Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Envelope Printing -- innovation remembered!

I just read an interesting note from Chris Shipley today regarding the history of the Demo conference, one of my favorites. She points to the beginnings of Demo and the role envelope printing played in its first year!

Much of technology innovation comes feature by feature, and it always has. The very first DEMO conference nearly 17 years ago, included a little “feature company” that made envelope printing a breeze. Until then, trying to get four address lines properly placed on a standard envelope was a nightmare of waste and frustration. This feature spurred Microsoft to make it a cornerstone of the next release of Word.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Dollar Store Refill Kit

Here it is, straight from my local Dollar Tree. Not that I was shopping for one but my HP PSC 1210 has been given me warnings about an empty cartridge so I decided why not give it a try! More in a few days (or weeks, or months?), when the cartridge really runs out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lexmark Outlook Disappoints

Today, Lexmark (NYSE LXK) announced increased earnings and (slightly) increased overall revenues (+1.6%) for their Fiscal 3rd Quarter. The details included interesting but not surprising mix change, with business segment sales up 8% and consumer revenues down 5%. The company cited Q4 revenue prospects as flat to down in the "low-single digit percentage range" despite a new and ongoing TV advertising campaign, an SMB initiative, and new color and mono laser printer products announced yesterday. Wall Street responded in the negative, with shares down about 5%, or just under $60/share, near the close of Tuesday trading.

IE7 and the Lexmark Print Bar

Glad to see that my update from the IE7 beta to released included the previously installed Lexmark Print Bar.

Now how the functions interact, with their seemingly overlapping print enhancements, is still an open question -- worth looking into?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Big Day for Internet Printing

Microsoft officially announced Internet Explorer 7.0 today. I won't summarize the new features, market situation or history of Web browsers, as others have already done a great job with that. But I will point out that one of the biggest improvements in IE 7 compared to its predessors is enhanced printing!

As a pretty much full-time Firefox devotee, I don't use IE very often, but I have been using the Beta of Version 7, intermittently anyway. And the printing is much better. And as a matter of fact, Microsoft's spokesperson says, "the most popular feature among beta testers has been improved printing of Web pages". Hey hey -- how about that!

Interesting that enhanced or improved printing really just means that pages come out of your printer they way you'd expect them to!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

InfoTrends Acquistion

Here's another news item that surfaced after returning from my vacation. Industry analyst firm InfoTrends (aka CAP Ventures) has been acquired by Questex.

Observations: Where Are They Now?

by Jim Lyons

Taking a cue from the mainstream media that caters to the public’s insatiable interest in child television stars and has-been musicians, Jim Lyons takes a walk down memory lane in the printing and imaging industry. No stranger to the spotlight himself, Lyons shines a light on key technologies and executives to reveal how the industry’s cast of characters has helped define the printing and imaging industry.

A 10-year-old “archeological deposit” of past issues of The Hard Copy Observer inspired my “hard copy time capsule” article that kicked off this column almost a year ago (Observer, 12/05). Since then, I have enjoyed combining a historical perspective with a look to the future. But this month, I’m “going retro” once again to look back at a few of the companies, products, and technologies that make up our industry and to examine how, in most cases, the notable figures of yesteryear are prospering today. (In addition to firsthand knowledge of the companies, products, technologies, and people mentioned here, I also benefited from The Hard Copy Observer Archives and interested readers who contributed to this trip down memory lane.)

One of the inspirations for this month’s column was the recent news that Monotype acquired Linotype (Observer, 9/06). Both of these companies are legendary names from the printer industry’s early days, when fonts were a really big deal and the desktop publishing (DTP) movement was white hot, forcing the printing industry to learn far more about typography than TmsRmn and Helv (the font names of the LaserJet’s first proportional typefaces). At the time, the ability of PostScript-based DTP programs to send output directly to “Lino” typesetters seemed magical—although how many users actually did so is another question.

Bob Givens, president and CEO of Monotype Imaging, served as company spokesperson in last month’s Observer story on the acquisition. Givens first appeared in the pages of The Hard Copy Observer in October 1994, commenting on Agfa’s Universal Font Scaling Technology (UFST), which was a progeny of Intellifont, a technology that Givens helped develop in the years preceding The Hard Copy Observer’s inaugural issue. At the time, Givens was vice president of Agfa’s Typographic Systems, which had morphed through ownership and name changes from Compugraphic, and UFST was discussed at that summer’s San Francisco Seybold Conference. The Observer’s article on Seybold San Francisco 1994 discussed Infinifont technology. Although that font technology appeared to be gaining momentum and was embraced by HP and other vendors, today Infinifont is obsolete and has been replaced by UFST from Monotype Imaging, née Agfa Monotype, née Agfa Compugraphic. (Thanks to a fellow industry veteran for clarifying this history.) Remarkably, Bob Givens still captains the ship.

My initial column on Microsoft’s XML Paper Specification (XPS) was also rather nostalgic (Observer, 4/06), delving back to the 1980s, and the column generated an interesting response from a colleague at QualityLogic, one of the small but important firms making up the XPS ecosystem supporting Microsoft’s moves in this area. Dave Jollata, QualityLogic’s chief operating officer, noted, “When Microsoft acquired TrueImage from Bauer, they [Microsoft] approached us to take over Bauer’s application test files (which we did). That spawned an entire product line for us that is still alive and well today … [QualityLogic] also just added a former Bauer guy to our board—Steve Butterfield. [It’s a] small world.” As a refresher, Bauer and TrueImage were in the middle of the Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe printer language battles of the late 1980s.

Moving more into the hardware realm, a contingent of longtime HP executives now lead a number of other printing and imaging firms. For example, Kodak employs several former HP alumni, including Antonio Perez, CEO of Kodak, and Jim Langley, president of Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group (GCG). Other examples of former HP executives who now work for other printer OEMs include Steve Fletcher, president and COO of Konica Minolta Printing Solutions, which incorporates the QMS legacy and Minolta’s subsequent acquisition, and Bill Rumold, CEO of TallyGenicom, a company whose name is a combination of venerable printer industry names. Former HP employees also continue to influence the imaging and printing industry in other ways. One notable exception is Wall Street analyst Cindy Shaw, who has HP and Dell work experience on her resume. Shaw is a regular (and favorite) on the Wall Street panel at the annual Lyra Imaging Symposium and is often quoted in the Wall Street Journal and seen on CNBC. This partial listing may be the result of HP bias on my part, but it is not surprising that the longtime industry leader would develop so much technical and management talent and then see that talent disperse throughout the industry.

But how about people joining HP? CEO Mark Hurd has been praised for hiring top external talent, but that trend has mostly been on the PC side of the business. However, earlier this year, Bruce Dahlgren, senior vice president of worldwide enterprise sales for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), was hired away from Lexmark, but that defection was not without controversy. Lexmark challenged HP’s hiring of Dahlgren in the Kentucky courts, which put Dahlgren’s position at HP in limbo and prevented him from talking with industry analysts at HP’s analyst event in June. While these events seemed controversial at the time, they now pale in comparison to the headlines surrounding HP’s tactics in investigating members of its board as sources of possible leaks.

As the final part of my “Where are they now?” column, let’s briefly look at the flip side: who has not moved on? I mentioned Bob Givens’s staying power earlier, but a couple of well-known HP names also come to mind. As I have noted in this column previously, Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi, currently leader of HP’s IPG, has served HP in a variety of positions and has been quoted in the pages of The Hard Copy Observer since nearly its beginning. Cathy Lyons (a longtime HP colleague but no relation) first appeared in the second issue of The Hard Copy Observer, touting HP’s new LaserJet IIP Plus (Observer, 11/91). After achieving great success in a variety of roles, Lyons has become HP’s chief marketing officer (CMO), a position she has held for a little over a year. These long-timers prove the exception to Hurd’s practice of importing his top management talent.

These industry names are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In an industry with no shortage of interesting players, there is more than enough information to make “Where are they now?” a recurring topic explored in this column. Message to readers: I’ll need your help!

HP's Fall Printing and Imaging Announcement

OK, I was on vacation, that's my excuse! I'm a little late getting to a comment on HP's (NYSE HPQ) big Fall Printing and Imaging announcement, which occurred last week on the 3rd of October. (And no, it wasn't covered by 60 Minutes.)

With enterprise customers as the focus of the launch, the headliner is the new inkjet technology HP has branded "Edgeline". Read HP's materials and catch all the analysis in next month's Hard Copy Observer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Google's Small Announcement

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) $1.65 Billion acquisition of YouTube certainly doesn't rate as a small announcement, but the evolution and merging of Writely and Google Spreadsheets into Google Docs and Spreadsheets does qualify. (See left hand screen shot above, and click on the image for higher resolution viewing.)

As a beta tester of both of the separate products (or are they services?), I noticed the change last night, but today, Oct 11th, is the official launch, timed with the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Neither product matches the scope of Microsoft's Word and Excel, but that's kind of the point. I found that for simple documents and spreadsheets they're pretty nice, and of course having your files stored remotely means they're accessible from whatever computer you find yourself using. The collaborative features mean work teams can have access to and modify files, and the link to Gmail (my email client of choice) is just one more little nicety -- though notice on the right-hand screen shot they still have the label "spreadsheets" that links to the combined site.

One loss in all this? Looks like the Writely name is gone -- which I liked.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thank You NewspaperDirect!

A survivor of the dot-com boom and bust, NewspaperDirect continues on with their original value proposition of providing print-on-demand newspapers in locations where traditional physical distribution can't reach.

With lots of breaking news going on while cruising the last few weeks (an Atlantic crossing no less), I was able to get a USAToday printed on board thanks to this company's offering. A little pricey ($3.95 a day) but what do you expect on a cruise?