Don’t Drink The ink, Yet

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Just when you think We The Customers are finally in charge, with airlines and automobile manufacturers and pizza parlours on the run in a competitive frenzy of price reductions, someone rains on our parade. For example, Hewlett-Packard.

Let me put this in perspective. An ounce of Dom Perignon champagne costs 13 US Dollars. A similar quantity of Johnny Walker Red costs 7. And the corresponding amount of Chanel No 5, if anybody still buys that wonderful scent in this age of New World designer perfumes, is 29. But an ounce of HP’s printers ink is . . . 34 US Dollars. Now you know why they’re giving away printers at the price of vegetarian sausages.

It gets worse. Those wretched cartridges, at upward of Rs 750/- each, seem manufactured to instant obsolescence standards. Mine give up the ghost after just 10 pages or so. Now you know why HP’s Printers division delivers more than 70% of the company’s bottom line. The unkindest cut is that its worldwide head honcho is an Indian.

Now why doesn’t some canny Korean company do what canny Korean companies did to the automobile, television and refrigerator companies, and put out a printer that actually uses ink we can drink as cheaply as we do good ol’ JW’s Red stuff? They’d make a billion in Year 1. 2007, hopefully.

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