Monday, November 30, 2015

November - 10 Years of Observations

Ten years ago, I started my monthly columns - an unbroken streak of 120 in a row!

In a column I wrote 10 years ago, in December 2005, I noted that by looking back 10 years (i.e. to 1995), we would see a different printing and imaging industry, with countless threats and opportunities in its future that were easily identifiable by 2005 but were cloudy and mysterious, if not outright unknown, in 1995. I would point to a list of “still in the future” organizations and technologies that were either altogether unheard of, or at least yet-to-become-pervasive, including “digital cameras, MFPs or all-in-ones, Yahoo, Amazon, Google, Napster, iTunes, MP3s, blogs, RSS feeds, [and] podcasts.” My point (one of many I tried to convey in that column) was that times change and we can look back at how the world has changed, with hopes that we will see we have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by some if not all of the changes.

That happened to be my very first column, written shortly after my departure from a 25-year-long career at HP, with most of that time from 1981 to 2005 directly involved with their (our!) printing and imaging business. And now that 10 years have passed since then, let me reflect a bit on my decade “on the other side” as a blogger/analyst, and include a similar list. (Before I do, let me clarify that in 2005 and for a few years following, Jim Lyons Observations (JLO) really was a “column”, a term I associate with content which is part of a regularly published hard-copy periodical, initially - in my case - The Hard Copy Observer. My continued monthly “column” cycle, when the HCO became an online-only publication, continues to this day and into the future.)

So what didn’t we know about in 2005? How about smartphones like the Apple iPhone; tablets like the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface; Google’s presence as an OS supplier (two if you count Chrome and Android); the Wearables juggernaut, with expensive experiments like Google Glass and - some might argue - the Apple Watch, but also the hugely pervasive, with devices like those from Fitbit; and the entire Social Media onslaught – Facebook and LinkedIn existed in 2005, but barely, and Twitter was yet to make its appearance, to say nothing of Instagram, Snapchat, and others.

More specific to printing and imaging, I put “digital cameras” on the “1995 MIA” list, at least in terms of their relatively minor presence in the overall industry, and while they have grown to dominate in both 2005 and 2015, their form has changed from predominately stand-alone to pervasive as a key component of smartphones. Pagewide inkjet printing was resident in some of the bigger R&D labs, but remained to make its presence felt in a commercialized sense, and “ink in the office” was only a pipe dream. Though the major printer OEMs spent significant energy, or at least verbiage cycles, on terms like “solutions”, “verticals” and “services”, the phrase “Managed Print Services” was a new one and MPS was an unknown acronym in an industry that still loves its acronyms.

Of course, that is just a start. Clearly, the past 10 years have included lots to analyze and write about! On a more personal level, that first column led to me to status as a regular columnist with the Observer, then also as a paid part-time staff writer and eventually Senior Editor with Lyra Research, all before the acquisition of the company by Photizo Group in 2012. It was a major career highlight to become part of the combined companies, though it turned out to be my second stint with Photizo, as I had participated as a part-timer staffer in their formative years, from 2006 to 2009. Leaving there in 2013, I was fortunate to be invited to bring JLO - along with additional duties – to The Imaging Channel where I continue to enjoy their hospitality, with their hosting most of my monthly columns to this day. I am also self-published, via Google’s Blogger, where all my columns from #1 to now #120 can be found.

In conclusion (for now)

I have to come to realize that I am very big on noting anniversaries and the like. I think it comes from having an historian’s bent, and firmly believing that we all learn from looking at what has happened in the past. The payoff, outside of the simple satisfaction of curiosity, is that by understanding the steps we have followed along the way to the present, we gain insight on where our steps into the future will lead.

Over my ten years of Jim Lyons Observations, I have had great hosting sites!

It was a commitment to this idea that got me started on Jim Lyons Observations exactly 10 years ago. And I have been tracking the current end-of-year anniversary for some time, knowing that I would definitely use (this) Monthly Column #120 to reflect and look ahead (while also knowing I didn’t have to worry as far as coming up with a column idea!). As described in the introductory paragraph, the significance is more than a “round number” – I used Column #1 to reflect back on the previous 10 years, using the “time capsule” pretext which was actually true! (Those who have ever seen a work area/desk of mine would attest to the possibility of ten-year-old, untouched information caches existing, especially in the days when hard copy played a more prominent role in information dissemination and storage.)

Looking back on that 10-year-old column, (in addition to seeing a columnist with more and darker hair and beard!) I am proud to know I have hung in there and I am very grateful for all the help, support, collegiality, and the like, from both those on the blogger/analyst/research side which I joined and was given multiple opportunities to grow as one of them, as well as those on the industry side who provided (and continue to provide) so much help in telling their stories.

Looking ahead, I may not be ready to commit to 10 more full years, but I have the energy, enthusiasm, and most important, the ideas(!!!) to keep cranking out, as I say in my masthead, “business and marketing developments in the Printing and Imaging industry, combining [my] many years of experience with an ever-enthusiastic eye on the future!”

And of course I could not have done any of this without you the reader!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nicely done, Epson - and CTA / CES

In my August 2015 Observations, I raved about the new line of Epson EcoTank printers and how their mega-ink-capacity (aka #SuperTank) would ease real customer pain points, relieving the hassle and mess (as well as expense) of frequent ink-cartridge shopping and swapping. (See "Epson’s EcoTank Printers make a big splash, for good reasons!")

So it should come as no surprise that the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), sponsor of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has named one of Epson's new products, the WorkForce ET-4550 to be precise, as a winner of one of their 2016 Innovation awards.

As far as criteria for the award, here is what the release states:
The WorkForce ET-4550 was evaluated based on its engineering, aesthetic and design qualities, intended use/function and user value, how the design and innovation of the product directly compares to other products in the marketplace and unique/novel features present.
Good call CTA / CES, and congratulations Epson America!

Monday, November 02, 2015

HP Splits Today - what about HP Labs?

With the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange minutes away, and the official beginning of trading of the two companies' shares ($HPQ for HP Inc and $HPE for HP Enterprise), all the planning and much of the speculation is behind us.

While completing a story on some new LaserJet printers recently (see "HP Printer Group Keeps Minding Customer Needs with new LaserJets for the Enterprise"), and their emphasis on data security, I wondered about this being perhaps a worry for the PC and Printer company (HPQ). Specifically, would it be a problem putting distance between them and their security-focused Enterprise mates, going from being all under-the-same-corporate-roof to being in separate companies. My HP Inc contacts assured me the relationship would simply evolve into a strong partnership, one like they have with so many companies already. And an HP spokesperson, when asked about the venerable HP Labs and how the split affects them, responded,

"HP Labs will be divided based on research area. Shared research between the two companies will remain with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with a licensing agreement to HP Inc."

With that said, congrats are in order to CEO Meg Whitman and all my friends at both HP Enterprise and HP Inc!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cheapskate Blog on Color Laser and Inkjet Printing

Today's Cheapskate Blog - via Cnet  - is touting a Ricoh color laser printer for $69.99 via online retailer Adorama.

That is a crazy-good deal, and not unusual for Rick Broida - the face behind the Cheapskate. I've used Rick's guidance to get great deals on PCs, storage products, power adapters, and accessories for years now.

While I have yet to meet Rick, I do enjoy his commentaries as well, that come along with his daily (or nearly daily) deals. Today's on color printing is classic - reflecting end user attitudes that favor laser printing over inkjet printing, even in 2015!

If you want to print in color, inkjet printers have always been the necessary evil: They're way less expensive than color lasers, or at least it seems that way until you have to replace their ink cartridges every five minutes.
Me, I've always preferred laser printers, which tend to cost more up front but have a lower total cost per page.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October Observations - Happy Lifelong Learning Day!

This is the first screen in the brief "Lifelong Learning Day" video - what a fit with my "ten year thing"!
Yesterday I posted a brief note observing the 10-year anniversary of my final day of work at HP (see "Ten Years After"). It was a simple "milestone" post, about an anniversary I did not want to pass unnoticed. But about the same time I was prepping the post, I heard an NPR underwriting announcement from Road Scholar, with the news that today (October 15) is the inaugural National Lifelong Learning Day, which they sponsor.

Road Scholar is a 40-year-old organization based in Boston, billing itself as "the world's largest educational travel organization for adults", and while I have yet to take one of their trips, I have been well aware of several and hope to join one of their adventures sometime in the near future. And when I sought out a little more information about Lifelong Learners Day and found a YouTube video (screenshot above), I was a bit stunned, and pleased, to see their reference to learning and "ten years from now" -- looking back at my post-HP decade, learning has been a continuous theme for me.


Of course, becoming a columnist/blogger/analyst in the printing and imaging industry was a huge part of my past ten years, and commenced almost immediately after leaving the corporate world. While I had a great deal of industry knowledge to apply from the beginning, learning the ropes of traditional hard-copy newsletter reporting (writing style, editing cycles, deadlines, etc.) was a challenge. And that was followed almost immediately by setting up and publishing my own independent blog (this one), and evolving with social media including becoming fairly expert on many of the latest and greatest platforms. But I will have more on that journey in next month's Observations.

Learning to teach

Within a year of leaving HP, I was fortunate to have a fellow company alum who left the same time I did (it helped that he was a long-time friend as well) guide me into the world of college-level teaching with the University of Phoenix. Based on my career background and MBA-level education, I was deemed qualified to teach both undergraduate and graduate Marketing and Economics, at both our local on-ground campus as well as online, following successful completion of an excellent faculty training program. 80+ courses later, I still learn a great deal about my subjects during each course, and am very grateful for the continuing opportunity to pass along a little of what I've learned throughout my education and career to younger generations. Plus, the pressure to "know your stuff" when lecturing or grading papers does wonders for motivation for getting caught with your subject!

Class Central provides a good starting point for learning about upcoming MOOCs

The mad, mad world of MOOCs

Eager to build my skills, and also just plain curious to be on the other side of the online learning equation (i.e. being a student), I have enrolled in and completed more than 30 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC's) over the last four years. Also, the value of enrolling and completing can be overstated - in addition to everything I've learned from those successfully completed courses, I've also learned a ton from some of those enrolled-but-not-completed choices too!

My full list can be seen via my LinkedIn profile, but highlights via (mostly) Coursera and EdX include a variety of content areas, including subjects which I could use to supplement my teaching (see above), and also refreshing my skills in the ever-expanding world of data science. I majored in Quantitative Methods while earning my BS at University of Oregon, way back when, and then a Marketing/Econometrics emphasis at Cornell's Johnson School where I received my MBA in 1981. As I discovered (and am still finding out), lots of what I learned (no surprise) has advanced significantly. At the same time, I am bolstered by the fact that I have a pretty good foundation - even as regression analysis no longer requires a four-function calculator and lots of scratch paper! (More coming on this in future blog posts also.)

Osher Institute

As I wind up this look at my personal lifelong learning journey over the last ten years, I must mention my hometown resource that I continue to enjoy. That is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State University. The program offers classroom experiences for the 50+ crowd, with some of our area's leading professors (from BSU and elswhere), as well as with leading experts from beyond academia. The offering is rich and diverse, and just today (Lifelong Learning Day!) I will be spending two hours in the morning in an "Art, Architecture and Culture of Venice" course, as well as two hours in the afternoon attending the middle of five weeks' worth of lectures on the "History of London since 1666".

In conclusion

I am committed to learning more in the next ten years, to answer the question from the Road Scholar video! Organizing my thoughts and experiences enough to record them here in what I hope is a reasonably cognizant fashion has been a pleasurable if somewhat indulgent exercise. But I hope too that at least some readers can find a tip or two here to facilitate their own paths of lifelong learning!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ten Years After

I have used this legendary band-name as a headline (but not the image) in the past, but today it seems appropriate again for my today's anniversary.

Ten years ago today, I put in my last day as an HP employee. It was a great run for me, starting in 1981, spanning a period when Hewlett-Packard was deemed among the most admired companies out there. I have had a very fulfilling "second career" since, which I will be reflecting on here in the coming days and weeks. So just a note for now, and assurance I am eagerly looking ahead to the next ten!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Memories - EMC to be acquired by Dell

Today's announcement that EMC will be acquired by Dell in a $67 million deal is notable for many reasons. It's the biggest tech merger ever, and the largest deal of all time where a private company (Dell) will be taking a public company ($EMC) private.

But it also teases out some pretty ancient memories for me, and coincidentally I will mention my first job at HP for the second post in a row! (See "Revisiting Splitsville"). A check at Wikipedia reveals EMC was founded in 1979 as a provider of third-party disk storage for Prime Computer. But as they branched out, the Disk Memory Division (DMD) of HP became very aware of them, as a "parasitic" supplier of disk storage for HP minicomputers. As a captive supplier of disk storage ourselves, DMD was in a generally excellent business position and was for a time the HP division with the largest revenue of them all - more than that of even the minicomputer divisions we supplied. But following IBM's lead and their approach to third-party suppliers of disk storage, we saw it as a scourge that needed to fought off aggressively.

That was about 30 years ago, and it is amazing to think that EMC has had such a prosperous history since!