I think that Ernst Dinkla made a very interesting comment in another thread that we may see printers evolve into a platform. The platform can then evolve and upgrade or add features without buying a whole new printer every couple of years. This would be very welcome from my perspective.
I can not recall that I wrote that but I think John Dean did write something like that.
I wish that a concept like that is used (to a degree) but I doubt that it will be a reality, not in hardware and not by more printer manufacturers. Epson very much had a mass market approach where a product is made in a batch or some batches and any new development means a new printer and no upgrade on an existing range but some bug removals when it is still for sale. If one considers that even drivers are not updated to new OS systems in some cases, it looks more like their intention is to wipe out competition of their older systems in the market (often their only competition). This could change with the new competition though, if you can still sell inks to the old systems around and your competitor not, then it may be better to update those older systems than making the old system obsolete as your customer then has a choice for a new printer from two other manufacturers too. Service, parts, inks and media are bringing in more money than selling the hardware. A customer will accept that his printer gets too slow or is behind in image quality to newer models but will find it hard to accept that his printer isn't updated on driver support with every OS upgrade. To him it looks like little work for the manufacturer and he only thinks that it is an arbitrary decision by the company to make his printer obsolete. The launch dates of new printers and new OS systems do not correlate and the user expects fast action nevertheless.
HP so far has a slightly different approach but I do not think it will sustain that in length of days. Some developments can not be applied to old hardware like wider heads to increase speed of printing which is the thing that will get most attention in the future. As I have written before thermohead nozzles are way cheaper than piŽzohead nozzles and the two manufacturers that use thermoheads already challenged Epson on speed. Anyway the competition in the wide format water based inkjet art repro and photography market is changed in the last 18 months and other marketing schemes apply now. The (deliberate slow) evolution path Epson could dictate to the market is gone now, they will have to add anything they can get from R&D into any next model if they want to survive. One may question whether this specific market is even big enough to allow three companies on it. Wonder what companies like Roland will do with their water based inkjet printers, that may tell something about the market.
For 2008 Photokina I do not expect much more than Epson announcing the 44" 24" 17" equivalents of the 11880. HP closing the model range with a 17" model ? I hope an affordable 10 channel hybrid between the B9180 and a Z3100 that will make dual sided sheet printing easier, calibration aboard but no profiling. Direct competition with the Canon iPF5100 and better than the Epson 3800. I think HP could surprise us with a Z6100 at 60" with 10 or 12 channels as the top end model on speed, color, gloss and matte printing. Canon is harder to predict with the upgrade to the iPFx100 models so recently. Maybe a first sign of an even faster 60" model.
After 2008 I expect more diversification in models as the trend next to speed increase. Niches of the market explored like bookprinting. There must be a market between inkjet and Indigo printers with lower investment and speed but a another, higher quality than Indigo delivers. Static page wide inkjet heads appearing on fast smaller pro models like already will be seen on the Drupa in real production machines. More internet applications to speed up the customer's original to print cycle. Slower progress in ink and paper coating technology than what we have seen in the last ten years but printing speed will ask for some improvements in drying time. Some gamut increase while the fade properties remain the same, the last must be sufficient for most tasks with HP Vivera. Maybe extra coatings on top of the print but integrated in the printer will be a good step. I think Epson needs faster evolution steps in piŽzohead technology like the last one to compete with the simple multiplying of nozzles the other companies can rely on. The minimum droplet size in wide format is reached already I think, 3-4 Picoliter is sufficient for all cases down to A3 size. The new algorithms to lay them down + head and ink characteristics allow that and it looks like the variable droplet size already lost its importance in relation to the speed / image quality compromise if one checks the enlarged print samples of recent piŽzo models. So speed while keeping quality at the same level is number one.
P.S. A bit off topic. Never thought the local university had such interesting inkjet R&D for everyone to read. I knew they were busy with it though.