For those of you who haven’t been napping through the printer innovations of the last two years, one of the classiest and snazziest printers around is the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet (and no, they didn’t pay us anything to say that – we’ve used it for several years personally and have watched the line grow from the DeskJet to the DeskJet Plus, branch out to the DeskWriter, and then move back to the DeskJet 500 – of course if they wanted to pay us lots of money we wouldn’t complain). If you look at what Apple’s done in those last two years, well, you should have been napping.
The only thing to show up in the Apple printer department that has been interesting is the Personal LaserWriter NT, a well-designed, reasonably quick PostScript printer (though one which doesn’t outperform the QMS-PS 410, a similar printer with the same engine and a faster processor). If I remember correctly, Apple may have also redesigned the innards of the ImageWriter II to make it more durable and easier to repair – those were the major problems with the ImageWriter II when I was in charge of public computer rooms at Cornell. I don’t specifically remember when the ImageWriter LQ came out, but it certainly wasn’t something to write home (or much of anywhere else) about. Apple just canceled the ImageWriter LQ rework program, which was necessary if you had a normal ImageWriter LQ, in other words, one that didn’t work right. That’s unfair of course, but let’s just say that the ImageWriter LQ was not a smashing success.
Now it looks like Apple may been trying a little harder in the printer department. We’ve heard that a 300 dpi inkjet printer will be coming out of Apple soon, perhaps in the spring (soon is relative, RSN could easily be Relatively Soon Now). We don’t know much about the details, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if the printer were released at the same time as System 7.0 so it could take advantage of TrueType’s font-scaling abilities. The LaserWriter IISC and Personal LaserWriter SC haven’t been hot sellers because of their lack of font scaling abilities, despite the availability of ATM.
Now the question is, what will make this printer stand out from the DeskWriter, which is surprisingly quick on its platen and is priced to move? Apple isn’t known for competing in the price category, so we’re guessing somewhere around $700-$800 street price. That would place the new printer, known to its friends as Tabasco, right in between the ImageWriter II and the Personal LaserWriter SC. Or, perhaps I’m wrong and the inkjet printer will replace the ImageWriter II and have a $350 street price. Nah, probably not, considering that inkjet printers don’t do the multiple part forms that businesses love to inflict on their customers. Nonetheless, for those people who don’t do PostScript but would like better quality printouts along with the six-color Apple logo on the front, Tabasco may be just the ticket. But then what will HP have up its sleeve?
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor