Why Apple Inc. Is No Longer Selling Printers

Why would Apple Inc. abandon the manufacture and distribution of laser printers? It is evident that the consumer electronics giant has placed more interest on other hardware products from its line of Macintosh PCs, the iPod, iPhone and the recently released iPad. But why does Apple Inc. no longer pursue the production of laser printers that would have supported its own line of personal computers?

Well, to put it more bluntly, there is no money in producing printers and revenues could only be optimized through the supply of peripherals such as the toner cartridge, which would only be possible if the manufacturer produces its own print engine. Apple Inc. never dirtied its hand on the design and supply of the printing equipment and its peripherals.

Unknown to many, Apple Inc. actually distributed laser printers for a decade (80s to 90s). Apple Computer, Inc. probably wanted to ascertain the availability of high quality printers to support its own line of Macintosh PCs. The now defunct LaserWriter was the first printer released by Apple Computer, Inc. in 1985 to be later succeeded by faster and cheaper models outfitted with Ethernet connectivity and better print resolution. Back in the 80’s, the printer’s operating system was so scrappy that units had to be supplied with graphic printer drivers. This necessitated users to be meticulous in their choice of printers and therefore sought out proper channels to get a compatible model. The void in hardware and software compatibility was later on solved by Hewlett Packard and other independent printer manufacturers.

Macintosh users are likely aware that Apple branded printers was manufactured using borrowed technology. Apple’s dot-matrix line ImageWriter was a repackaged C Itoh printer and its inkjets StyleWriter either run on Canon print engines or were rebadged HP printers. Meanwhile, the LaserWriter shares a few components with the HP LaserJet and prints through the Fuji Xerox engine. Some printer parts were however developed by Apple.

Come to think of it, Apple Inc.’s move to discontinue its printer lines makes a lot of business sense. Had the company persisted, problems would still arise in the supply of replacement parts. Moreover, Apple Inc. would have to maintain reasonable inventory, expand product lines and track the supplies and services required for particular printer models. Consequently, the company will need to establish retail outlets that would require additional investment in manpower and large repair spaces.

Unless Apple Inc. has a new edge and thought provoking print technology shacked somewhere, it will never be enticed to venture into printer production again. Besides, there are already hundreds of printer models out in the market that promises to be compatible with any MAC applications systems – at no extra cost to the company. So, the adage If you can’t beat the system, might as well join them! applies and the only winning proposition is not to produce printers anymore.

In the end, the only reason could really be tied to the economics of manufacturing and distributing printers.

Photo by Andre Menegatti

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