has yet to replace her ink cart.

    My girlfriend's brother-in-law bought a che
  • by rlk (1089) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:28PM (#5612314)
    if they would be even halfway creative and use the ROM on the chip for something useful, such as storing color or viscosity information about the inks. This would enable companies to periodically reformulate their inks (to increase longevity, saturation, or even just due to manufacturing variation) while preserving perfect matching from cartridge to cartridge. They could also license this to third parties to enable the sale of quadtone, hextone, or true six color inks (instead of the usual light cyan and light magenta, the other two inks might be orange and blue, or spot colors). This would add real value, but instead this technology is being used for the singularly unimaginative use of vendor lock-in. It might not be good for third-party drivers (such as Gimp-Print [sourceforge.net]), but if printer vendors used these chips for useful purposes, it actually would benefit users.

    People actually should be careful about third-party cartridges and refill kits; some of these are very bad, and if you're not careful with refill kits you can cause problems either by introducing air bubbles or debris. Some printers (Canon and HP that I know of) include the print head with the cartridge, and the head isn't designed for a very long life; the quality will probably degrade after a few refills. Epson printers use a long-life head technology, but the flip side is that if you damage the heads, you're either looking at an expensive repair or a new printer. Refill kits are also messy. However, that really should be for the user to decide.
  • .. knowing that this happens could change the will of consumer on buying that products, or chosing printers from competitors. Maybe the previous discused here bill [slashdot.org] that tags products with copy protection schemes could be extended for this kind of things.
  • Printers' retail packaging should prominently label how much of a ripoff the cartriges are, and how long they actually last. Most of them are deliberately made 1/4 full or worse so they run out quickly and people have to buy more. It's a great moneymaking scheme to exploit people who are too dumb to read Consumer Reports. I'm all for using knockoff cartriges. The companys claim it's on par with "stealing" mp3s? Bah humbug. I still get that robin hood feeling from uploading 3GB/day of stuff on Bearsha
  • Dell will fail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bobbozzo (622815)
    So, what happens when Dell realizes they're not making enough money on printers and discontinues them?

    Where are you gonna get ink?

    Why buy from Dell when it's just a remarked Lexmark? Just buy the Lexmark, the ink/toner will be much more widely available, and probably less expensive.
  • by Vaughn Anderson (581869) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @10:58PM (#5612491)
    Years ago (4) I was impressed when my neighbor got his HP printer picked up at his house, fixed by HP and sent back to his door step.

    HP is cool! I said.

    I buy a deskjet. 842c! I run out of ink in a week with my wimpy half cartridge that came with it.

    HP stinks.

    I refill all my colors and black appropriately (therfore spending as much as the printer cost) and I buy some nice HP photo paper, and the prints are brilliant!

    HP rocks!

    I find out you can't refill the latest ink cartridges.

    HP stinks.

    I find out I have an old printer and I can refill my cartridges!

    HP rocks!

  • by mgoff (40215) on Thursday March 27, 2003 @11:17PM (#5612627)
    I'm the last one to defend Dell, but this post is totally wrong. If you actually read the article, you'd see that there are two kinds of cartridges:
    • a regular cartridge with no lockout chip ($129/$99/$35)
    • a "use and return" cartridge with lockout chip ($99/$75/na).
    I feel pretty certain that Dell wants to keep you as a cartridge customer, but they aren't locking you in. Oh, and only one of the four printers is an inkjet. The others are lasers. Even better, the inkjet does not include this technology. Bottom line: Dell is getting into the laser printer cartridge refilling business. No wonder the OP is complaining.
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Friday March 28, 2003 @12:18AM (#5613003) Homepage
    ...but I finally got fed up not too long ago, and said "Enough!" - and found me a used laser printer.

    I was using an Epson Photo Stylus 700 (or something like that), which could print amazing near-photo quality color prints on special paper. The black and white output was rather nice, too, on heavy paper (24# white, not the cheaper copier paper). But it was costing me a lot just to print - between the paper costs, and the ink (and because I hardly used it, it tended to dry out quickly) - it just wasn't worth it. As far as the photo printing was concerned - the number of times I truely used it: 0 (!!!). Not too long ago, it stopped printing - even when I put in a new cartridge. The last time it did this, I had to send it in for cleaning (thankfully it was still under warantee), and wait 3 weeks (actually, the time spent was pretty short, all considering). I made up my mind then I was going to get a nice laser printer, come hell or high water.

    A little looking around, and I found that a used HP Laserjet 3 with a relatively low page count was going to cost me around $150.00 - if I was lucky I would get a toner cartridge, too. But I thought it would be worth it...

    I ended up looking around town a bit, and happened upon a Laserjet 6p at a local used-computer store I frequent. I asked them how much - they said $100.00 (!!) - I hemmed and hawwed a little bit, and asked if they could power it up (I didn't want a lemon). They told me "No problem", pulled the toner cart out of their store printer (same model!), fired it up and did a self test - out came a beautiful black and white image! I asked about return/warantee - they said they would give me a week for in-store credit (in case the interface was FUBAR'ed). I couldn't pass it up, so I bought it, and took it home.

    That week, I contacted a local printer cartrige/ribbon shop (any ribbon for any printer - literally!), and told them my situation: I didn't want to pay for a full cartridge, in case the printer didn't work (the cartrige was $70.00 for trade, $95.00 for new) - they accommodated me by letting me put down a deposit of $10.00 on a used returned cartridge, to try the printer out with. I took it home, popped it in, loaded paper, installed the drivers - and...Success!!! The printer worked beautifully - since it was for my wife, I stuck it on her machine (a 'doze box) - but eventually I am going to get a network printer buffer and hook it up to that, so I can print to it from my SuSE box.

    I took the cartridge back, and even though I knew I could get refilled cartridges cheap online - I asked them about buying one of theirs - they told me that since they had a ton of returns for refills, and didn't need any more, that they would give me a trade in one for the $70.00 (so I essentially got a refilled/refurbed cart without needing the trade in) - I made sure to let them know that I could have gotten it cheaper online, but because they helped me out I decided to give them my business.

    It has been a few months now, and the printer works great - I checked the page count on it, and it was around 25,000 page (damn near brand new as far as Laserjets go). It doesn't squeak or make other funky noises - it's only "problems" are one missing cover, and it needing a "special" right angle power cord. I also plan on dropping a few meg of buffer RAM into it (takes cheap 72 pin non-ecc SIMMs).

    I figure I won't have to change the toner for a *very* long time, and I can now print on el-cheapo copier paper, instead of the heavier stuff (though I might keep using it - I like the heft and feel of it, and it really doesn't cost that much more per ream). I try to tell everyone I can that the best printer they can get is an older-model HP Laserjet, like most businesses use - it will be a great investment if they can find one with a low page count (the only other printer I like as much as the HP Laserjet are Genicom Line Printers running greenbar - fast, loud, and nearly maintenance free!)...

  • by teg (97890) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:02AM (#5613534) Homepage
    I'm surprised Dell does this. They don't have the infrastructure to have a relationship like this with the customer - and they won't be able to get stores to stock yet another set of ink cartridges(also, this wouldn't be consistent with Dell's way of operating). So how are customers (especially consumers) going to get their parts in a cheap[1] and timely manner?

    [1](well, this is ink and thus a bit expensive... but fedex on single cartridges would make it that much worse)
  • by ites (600337) on Friday March 28, 2003 @04:25AM (#5614010) Journal
    But in another context. You may accuse Dell of using technology to force people to pay for something they might get cheaper elsewhere, but if you ask people buying printers whether they prefer a cheap printer and expensive cartidges or an expensive printer and cheap ink, they will mostly make the first choice.
    It's the same with mobile phones and prepaid cards vs. fixed accounts. It's the same with season tickets. It's the same with pre-paying for anything. it's the same with buying expensive light-bulbs that last for much longer. People value the freedom to change their habits over time and this includes stopping with that printer long before they recover their investment in ink.
    It's very funny to see one set of people trying to convince consumers to switch to a more cost-effective strategy (e.g. buy ecological light bulbs) while other companies get criticised for pandering to what people really want.
    Dell is - IMHO - entirely right in doing this, so long as there are competitive printer+ink offerings from other printer manufacturers. Yes, it's crass, but that is what most people want.
    If printers and ink really are cheap, this just means there is a huge market opportunity for a smart Taiwanese company to sell cheap printers _and_ cheap cartridges. This is what the free market is all about.
  • by hndrcks (39873) on Friday March 28, 2003 @09:00AM (#5614899) Homepage
    It will be most interesting to see what Dell has to say when the chips get reverse-engineered, considering this is how Dell / Compaq etc. got their start back in the day (reverse engineering IBM BIOS)

    Funny, people in my office still use the term 'IBM-Compatible' when talking about Intel based PCs. Are printers next?

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