Tag: product design

Why do I consider a digital fax vault an important feature for multifunction printers?

HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer

HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer – an example of a fax-capable multifunction that implements flash memory and fax-vault functionality

Nearly every multifunction printer that is pitched towards small businesses and SOHO operations is equipped with basic Group 3 fax functionality at least. Most will have the high-speed Super Group 3 functionality while most multifunctions that print colour will support colour faxing.

This is a feature still considered of value by people who work in the legal, medical and allied professions because they see it as the preferred way to exchange documents “over the wire”, especially in the context of requiring other parties to sign and send the documents.

But inbound documents that arrive via these machines can be seen by people other than the intended recipients which is something that can betray the required confidentiality that most of these documents require. This is an important issue as far as client confidentiality and privacy are concerned when it comes to legal, medical or similar issues; but can also be of concern with the intellectual property that most organisations accrue such as customer / member lists or financial reports.

This can be of concern in traditional workplace environments like clinics where you have people like late-night workers or contract cleaners existing in the office beyond normal business hours. It can also be exacerbated for small-time professionals who share or sub-let office space or use serviced offices.

It can also extend to people who maintain a home office, something that is an increasing trend for small-time practitioners or people who maintain a small public storefront at other premises. In this case, even though the business operator’s household respects the business’s confidentiality requirements, there is the issue of houses being occupied by house-sitters, couch-surfers and the like who may not respect that level of confidentiality even though you trust them. It includes tradespeople who come in to your home to perform work that you require.

What is a “fax vault” and how could this feature answer these situations?

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer

Brother MFC-J5730CDW fax-equipped multifunction which can be set up to forward incoming faxes to Dropbox or OneDrive

A “fax vault” function stores all incoming fax documents to a digital storage medium of some sort rather than printing them out. Then the user enters a code and selects a “print stored faxes” function to print out the documents. Such setups could allow functions like printing out selected faxes such as those that relate to the work they are dealing with, or forwarding the documents to another fax machine like the one installed at a convenience store or newsagent to be collected there. Some machines also provide a “forward to email” function where they send the received fax document via email as a TIFF-FAX file or a PDF file.

Some of these setups may provide PIN-protected dial-in access to allow users to enable or disable this function or forward documents to a nominated fax machine from the nearest telephone like their home phone. The functionality could also be facilitated through a Web page or mobile-platform app for a granular operating experience.

The most basic form of this kind of storage is in RAM memory in the machine, but a power failure can have you lose all the documents you have received. Better implementations of this storage can be in the form of non-volatile storage like a hard disk or solid-state storage device including an SD card or flash memory installed in the machine, or the data is held on a network storage like a NAS.

For example, HP implemented integrated flash memory within the LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw that I reviewed. This was in lieu of using RAM which is vulnerable to power failure, also leading to that printer implementing a comprehensive “fax vault” function,

Brother have come close to this ideal by equipping some of their printers with “Fax Forward To Cloud” functionality provided as a machine app where documents can be held in a Dropbox or similar online-storage account. But this feature still requires the user to have documents printed out as they come in.

As I review a fax-capable multifunction printer, I applaud manufacturers who offer this function in the proper manner in their products especially if it is feasible not to print documents that are held on the storage. As well, I applaud manufacturers who implement non-volatile memory technology, preferably user-upgradeable technology or use of external, network or common cloud-based storage for incoming faxes.

The feature is important to prevent others from seeing confidential faxes which come in through the machine thus assuring client confidentiality and privacy along with intellectual-property protection for professionals.

How to achieve this better

The manufacturers could implement flash memory in their fax-capable MFCs to avoid risk of document loss during power failures.

This can be taken further with the ability for the user to install standard-form storage devices like SDXC cards, M.2 or 2.5” SATA storage devices within the machine to allow the user to install higher-capacity storage devices at a later time; or a USB port to allow the connection of USB Mass-Storage devices like memory keys or external hard disks. SD-based cards or M.2 SSD sticks can work well with the manufacturer’s desire to maintain a compact design for their desktop multifunction printer devices.

Similarly, simplified resource-discovery protocols for NAS devices could make these devices discoverable by equipment other than regular computers. This could be facilitated through a Samba (open-source SMB implementation) client on the multifunction that implements the SMB protocol most of the NAS units use.

To protect the data on the mon-volatile storage device against further snooping should the non-volatile media unit be stolen, the fax-enabled multifunction printer could implement encrypted storage or simply encrypt the files associated with fax operation. File-based encryption can also work with data stored on a NAS unit.

The large capacities offered by newer cost-effective storage media would cater to businesses in the legal profession who are having to deal with large legal documents as a matter of course, or doctors who receive graphically-rich documents like medical imaging.

It also encourages the use of the non-volatile storage medium in these machines for storing fax documents yet to be transmitted such as with scheduled faxing or attempting to transmit a document to a machine that is busy or not answering. The benefit also applies when your machine is busy printing large documents and wants to keep itself available for other incoming faxes.

For regular printing from a network, the non-volatile storage option can allow for enqueued printing where each job waits on the storage medium until it is printed out. This can also work well with secure print-job release where you enter a code that you predetermine to collect your job before the job is turned out. It can also allow manufacturers to implement remote printing, public-printing facilities and the like as part of a multifunction’s feature set.

Let’s not forget scanning, where an efficient workflow can be created. Here, a user could scan many originals at the machine then go to their computer or mobile device to take them further by “picking them up” from the machine’s storage. A multifunction with advanced abilities could even have the ability to, for example, recognise many small originals like snapshot photos, business cards or till receipts that are scanned at once and create separate files for each original.


Having a digital fax vault as part of a small-business or SOHO-grade fax-capable multifunction’s feature set can be of value to professionals who place high value on client confidentiality.

AVM earns Connect awards for their routers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

AVM earns more industry recognition for their Fritz!Box devices


AVM is delighted to win two Connect awards (Press Release)

My Comments

AVM has just earned two Connect awards for their German-designed home-network technology.

The first of these was for the Fritz!Box routers and mesh setup. No wonder they would earn industry recognition for their home-network products especially since they were the first company to break the mould regarding home-network routers by supplying self-updating firmware.

The issue of self-updating firmware became very important due to the fact that most of us aren’t updating our home-network router’s firmware regularly and it was a security hole. This is thanks to the “out-of-the-box” software coming with bugs and weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers against the typical home network.

Another step in the right direction was to implement distributed-wireless networking through a free software update rather than requiring customers to replace their AVM home-network devices. This was about providing a function update to the Fritz!Box modem router’s FritzOS firmware to open up this functionality. There was even the ability to roll out the functionality to Fritz!WLAN Repeaters and Fritz!Powerline access points to bring on the simplified distributed-wireless functionality to them all. It also applied to some recent-model Fritz!Box modem routers to cater for the reality that an older router can be “pushed down” to be an access point while the new router works as the edge of your home network.

But they also earned awards for their IP-based telephony equipment which was considered important as European telcos are moving towards IP-based telephony and away from the traditional telephone system. One of the products was a CAT-iQ DECT cordless handset that worked with their Fritz!Box modem routers that had DECT hase-station functionality for VoIP telephony. This had abilities similar to what you would expect of a mobile phone of the “feature phone” class.

What is being shown here is that the European companies are coming through on functionality innovation when it comes to the home-network “edge” router or infrastructure devices for your home network.

The UK to mandate security standards for home network routers and smart devices

Articles UK Flag

UK mulls security warnings for smart home devices | Engadget

New UK Laws to Make Broadband Routers and IoT Kit More Secure | ISP Review

From the horse’s mouth

UK Government – Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Plans announced to introduce new laws for internet connected devices (Press Release}

My Comments

A common issue that is being continually raised through the IT security circles is the lack of security associated with network-infrastructure devices and dedicated-function devices. This is more so with devices that are targeted at households or small businesses.

Typical issues include use of simple default user credentials which are rarely changed by the end-user once the device is commissioned and the ability to slip malware on to this class of device. This led to situations like the Mirai botnet used for distributed denial-of-service attacks along with a recent Russia-sponsored malware attack involving home-network routers.

Various government bodies aren’t letting industry handle this issue themselves and are using secondary legislation or mandated standards to enforce the availability of devices that are “secure by design”. This is in addition to technology standards bodies like Z-Wave who stand behind logo-driven standards using their clout to enforce a secure-by-design approach.

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Home-network routers will soon be required to have a cybersecurity-compliance label to be sold in the UK

The German federal government took a step towards having home-network routers “secure by design”. This is by having the BSI who are the country’s federal office for information security determine the TR-03148 secure-design standard for this class of device.  This addresses minimum standards for Wi-Fi network segments, the device management account and user experience, along with software quality control for the device’s firmware.

Similarly, the European Union have started on the legal framework for a “secure-by-design” certification approach, perhaps with what the press describe as an analogy to the “traffic-light” labelling on food and drink packaging to indicate nutritional value. It is based on their GDPR data-security and user-privacy efforts and both the German and European efforts are underscoring the European concern about data security and user privacy thanks to the existence of police states within Europe through the 20th century.

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

… as will smart-home devices like the Amazon Echo

But the UK government have taken their own steps towards mandating home-network devices be designed for security. It will use their consumer-protection and trading-standards laws to have a security-rating label on these devices, with a long-term view of making these labels mandatory. It is in a similar vein to various product-labelling requirements for other consumer goods to denote factors like energy or water consumption or functionality abilities.

Here, the device will be have requirements like proper credential management for user and management credentials; proper software quality and integrity control including update and end-of-support policies; simplified setup and maintenance procedures; and the ability to remove personal data from the device or reset it to a known state such as when the customer relinquishes the device.

Other countries may use their trading-standards laws in this same vein to enforce a secure-by-design approach for dedicated-function devices sold to consumers and small businesses. It may also be part of various data-security and user-privacy remits that various jurisdictions will be pursuing.

The emphasis on having proper software quality and integrity requirements as part of a secure-by-design approach for modem routers, smart TVs and “smart-home” devices is something I value. This is due to the fact that a bug in the device’s firmware could make it vulnerable to a security exploit. As well, it will also encourage the ability to have these devices work with highly-optimised firmware and implement newer requirements effectively.

At least more countries are taking a step towards proper cybersecurity requirements for devices sold to households and small businesses by using labels and trading-standards requirements for this purpose.

A 13” traditional laptop found to tick the boxes


Dell XPS 13 review: The best Windows laptop just got better | The Verge (Product Review)

My Comments

Dell XPS 13 negligable-bezel Ultrabook

Dell XPS 13 negligable-bezel Ultrabook

There are times where a product is identified as being able to “tick the desirable boxes” for a product of its class. Here, it has the right combination of build quality and functionality and the manufacturer performs incremental changes to that product when they evolve the model without destroying what it’s about.

One example that showed up in the mid 1980s were the mid-tier VHS video recorders that Panasonic offered to the PAL / SECAM (Europe, Australia, etc) markets through that era. The cost-effective front-loading video recorders “ticked the boxes” for essential “home-video-recorder” functionality such as an infra-red remote control which controlled the machine’s tape transport and changed the channels on the unit’s tuner. This function effectively “modernised” older and cheaper television sets instantly because you were able to change channels with the video recorder’s remote. For Australia, it also meant added UHF TV reception to the older TVs that could only pick up VHF TV channels through the use of a mechanical “click-click-click” rotary tuner. Their trick-play functionality had just the picture-search as well as a still-frame when in pause. But these machines still did the job for reliability and durability through their era, whether it came to playing many rented video movies, recording TV content or adding remote control to older TVs.

Another example that occurred in the mid-1990s, was a series of Sony hi-fi MiniDisc decks including the MDS-JE520. These provided functionality that exposed MiniDisc as a cost-effective record / edit / play format for community radio, drama groups, churches and allied user groups. These users benefited from the ability to edit their recordings in a non-linear method and label them as they see fit with the label text appearing on the machine’s display. But one function that appealed to this user base was the “auto-pause” function that stopped the deck at the end of a track while cuing up the next track. This gave these MiniDisc decks “playout” abilities where pre-recorded content can be played out on demand without it “running on” to the next item.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Dell XPS 13 – when it first came about

But what these devices have is the ability for a manufacturer to provide essential functionality along with the desired performance and reliability at a price that is affordable for most people in the market for this kind of equipment. As well, the manufacturers were able to refresh the products with newer technology without losing sight of the original goal for that model and its positioning.

Dell has underscored these values with their XPS 13 range of 13.3” “portable-typewriter” laptop computers of the kind that would suit someone who does a lot of travelling or makes use of a café as a second office. I have reviewed a Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook when Dell first started this range of computers. These Ultrabooks were positioned not as “Yoga-style” 2-in-1s that can become a tablet but more as a traditional notebook computer. Nor were they intended to look like an Apple Macbook. Rather they were about the core functionality and the build quality they offered.

Each time Dell refreshed the XPS 13, they provided the technical improvements that were to really benefit the user experience rather than add unnecessary features. This included a very narrow bezel which allows for a smaller 13” notebook while touch-enabled variants were equipped with an Intel i7 processor. Of coures, the baseline models had the Intel i5 processor, 8Gb RAM and 256Gb solid-state drive which means that you have some room to grow while you have a highly-performing laptop thrifty on battery consumption.

What this is all about is to make a product that combines the right mix of features and specifications, the right build quality and be priced right for the users and keep it that way whenever the model is refreshed. Then the manufacturer could be on a winner.

Apple to look at launching larger iPads next year


Report: Apple to Launch Huge 12.9-Inch iPad Next Year | Mashable

My Comments

As people see competing manufacturers offer larger mobile devices, Apple is finding it difficult to keep their fanbois loyal to their brand and wanting to flock to their stores at midnight on the day that an iOS product is launched.

They are doing this by showing intent to launch iPhones with larger screens but now they have to achieve this same goal with the iPad. Here, the rumour mills are starting to come alive with talk of a 12.9” iPad which would be close to the size of a small laptop. Part of the game is to court the enterprise market by working with IBM to provide line-of-business apps on devices that are delivered in to large organisations as corporate-owned fleet devices.

Personally, I could see this behaviour replicating what had happened in the early 90s when Apple deprecated the Apple II platform and focused on the Macintosh platform. Here, they could put more energy in to the iOS mobile platform by courting the enterprise market with the “sealed-secure-device” angle that this platform stands for.

It is difficult to determine what role Apple will have for the Macintosh desktop platform as they add larger screens, and improved processing to the iPad to give it some “desktop” abilities and users pair up their iPads with Bluetooth keyboards. This also is true and is symptomatic of a trend where IT device manufacturers “blend” regular-computing and mobile computing abilities in their current and future computing-device designs such as through dual-boot laptops and tablets that run Android or Windows or the race to provide highly-strung processors and graphics chipsets on mobile devices.

ASUS to launch a Windows detachable laptop with detachable Android smartphone


ASUS Transformer Book V is a Windows hybrid laptop with a detachable Android phone | Engadget

My Comments

There have been various devices that were effectively multiple devices in one package with one device being able to be detached to perform its own function. One of these devices that came to my mind was Hitachi’s TRK-W1 boombox of the early 80s. This was a high-quality radio-cassette unit with two cassette transports but one of the transports in this unit was in fact capable of becoming a cassette Walkman once it was detached from the main unit and effectively combined two portable-audio paradigms that were underscored through that time period.

ASUS has applied this same concept to the Transformer Book V detachable laptop which has a separately-detachable smartphone. Here, you had a 12” detachable “hybrid” laptop running Windows 8.1 which could become a tablet one moment and a laptop the next like with the HP x2 series. But you could clip a supplied 5” Android smartphone in to the back of the tablet to provide for access to the mobile broadband service.

The tablet could run Windows 8.1 or, with the phone attached, could run Android 4.4 KitKat in a “virtual-phone” window or run as a full-on Android tablet / laptop. It has 4Gb RAM and 128Gb solid-state storage but has a 1Tb hard disk in the battery-less keyboard attachment. The phone would have 64Gb of its own storage and 2Gb of its own RAM. But there is a limitation that each operating system can only use its own storage space.

Who knows when ASUS would officially launch it with many people looking at it housed in a glass showcase. As well, who knows if this would he launched to all of the markets but ASUS are showing that a device integrating Windows and Android in all the useable form factors can be made available.

Brother introduces an inkjet printer that implements landscape paper feed to achieve a compact size


Brother crams all-in-one functionality into a pint-size package for Business Smart series – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Brother USA

Press Release (PDF)

My Comments

I was reading the Engadget article about this Brother multifunction printer and found that this is another example of improving on the printer’s design. The previous examples I have seen and consider of note include the use of a “capillary” pipe system and front-loading ink cartridges to allow for a compact printer design, the design of A3 multifunction inkjet printers and designing compact colour LED printers that use four colour drums.

Typically a printer or multifunction prints in a portrait manner where the paper is fed in to the machine using the short edge. Then the print head works across that sheet along that edge. This has been the way to go for most printers because it was known not to be likely to jam but makes it hard for manufacturers to design a compact printer system with a reduced footprint.

What Brother has done with their latest “Business Smart” inkjet printers, headlined by the MFC-J4510DW is to implement landscape printing. This is where the paper is drawn in by the long edge and the print head moves across the long edge of the page. It has allowed them to design a very shallow machine that doesn’t need to occupy much desk space because the paper is held lengthways within the machine. Another advantage is to avoid the bulky look of paper trays that jut out from the front of the printer, which can be seen to make the machine look ugly.

Of course, the MFC-J4510DW which was cited in the article and the press release has the expectations of a current-specification business printer. These include network connectivity including Wi-Fi, low running costs due to availability of separate-colour cartridges including high-yield cartridges, app-assisted printing from mobile devices and auto-duplex printing which cuts down on paper used, prints documents that are more intuitive to read and opens up desktop-publishing possibilities. It can also print 11”x17” pages as long as the paper is fed in the bypass tray.

There are some limitations like the inability to print without borders when doing auto-duplex printing but I would expect for Brother to iron out these difficulties come the next iteration of this series.

Once these printers are released, it could be a chance for Brother to work further on compact printers that could appeal to particular applications where the narrow footprint is desired.

Blu-Ray players–they could give more life to older and cheaper TVs


Smart TV – why are Blu-ray players second-class citizens?

My comments

I agree with the principal argument that this article had put forward concerning the availability of the “smart-TV functionality” in video peripherals like Blu-Ray players or network-media adaptors. There is due to a reality that most of the consumer-electronics industry has been missing concerning how people have purchased and owned TV sets; something I, like most of you, have seen for myself.

The reality with TV purchasing and ownership

Since the 1970s, the typical colour television set has been able to enjoy a very long and reliable service life, thanks to transistorisation. This had been underscored with the gradual introduction of electronic tuner subsystems that were more reliable than older mechanical tuner systems like the old “click-click-click” tuning knobs that were common in most markets or the “push to select, twist to tune” button arrays common on TV sets sold in the UK in the 1960s.

This long service life then allowed for a “push-down” upgrade path to exist in a similar manner to what happens with the household refrigerator. Here, one could buy a nicer newer fridge and place it in the kitchen while the older fridge that it was to replace could go in the garage or laundry and act as extra cold storage space for food and drink, such as the typical “beer fridge”. In the case of the TV, this would mean that one would buy a newer better TV, most likely with a larger screen and place it in the main lounge area. Then the original set which was to be replaced by the new set typically ended up in another room like a secondary lounge area or a bedroom or even in a holiday house.

Usually the only reason most households would scrap a TV set would be if it failed beyond repair or was damaged, Even if a set was surplus to one’s needs, it would be pushed off to another household that could benefit.

Some people may think that this practice has stopped with the arrival of the LCD or plasma flatscreen TV, but it still goes on.

Not all TVs are likely to be “smart TVs”

Not all manufacturers are likely to offer network-enabled TVs in their product cycle. This may be due to a focus on picture quality or the ability to build lower-end products to a popular price point.

It also includes sets like TV-DVD combo units or small-size models that are offered at bargain-basement prices. As well, home-theatre enthusiasts will be interested in buying the latest projector rather than the latest “smart TV”.

Addition of extra functionality to existing televisions with video peripheral devices

The consumer-electronics industry has had success with extending the useability of existing television receivers through the use of well-equipped multi-function video peripherals.

The video recorder as a TV-enablement device

The best example of a device enabling older and cheaper TV sets was the video cassette recorder as it evolved through the 1980s. This wasn’t just in the form of recording of TV shows and playback of content held on videocassettes.

It was in the form of improved television viewing due to the TV tuners integrated in these devices. By model-year 1981 in all markets, the typical video recorder was equipped with a reliable electronic TV tuner. As well, all VHS and Betamax video recorders that implemented logic-control tape transports also implemented a “source-monitor” function when the machine wasn’t playing tapes. This would typically have the currently-selected channel on the machine’s tuner available at the machine’s output jacks including the RF output channel that the TV was tuned to.

Here, this setup gave the old TVs a new lease of life by providing them with a highly-reliable TV signal from the VCR’s tuner. In some cases, users could tune to more broadcasts than what was available on the TV set. Examples of this included cable channels received on an older “non-cable” TV in the USA or Germany; channels broadcasting on the UHF band through a mid-70s VHF-only TV in Australia and New Zealand; or access to Channel 4 on a “4-button” TV in the UK due to more channel spaces.

The ability to change channels using the video recorder’s remote control also allowed a person who had a cheaper or older TV to change channels from the comfort of their armchair, something they couldn’t previously do with those sets.

Similarly, some households would run a connection from the video recorder’s AUDIO OUT to their hi-fi system’s amplifier and have TV sound through their better-sounding hi-fi speakers. This was exploited more with stereo video recorders, especially those units that had a stereo TV tuner integrated in them, a feature that gradually appeared as TV broadcasters started to transmit in stereo sound through the 80s and 90s.

How the Blu-Ray player is able to do this

The typical well-bred Blu-Ray Disc player has the ability to connect to the home network via Ethernet or, in some cases, Wi-Fi wireless. This is typically to support “BD-Live” functionality where a user can download and view extra content held on a Blu-Ray Disc’s publisher’s servers in addition to viewing content held on the disc. As well, the Blu-Ray Disc player can connect to ordinary TV sets as well as the HDMI-equipped flat-screen TVs that are currently in circulation.

Some of the Blu-Ray players, especially recent Samsung, Sony and LG models can also pull down media from the DLNA Home Media Network and show it on these TVs. As well, some manufacturers are rolling out some Internet-ended services to these players.

In the same way as the video recorder was able to extend the functionality of the cheaper or older TV set by offering extended tuner coverage, remote control or access to better sound, the Blu-Ray player or network media adaptor could open the world of Internet–ended entertainment to these sets.

What the industry should do

The industry could work towards achieving similar interactive functionality for the network-enabled video peripherals as the network-enabled TVs. They could achieve this through the establishment of a “platform design” with similar applications and capabilities across a consumer-video product lineup. It is infact what Sony is doing for their consumer-video products at the moment with very little difference in interactive-service lineup between their TVs and their Blu-Ray players.

Here, the interactive-TV software is consistent across the whole lineup of TVs, Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray-equipped home-theatre systems and other video peripherals. The manufacturer may vary the software according to the device’s function by omitting functions relating to particular hardware requirements like screens, optical drives or broadcast tuners in order to make it relevant to the device class. Of course, there could be support for user-attached peripheral devices like USB Webcams, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, UPnP-compliant printers and the like to extend functionality for particular software applications like video-conferencing.

The software may be fully revised every few years to build in new functionality and accommodate better hardware. It may also be a chance to improve the operation experience for the software concerned. Yet this could maintain the branding and skinning that the manufacturer and software partners do desire.


There is a different reality that exists when buying TV equipment and this function should be supported equally in video peripheral equipment like Blu-Ray players and network media adaptors as in TV sets.

Choosing a Brother small-business printer or HP inkjet printer could become like choosing a car

Recently, I had reviewed a few Brother printers and had observed a particular trend in how the products are being positioned. It is becoming more akin to how the typical vehicle builder is positioning a particular vehicle model or series of vehicles.

It is also becoming very similar with Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart and OfficeJet inkjet printer ranges where there are a few common mechanisms implemented in the products. But, in HP’s case, the different models have differing cosmetic designs so as to integrate different feature sets and make the more expensive machines look classier.

A lineup of models with varying feature sets and throughput speeds but with the same design

In the vehicle world, an example of this was Holden’s large family cars sold through the 1960s to the 1970s. These vehicles had different model names depending on their level of luxury and / or their powertrain, with the “Premier” representing the top-of-the-line standard-wheelbase vehicle. Low-end vehicles were referred to initially as “Standard” or “Belmont” vehicles until the early-70s “HQ” series while “step-up” or “mid-tier” vehicles had model names like “Special” or “Kingswood”. This was until the “HQ” series where vehicles in that and subsequent series had “package” suffixes to differentiate entry-level and mid-tier vehicles.

For example, I had noticed that the HL-2240D direct-connect duplex monochrome laser printer was part of a series of laser printers based around a new printer design and print engine. There was a low-end model known as the HL-2130 which couldn’t print both sides as well as the HL-2250DN which was equipped with Ethernet networking and the HL-2280DW being equipped with Wi-Fi networking. Similarly, the more expensive models in the lineups also benefit from higher page throughput due to more powerful components in the design.

A model range derived from another model range

But the practice becomes very similar to how the vehicle builders derive a model range design from another concurrently-running model range design. An example of this would be them designing a longer-wheelbase luxury “executive” car as a derivate of a standard large family car like what Ford have done when they derived the Fairlane and LTD designs from the Falcon designs.

Here, this is reflected in how the designs for this company’s laser-printer lineup are used. I had observed that the multifunction series including the MFC-7360N that I reviewed were derived from the previously-mentioned dedicated laser printer series that the HL-2240D was part of. Here, all the units in both printer lineups used the same print engine and the same replacement parts.

Benefits for product choice

This will allow for a granular range of products in a product class where a person can choose or specify the right kind of printer based on their needs and budget; without needing to create new designs in order to satisfy the different market segments. This also allows the manufacturer to keep product prices within affordable territory because there is the ability to reuse parts across the different models. It also can allow a salesman room to upsell customers to better products or make deals that offer better value.

In most cases, the mid-tier product will offer best value for most users. For example, in these two printer lineups, the mid-tier models (HL-2250DN dedicated printer and MFC-7460DN) will offer the two currently-desirable features – double-sided printing which saves paper; and network connectivity. In some other cases like the dedicated colour laser printers based on Brother’s latest high-throughput colour-laser print engine, the HL-4150CDN which just has Ethernet network connectivity and reduced-time-penalty colour duplex printing would suit most users.


The creation of a granular product range with incremental functionality but a few common design bases and /or descendent product classes can then allow manufacturers to keep consistent value for money when they want to build out a product range.