Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 Observations - Mopria Alliance grows while its latest research reflects IT managers valuing mobile tech, appreciating print, and defying age perceptions



by Jim Lyons
July 31, 2014

Early in July, I wrote a very brief post at JimLyonsObservations.blogspot.com (http://jimlyonsobservations.blogspot.com/2014/07/impact-of-mobile-in-workplace-as-viewed.html), excited about a just-released marketing research report sponsored by Mopria, the mobile printing alliance I have covered since its inception in 2013. The research and resulting report, conducted and compiled by The Economist, was commissioned with the goal of shedding further light on the impact of mobile technology on the enterprise by surveying high-level IT managers. The research is a treasure trove of interesting findings that include the high value IT managers place on mobile technology for its impact on collaboration and gains in productivity, their appreciation of the importance of paper and printers/scanners, and, by looking a little more deeply, data that seems to defy perceptions about differences in age/generation with respect to these attitudes.

 At the time of the report’s release, I took a rather quick look at the research results (contained in a 14-page report entitled “Untethered employees – The evolution of a wireless workplace” and available for free download via http://www.economistinsights.com/technology-innovation/analysis/untethered-employees.) And I also had a pending interview with Mopria executives (actually executives from representative companies who make up the alliance), to discuss their views on the study and share any alliance news beyond that. So I concluded that July 8 blog post by stating that I would be publishing an update with more findings and results of my conversations within “a day or so”. And now, here it is the end of July, and I'm just now getting to that update! Part of the delay I can honestly blame on, “it's just one of those summers”. But I also must say I have had, with the fascinating research results particularly, much more to chew on than anticipated!

The Research

Going back to that first look at the survey results, which were gathered from 332 members of The Economist’s executive panel, from all over the world and in senior positions in IT management roles (over half “C” level), I was particularly impressed with the broad-based nature of the questions, or more specifically, the study was not overly print- and hardcopy-focused, as by definition the Mopria Alliance is. The research goes far beyond the relatively narrow aspect of the why’s and when’s of printing from mobile devices, i..e. smartphones and tablets, instead, seeking to further understanding of the current and future impacts of mobile technology on the enterprise – which of course ultimately will drive the narrower concerns.

Also, that “first look” showed me I had little to fear that this would feature questions leading to results along the lines of, “I want to print from my device - I didn't know that I can print from my device. If I could print from my device I would do it”, then further leading to optimistic forecasts about the future of mobile printing that is just around the corner. (And that's not to belittle that stage of research, but just recognizing there was a time for, and a place for that, and we need to move beyond that.) What the industry needs now is meaningful understanding of user needs, market segments, and, from this research, IT management’s vision. Happily, The Economist and Mopria have gone a long way with this study in satisfying the latter.
 


Before getting into print and hardcopy, the research makes it clear – that the application of mobile technology in the office is all about increasing collaboration and productivity, at least, in the view of these executives. Combining the categories of “very positively affect” and “somewhat positively affect”, huge majorities of the respondents in the survey (pushing 9 out of 10) cited the categories of collaboration and productivity has being most affected. Innovation, idea generation and creativity followed, still all with large majorities on the plus side (see illustration above). Note – The breakdown on these responses between groups represented in the survey, is material enough for at least one more post of its own, so look for my analysis coming from me in the future.

The research summary next takes the step of highlighting improved communication as one of the keys to the aforementioned improved productivity, which naturally leads to the potentially changing role of print and paper in the communication mix.


The appendix of the report provides more responses to more detailed questions and results of probes on the importance of printers, scanners, and paper itself in the mobile-influenced office (some of those results can be see above).

It is interesting that printers/scanners and paper are right up there relative to laptops and smartphones in their importance ratings, per the 332 respondents. (It is also interesting to note the much lower numbers for “Tablets (e.g. iPads and similar devices)”, in light of the recent Apple earnings announcement and the admission that their tablet business has beenweakening in quarterly unit sales. With the also recently announced agreementwith IBM seen as a potential lift to iPads by boosting them in enterprises – the Mopria/Economist results seem somewhat prescient!)

Having access to cross tabs not available in the summary, I was anxious to see what the oft-cited “age”, or generation factor, might have on responses on these questions. As might be expected given the senior nature of the executive positions sought out for the survey, the 332 respondents skewed older, with just under half age 50+, and only 16 percent age 40 and below. The remainder (36%) in the age 40-50 bracket. But on the “importance to you” and “importance to your employees” questions, the younger respondents actually recorded the highest percentages on the combined “very” and “somewhat” important percentages. (See graph below.) While findings like these are far from conclusive, they do offer encouragement for the industry that the relevance of print and paper will not fade away with the Baby Boomers.


(Proportion of respondents within age ranges, responding, “very important” or “somewhat important” to “How important are each of the following office tools to the performance of your employees’/your jobs?” – source Mopria/The Economist data, July 2014.)

Mopria Executive Update

To get a firsthand Mopria perspective, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with two Xerox vice presidents, Karl Dueland and Carl Langsenkamp. Dueland has been one of my regular contacts during the launch and then the development of the Mopria alliance and updated me on the latest stats, noting the number of member companies now stands at 23, representing 93 percent of the market share of all printers, and the ever-growing number of supported printers and MFPs now stands at an ever-growing 245 models. An even more impressive number is the 19 million units in the field which a currently Mopria compliant, either having been purchased this year when that list of 245 started (with the HP Color LaserJet M476, the first Mopria compliant printer). He pointed out that beyond printer OEMs, other members included applications and hardware companies. And as far as the research report, he pointed with pride to some of the points I’ve already covered here. “The study hits on the printing world and the mobile world, with C-Level respondents from all around the world. Some of the timely topics we included that of the trend in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and related trends.”

Coming Attractions

I mentioned near the beginning of this post that I have had a lot to chew on, especially with all the data that has been made available to me. And I continue to chew! I will conclude my summary here with the promise that even if it's not “in the next day or so” I will return with more reporting and analysis which include insights from this research. And special thanks to my colleagues from the partner companies of Mopria, Edelman and The Economist for taking special care to answer some of my detailed questions and also provide access to the data. It is much appreciated and hopefully it will be of considerable value to my readers as well, as together we continue to understand and in response, innovate in the ever-growing and ever-changing world of mobile, and its subtle and not so subtle impacts on printing and imaging.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Imaging and Printing Disruptive Innovation - at Actionable Intelligence blog


Thanks to the team at Actionable Intelligence for offering me a guest blogger role, with a post (my first with more to follow?) discussing this summer's "Disruption" debate, as applied to the world of Imaging and Printing. In "Disrupting the World of Imaging and Printing", I also give a little shout out to one of my recent favorites, the HBO series "Silicon Valley", which was fun!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mobile Trendsetter blog - thanks HP!

As I deal with a queue of so many great blog post ideas, while also trying to engage in summer activities of a personal nature, it's really nice when something comes along that's both flattering and helps "get the word out". HP asked me to respond to a few questions with my views on mobility, and surprise - within what seemed like a couple days, there I am in "Mobile Trendsetter: Jim Lyons, The Imaging Channel"!

I invite readers to visit and read my comments (though fair warning - a number of my comments reference right back here, to some of my recent posts). HP asked some great questions, and the responses from my fellow "Mobile Trendsetters" are worthwhile reads as well.

And once again, thanks HP!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Google Glass Economics, Part Three

eBay Glass auctions during mid-July, 2014
It's been nearly a year since I became a Google Glass Explorer, and started a dedicated blog (http://googleglasshalffull.blogspot.com/). In that time, I've given my Glass unit a pretty good "run for its money", mostly by taking hands-free photos and a few videos. I have also used it in the classroom, at least a bit, and loaned it out to several friends and associates for them to get some hands-on experience with what has turned out to be a very controversial product, even to the point of fear and ridicule! For an example, See "The Daily Show" sendup (below), which actually including well-known Glass Explorers (going the opposite direction than I did with my blog, naming the segment "Glass Half Empty".)

The Glass "aftermarket", via Ebay, is one of the things I have found most interesting while following the Glass saga. The $3,000 - $5,000 being commanded during the Summer of 2013 indeed influenced my decision to drop the $1,500 to get my Glass unit and join the program, figuring I had a profitable "out" if I decided to exit the program. At that time, Glass had an aura of exclusivity, with Explorers selected mysteriously based on their Tweets earlier in 2013, and terms and conditions technically only allowed loaning or gifting units, and not selling them. (Those early eBay listings all contained some form of "caveat emptor" language.) But since then, Google has broadened the Explorer program, to the point where used units no longer command a premium over the $1,500 list price. The expected discount-for-used (See eBay screenshot, above.) I chronicled this back in March with "Google Economics Part Two", which happened to be my second-to-last post in the dedicated Glass blog, choosing to bring my intermittent Glass Observations to this blog. Back then, a non-scientific sample of three Glass auction listings on eBay averaged closing bids of $1,413. This week, the four auctions pictured in my screenshot sold for an average of $1,139.

Will there be a "Google Economics Part Four" post, you might ask? Stay tuned...I have a very strong feeling that there will be!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Impact of Mobile in the Workplace as viewed by The Economist


A new report sponsored by the Mopria (Mobile Printing) Alliance (see "May 2014 Observations - Market Segmentation Among Smartphone Users Who Print?") offers some interesting perspectives on the impact of mobility in today's workforce. Titled "Untethered employees - The Evolution of a wireless workplace", the summary of the research undertaken by The Economist comes up with some interesting results, with at least a little bit directed to the current and future role of hard copy (e.g. "paper remains a presence in many workplaces.")

I am awaiting an interview with Mopria executives, and will share more of what I've gleaned from the report, as well as highlights of my discussion, in the next day or so.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 2014 Observations – The Plain-paper 3D Printer - What’s in a Name?

This June 4, 2014 Analysis of a "Plain Paper 3D Printer" from MCor really got me thinking
As I complete this weeks-long-contemplated post about a “Plain-paper 3D Printer” I recently discovered, Amazon has just announced its Fire Phone, which had been rumored to be a “3D phone” prior to its launch. So before taking a closer look at the Mcor Technologies product and its interestingly juxtaposed description, I will digress on other names, including the Fire Phone.

The importance of a name - examples

The Amazon product more or less lives up to the rumors (see "How 3D Works on the Amazon Fire Phone"), but the company instead named the viewing feature “Dynamic Perspective” to describe its integration of multiple cameras and software that give the user a 3D effect on the phone’s screen. I applaud Amazon’s precision in naming, even if (or because) “3D” is so widely used these days in describing so many diverse products and features. But one wonders if “Dynamic Perspective” is going against the tide. From my perspective (arguably more static than dynamic), as a long-time tech industry veteran as well as more recently a professor of Marketing, naming (more than just branding) really can make a huge difference!

I have often asserted that for a new product or service to be successful in the market, it needs to have a good descriptive name or at least catchy label, either at the category and/or brand level. A recent example for me was the Apple iPad – which came upon (despite some early disparagement) a simple, catchy product name to go with a nascent category moniker ("tablet computer"). But another of my favorite examples comes from way back, and that is the solution category called “desktop publishing”. This two-word phrase really captured much of what was going on in the early days, with products like Apple’s LaserWriter, with its Adobe Pagemaker, the Mac and Aldus PageMaker. (Slightly later, of course, it was the HP LaserJet combined with some of the earliest versions of Microsoft Windows running on an IBM PC-compatible computer, equipped with PageMaker or other page composition software.)

Aldus PageMaker software was a key component to the "Desktop Publishing" solution - a great category label
That's one of my favorite positive examples, and one more negative (that turns positive) was when I saw the development and launch of scanning products meant to be shared in the office by multiple users. Apparently the best name that had floated to the top for this product during its development was “network scanner”, following in the heels of successful “network printers”. The Network Scanner was far from successful, but a few years later the small number of customers who actually had figured out how to use it described their activity as including “digital sending” documents. Thus the product in its newer version was renamed as a “Digital Sender” and became quite popular.

Mixing labels – the Plain Paper 3D Printer

So back to the Plain-paper 3D Paper. Whether or not "3D phones" (or 3D TVs, or whatever) make sense or become popular, we do find “3D” as being a very pervasive buzzword these days, and that includes its combination with “printing”. 3D printing has been around for quite some time, of course, but the last couple of years has seen the interest spike tremendously, among technology futurists, Wall Street analysts, and Kickstarter enthusiasts, among others. But when I came across a story about a “Plain-paper 3D Printer”, I felt like I had entered a time warp!

The revelation about plain-paper 3D printing came from well-known investment news-and-opinion source Motley Fool and its article about MCor Technologies (http://www.mcortechnologies.com), “Meet the 3-D Printer That Disrupts 3DSystems Corporation and Stratasys, Ltd.'s Business Model”. I was well aware of the “disrupted” companies, 3D and Stratasys, but felt a bit chagrined that MCor was new to my radar (despite coverage at least a year prior), as was its potentially revolutionary plain-paper 3-D printing approach. The article describes how the company chose the source material for its supplies, plain office paper, as a cheap and widely available material for their products, the output of which is suitable for modeling and prototyping, using, per the article, “selective deposition lamination, or SDL, [which] involves a water-based adhesive and a tungsten carbide blade to precisely adhere and cut paper one sheet at a time to create a 3-D dimensional object after many repetitions.”

I should have known about plain-paper 3D printing at least a year ago, if I was paying full attention!
The importance of Plain Paper in the rise of laser printing

Despite the company and the concept being far from new to the world, the descriptor “plain paper 3D printer” was new to my ears, and got me thinking that if there ever been a confluence of industry buzzwords from different areas this was it. For me, “Plain Paper” printing goes back to the advent of the LaserJet for sure and even a few inkjet printers slightly prior. The HP LaserJet printer, which I worked on beginning in 1986, had been launched in May 1984 (meaning we just missed celebrating its 30th anniversary) – and made its claim to fame based on the three “Q’s”, i.e. it was quick, printing relatively quietly, and with very high print quality. This was brilliant positioning, with product performance that made good on the promises, as it compared this new desktop laser printer to the technologies and products previously available, most common among them the typically noisy and slow dot matrix printers. Beyond the three Q’s though, another secret ingredient to its usability and customer acceptance was the LaserJet's ability to print on plain copier paper, already available in virtually every office. It didn't require the special paper of thermal and other technologies, nor did it require the tractor-feed paper of the dot matrix world, making LaserJet and its follow-ons all the more popular with millions of users.

I learned about this especially well while managing HPs aforementioned desktop publishing program. The strategic relationships with Aldus and Microsoft were the cornerstone of our program, with what I thought to be natural and sensible extensions being alliances with some of the well-known paper vendors, who offered very high-quality paper appropriate for DTP output. These plans were shut down, however, by the consensus of slightly more senior management, who had been in place from the beginning, and enlightened me on what I had not realized - that anything that implied the LaserJet work better with one type of "plain paper" than another would start to weaken the plain paper claim, something like, “when we say we print great with plain paper, we mean ALL plain paper”.

So will Plain Paper 3D Printing provide the disruption the Motley Fool forsees? None other than Stapleshas initiated an in-store 3D Printing service using MCor machines, for a prominent example of a B2B early adopter. But as far as mass acceptance, time will tell. But it’s interesting that what worked with toner-on-plain-paper a generation ago, may just work with plain-paper-sliced-and-diced in the current age.



Is 3D Printing Really Printing? And Comparing it to Commercial Printing

I first learned about 3D printing about 15 years ago. Then, I quickly realized that despite the fact that the field’s (Wikipedia offers a good description here) moniker includes “printing” in its popular label (its other more precise label is “additive manufacturing”), but other than the jetting action of the 3D “print heads” – a technology were HP really excels, then and now – used in some of the products, the overall category really had little or nothing to do with printing, at least as I knew it.

I had seen this parallel before, also during my time as an HP staffer, when we entered commercial printing. It now seems very obvious, but in that case too, the thing that was the most in common with office printing was the word “printing” – though it involved toner (or ink) and paper, the customers, products, solutions, channels, etc. were virtually all different than what we were accustomed to with office printing. Of course, HP took up the challenge, and figured out “Commercial Printing” in its many variations, via a very systematic process, even with inevitable fits and starts along the way. This included company and technology acquisitions, selective hiring of skillful people from commercial printing backgrounds, and an overall strong commitment, that now over decades has taken the today’s successes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What would Nuance acquisition mean for printing/imaging unit?


One of the most important companies in the printing/imaging ecosystem is making headlines this week with talk about its potential acquisition. But Nuance Communications' speech recognition capabilities are what the company is most widely known for among the broader business/technology community, so one has to wonder what happens if an acquisition transpires that focuses too much on the language recognition? Today's coverage in Forbes, headlined "Siri Is For Sale: Will Apple, Samsung Fight Over Nuance?", is a case in point.

I have had the pleasure to work with the company (in its ScanSoft days), while helping to manage partners while I was still at HP, and over the last 8+ years I've had the privilege of covering many of their products and acquisitions that have made the company integral to printing, scanning, and managed print services. The Nuance Communications Wikipedia entry is a good recap of their recent history too (since most of the articles I penned are behind paywalls), and just borrowing an example list of brands under the Nuance umbrella - e.g. PaperPort, Visioneer, Textbridge, Omnipage, Equitrac, eCopy - gives an idea of their reach. And a list of companies bundling or otherwise partnering with Nuance Imaging is a veritable who's-who of printer OEMs.

But clearly its speech recognition technology, integral in its own right to the world of mobile devices, has the eyes of investors, including legendary Carl Icahn, with his current 19% of the company. Would an acquiring company with similar focus know what to do with the Imaging side of the business? Among the two leading suitors, Samsung has a considerable printing business where one could imaging Nuance Imaging residing -though the fact Nuance has never had printing hardware seems to have made it simpler for them to partner with myriad of competing hardware companies.

Time will tell, but I imagine these are interesting, if nerve-wracking days for my friends on the Nuance Imaging side of the house!