Thursday, October 12, 2006

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!

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