Yes, the printer companies make most of their money from cartridge sales, not the actual printer itself (because many people don't buy a new printer every time like you did). These companies often lose money on the printer itself but quickly remake it in cartridges. It reminds me of the cell phone business, where many companies give free phones (which costs them money obviously) but they make money through contracts which you need to get the free phone.
Yes, printers are cheap because the printer companies make their money from cartridge sales. If a printer is more expensive, it will be to pay for the extra parts like: scanners, card readers, fax machines, network cards, etc. as there do not have consumables.
Inkjets have a way shorter life-span when compared to lasers. The problem is that Lasers are only seen as for the office nowadays, but this is changing. The problem is that laser printers are so big and bulky that they don't have anything that is particularly useful for home use. They usually don't have things like scanners, faxes, etc. built in.
I love laser printers because of their reliability, but the toner is uber expensive!
There are other stores where they sell non-official ink cartridges for a much lower price. I buy from Staples ink cartridges for a fraction of the price if I had bought them from Epson, the maker of my printer. When I put in the ink cartridges the printer always warns me "Warning: These ink cartridges are unofficial" but they work just as well, if not better.