by Robert Palmer | 10/15/14

On October 14, Xerox launched three new monochrome machines, two targeted at the low end of the SMB market and one designed for office workgroup and enterprise applications. The new products offer little in terms of technological advancement. Nevertheless, Xerox’s latest announcement underscores an obvious trend occurring in the office space: monochrome-only devices continue to thrive despite the ongoing promise of color. 

Xerox’s new Phaser 3260 and WorkCentre 3215/3225 models appear to be based on the same engine platform, with print speeds up to 29 ppm and a duty cycle of 30,000 images per month. The Phaser 3260 is a single-function printer designed primarily for small offices and work teams. The machine boasts a very small footprint, with a 250-sheet input tray, a manual feed slot, and a 150-sheet output capacity.  The base-level Phaser 3260/DI has a list price of $189, while the Phaser 3260/DNI adds Ethernet connectivity with an estimated retail price of $209. The WorkCentre 3215 MFP is basically identical to the Phaser 3260 but offers additional copy, scan, and fax capabilities. Pricing for the WorkCentre 3215/3225 varies depending upon the configuration but the base-level model sells for $259.  

The WorkCentre 4265 is a mid-level machine designed to meet the more rigorous demands of the enterprise environment, with copy/print speeds of up to 55 ppm and a first-page-out time as low as 5 seconds. The MFP supports copy, print, scan, fax, and direct e-mail functionality and is available in configurations ranging from desktop to floor-standing models. Additional paper handling options include a 500-sheet input tray, a high-capacity feeder, and a finisher that supports collating/stapling. The WorkCentre 4265, which is available in multiple configurations at a base price starting at $3,532, also supports the latest generation of Xerox MPS offerings.

The Xerox Phaser 3260

Our Take

Xerox is just one of many firms to recently introduce new monochrome printers and MFPs. That in itself is not all that surprising, except when you consider predictions from just a few short years ago: monochrome-only machines would soon give way to an influx of color-enabled devices that would dominate the office landscape. Despite those expectations, the monochrome market remains quite substantial, and given the current rate of decline it is expected to be viable well into the future.  

This renewed life for monochrome is fueled by several factors. First, it has become clear that customers are not all that interested in color simply for the sake of color. The fact is, color printing is expensive — significantly more expensive than monochrome in most cases — whether machines are acquired on a transactional or contractual basis. In the earlier stages of the color market, vendors and channel players alike embarked on a “Trojan horse” strategy: put color devices in the field and color pages will soon follow. Churning the monochrome base and converting it to color became a mantra that continues to this day.

Nevertheless, color pages have not come along as quickly as many had hoped. The economic down- turn that began in 2008 had a particularly negative impact on color growth. As belts tightened and businesses sought to curtail IT expenditures, color printing was caught up in the mix. Today, color is basically viewed as a luxury, and businesses are reigning in color expenses by closely monitoring both the acquisition of color devices and the usage of color in the office. 

As a result, monochrome printers and MFPs remain the machine of choice when it comes to everyday office printing needs. Color is too cost-prohibitive for anything other than high-value pages, such as marketing collateral and promotional materials, and most of the high-value pages have already shifted to color. At the same time, the ongoing push to managed print services (MPS) is further diminishing the intrinsic value of color printing. MPS providers have latched onto color printing as a way to reduce costs by limiting color usage and restricting access to color devices. 

Despite continued improvements in technology, costs, and performance, color laser products still make up a fairly small percentage of the overall office imaging market—and that is not expected to change anytime soon. Most market research firms are now forecasting monochrome lasers to outnumber color laser products by a factor of 3-to-1 through the end of 2016. In other words, customers still see strong value in monochrome-only devices, which means we should expect to continue to see a host of new monochrome printers and MFPs introduced to the market for the foreseeable future. 


Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA).