Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dude, you're getting a ...

One of the more dramatic moments in my years of attending the Lyra Imaging Symposium (eight out of ten by my count) came right after lunch today. And like all conferences, much of the best stuff comes outside the formal sessions!

As we dutiful conference attendees returned from our luncheon program a crowd of many of the leading Wall Street analysts that participate in the Symposium were gathered around a single laptop computer. Clearly something major was going on! The analysts were reading the "not surprising but still shocking" news about the CEO shuffle at Dell (Dell Inc), and preparing to report to their own constituencies on the developments.

Michael Dell is back in the CEO role, and in a bit of irony on this last day of the printing industry's major annual conference, printers WERE mentioned in at least some of the news articles about Dell's recent travails and resulting shake-up.

Kodak Inkjet confirmed for February 8th!

At today's final day of the Lyra Imaging Symposium, Kodak's anticipated February 8th inkjet announcement was confirmed at the beginning, middle, and end of the day-long sessions.

A Kodak speaker on commercial printing who preempted the question with an umprompted answer during his Q&A session in the morning's opening keynote, Henry Wilhelm (yes, that Wilhelm of photo testing fame) after lunch, and the day-ending Wall Street panelists who'd listened in on the early morning Eastman Kodak Company earnings conference call, all confirmed that February 8th will be the day of Kodak's long-awaited inkjet printer announcement.

It wasn't really necessary to attend the Symposium for this information, as other news sources covered it as well, but it was a lot more fun!

It's a wrap!

The 2007 Lyra Symposium is now history. It was a great one! I'll have some notes on the second day highlights a bit later -- still a little networking to do! Please check back soon! And also stay tuned for a Demo 2007 summary, coming tomorrow.

Sea Bass versus Prime Rib?

The first half of the second day of Lyra has just wrapped up. As the conference has settled into its two-day format, this is the block of time that covers a very wide range of subjects, including commercial and industrial printing, and also the very critical supplies areas. It's a mixture of Lyra analysts and industry representatives, with a ringer thrown in the middle, Wall Street analyst Ben Reitzes of UBS, who gave a great presentation entitled "How Does HP Stay on Top? A Financial Analyst Perspective". (NYSE HPQ)

Closing the morning was a redux by a favorite from last year, Linda Boykin of Office Depot. Linda's tremendous presentation skills again brought all of us industry insiders back to the reality of the real world. She revisited her "lady" from last year, and introduced the "consumer" cab driver this year, describing their real user needs and how she and Office Depot do their best to identify and meet them in the printer and supplies areas. As for the title of this post? Linda got us ready for a well-deserved lunch with a story about Prime Rib and Chilean Sea Bass, that actually related to toner and ink!

This conference doesn't have "Demo God" awards (that's the next one), but if we did it would have to include Linda!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lyra Presentations

With the exception of Ann Priede’s opening presentation and Steve Reynolds’ introduction to the MFP panel, I have so far ignored the Lyra presentations which were sprinkled through the first day of the Symposium, which has just completed.

One of them, in fact, was a lunchtime chat by Lyra founder Charley LeCompte recalling the original Lyra Symposium in 1998. He talked about Lyra’s desire to come up with a “high fiber” conference, and thus in the beginning exclusively featuring analysts (and their accompanying analysis, of course), foregoing the "fluff" of thinly veiled commercials from company executives. They’ve wisely backed off the "all analysts" purist approach, as can be noted throughout my day’s worth of summaries, but the analyst presos are a key part of the Symposium. They’re just difficult to summarize in a few cryptic lines in a blog posting!

And for completeness, I'll mention the remainder of the Lyra staff's presentations on Day One. Larry Jamieson, who’s always relevant and provocative, presented on "Office Printing 2.0: Forecasting the Changing Roles of Workgroup"; Lloyd "Grey" Held and Cortney Kasuba, offered a commercial (er…I mean update) on the new Lyra service, "Balancing Forecasts with Real-World Print Data"; and Jiqiang Rong shared his analysis of selling printers and supplies in China, titled "An Olympic Feat: Selling in China".

Now off to toast Lyra’s 10th annual conference at this evening's reception!

Keeping the focus! More from Lyra...

The late afternoon at the Lyra Symposium is typically a time to fight off information overload and try to focus on a few key ideas, even when the mind and body aren’t always willing.

The recent Lyra tradition is to close with a lively panel of Wall Street analysts, which definitely helps keep the enthusiasm and attention alive.

Before today’s WS panel, two vendor presentations offered some of those nuggets I'm that I'm referencing.

Immediately after the afternoon break, Xerox’s David Bates returned from the morning’s panel on MFP’s with a pitch entitled "Extensible Interface Platform: Increasing Customization, Productivity, and Security" that reinforced the point about customizing printers and MFPs to conform to the enterprise’s document workflow, rather than forcing the workflow to conform to the hardware’s idiosyncrasies.

Right before the Wall Street horde, Stephen Nigro of HP and Grant Fletcher of Rastar Digital Marketing offered a tag-team presentation on the latter company’s use of the former’s products, in "From Postcards to Billboards: Commercial Printing Technologies at Rastar Digital Marketing". Nigro’s setup was concise and focused on two key strategic models employed by HP – one based on the traditional "paper pie" that continues to be used, and the other that equates characteristics of Internet content and printed matter on the same two dimensions. Fletcher, of Rastar, a Salt Lake City marketing and printing company, then detailed some of their industry-leading practices in application of digital marketing techniques.

The Wall Street panel, moderated by Ann Priede, included a great line-up of Wall Street analysts and covered everything from the razors-and-blades models, company innovations and acquisitions, and impending opportunities and threats facing the entire industry. Way more than we can get into via a blog posting! Hate to say it but you had to be here.

Another Shadow

Just as HP casts a shadow across the printing and imaging industry in the hardware and supplies categories, who might one think of in the same way when it comes to the software business? Microsoft, of course! And the MS influence over the printer industry is no exception.

With the official Vista retail release last night, it was fitting that Lyra convened the after-lunch panel on the subject of Microsoft’s XPS (XML Printing System). (For historic perspective from me, see Observations for April and August 2006.) Vicki Milton led the group of eight representatives of software companies (Adobe Systems, Artifex Software ELAN GMK, Software Imaging, Global Graphics, Monotype Imaging, Peerless Systems, Software Imaging, Zoran) who deal in some respect with this new standard. Note the inclusion of Adobe Systems, whose PDF format has been often identified by industry pundits as the target of XPS.

Much of the discussion was far beyond the interest area of this blog. Despite the idea of this as a head-to-head competition, as it’s seen among many in the industry, I like the idea expressed by one panelist. To paraphrase, basically a tussle between the two companies and their two standards is good for consumers – whoever best meets customer needs, wins!

HP's Shadow -- more from the Lyra Symposium

The anticipated panel discussion on the MFP market finally came, as the final session before lunch. The panel was moderated by Steve Reynolds, Senior Lyra Research analyst, and included David Bates, of Xerox Corporation, Don Hsieh, Konica Minolta, Mark Meisberger, Samsung Electronics America, Paul Preo, IBM Printing Systems Division, and Chris Privon, HP (NYSE HPQ).

While the Ricoh representative didn’t make it, the joke (?) was that with IBM Printing Systems on the panel, wasn’t that now all the same? And the discussion did go to their deal announced last week, and what it meant for the industry at large and Lexmark in particular. Steve Reynolds interjected that the word following the deal from IBM executives was that existing vendor relationships would remain and indeed be strengthened, but admitted doubt, with Ricoh themselves as well as Samsung, as an incumbent Ricoh laser supplier, seeming to have an inside track in the long run.

Much of the remainder of the discussion during the panel continued the theme from the two previous speakers – Chris Privon of HP, on "High-Performance Innovation in Business Printing", and Steve Reynolds, with a presentation entitled "Originals and Copies: Discussing Edgeline Technology and Other Office MFP Trends". Edgeline is HP’s inkjet-based printer/copier technology announced in 2006, currently deployed in their photo kiosk products, and "coming to an office printer near you" in Spring 2007, and creating waves in the industry along the way. In fact Reynolds’ presentation was admittedly divided into three parts: 1) an update on the traditional copier segments and players, 2) HP’s entry into the copier markets with the HP 4345mfp (which he describes as an “overnight success ten years in the making”), and 3) the looming presence of Edgeline-based products.

It’s interesting to observe the shadow that HP casts across the printing industry, even in the copier category, with its strong traditional players like Xerox, Canon, and Ricoh. HP’s relentless pursuit of market opportunities is amazing to watch in this industry as a whole and at this conference specifically. They openly tout business-oriented goals like the "$30 Billion opportunity" they refer to in their Edgeline discussions, but at the same time strive to best meet customer needs knowing that’s what will determine victory in the end.

Drinking from a fire hose!

Maybe it was all the "flow" discussion during Adobe Systems presentation that just concluded (hybrid document workflows in their case), but I couldn't get away from the cliche I've used as a title for my first Lyra sessions posting. We're halfway through the first half day (ie morning break) and I'm already overwhelmed. We've heard from Ann Priede, Managing Editor of The Hard Copy Observer, with "2006 In Review: A Lyra Salute to Very Important Products". She covered forecasts for the various printer and MFP categories, many of which can be put it in terms of a box office favorite from late 2006: "unit growth, very nice, revenue growth, not so much." She also mentioned some significant developments during the year, including HP's (NYSE HPQ) photo kiosks and Edgeline printing technologies, and Lenovo's printer consortium. In a presentation titled "On the Future of Digital Creativity", Frank Cost, Associate Dean, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Codirector, RIT Printing Industry Center, and a self-confessed "book publishing monster", showed us his view of the future in the world of personal book publishing. Rick Brown, of Adobe Systems, with the aforementioned Keynote address: "Going with the Flow—Hybrid Document Workflows and the Format-Flexible Office". I'll fill in details as we go! Now back to the show!

Lyra Symposium Kicks Off

Rancho Mirage, CA (January 30, 2007) -- What do printer/copier makers HP (NYSE HPQ), Xerox, Ricoh and their new partner IBM, Samsung, and Konica Minolta all have in common? The attendees at the 10th annual Lyra Imaging Symposium will find out this morning, as the first half-day of today's opening sessions closes with a panel featuring these companies' executives entitled "Chasing the MFP Opportunity", to be moderated by Lyra's Steve Reynolds.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sponsorship Buddies

I am just leaving Salt Lake City this morning for Palm Springs. I've been attending the Sundance Film Festival, based in Park City, UT, as I've done for many years, in the capacity of a fan of independent film. I'm heading for Palm Springs (Rancho Mirage more specifically) to attend the 10th annual Lyra Imaging Symposium, where I will attend the conference and also be the event's official blogger, right here at jimlyonsobservations.blogspot.com.

One interesting parallel? Among Sundance's many sponsors, Adobe Systems and HP (NYSE HPQ) are two of five of the highest-level "presenting" variety, along with VW, Entertainment Weekly, and AOL. At the Lyra event, Adobe is the official Event sponsor and HP is among a handful in the top tier of "platinum" sponsors.

Good to see representatives of the Printing and Imaging biz taking such an active role in these important events!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lexmark Worried?

As mentioned in this morning's post on the IBM/Ricoh deal, Lexmark has been a long-time OEM supplier to IBM for its office printers. Now there may be some risk to the longevity of that relationship. As I said this morning, stay tuned...

Welcome InfoPrint Solutions!

The newswires are buzzing this morning over IBM's printer deal with Ricoh. The IBM sale involves dealing 49% of their printer business to Ricoh, establishing a joint venture to continue its base in Boulder, CO. IBM's got the official word and Reuters has a piece with some interesting analyst quotes.

IBM of course famously divested another printer unit in the early 1990's, the company now known as Lexmark. That deal also had a very lengthy and graceful hand-off of branding rights that is mindful of the current transaction's details, though it is structured completely differently with the today's JV announcement. The relationship between IBM and Lexmark has continued with Lexmark acting as an OEM supplier for the Infoprint office printers.

It's assumed that these products are included under the aegis of the new organization, InfoPrint Solutions though the coverage emphasizes data center printers. The name, btw, seems to have "upgraded" to a mid-word capital "P" in its new form -- "Infoprint" is currently IBM's printer brand. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hey HP -- Ship it with a Printer next time!

As a long-time Hewlett-Packard (NYSE HPQ) employee still with many ties since leaving the active rolls in late 2005, I offer this advice to HP's PC people with the very best of intentions. And I hope it doesn't sound too much like one of those Rodney-Dangerfield-like whines that have been known to be heard, on rare occasions anyway, from people on the "peripherals" side of the biz.

When I blogged about the new "Kitchen Computer" from CES a couple of weeks ago, I was focused on the "integrated photo printer" feature. And at the time, though the press materials touted "home photo kiosk" capabilities, I bemoaned the fact that I could not find a decent picture showing this feature enabled.

Now, this morning's Wall Street Journal carries a review of HP's TouchSmart PC (sorry, link for subscribers only) by Katherine Boehret of The Mossberg Solution. While it's not an overall negative take on the product, it's not exactly a glowing review, either. One suggestion on how to improve future reviews? Ship it with a printer! Katherine comments "...its back side is made to hold a small H-P photo printer, which isn't included." I'm starting to see a pattern here!

The promise of walk-up photo printing in the kitchen is cool, HP. Take advantage of it! (The imaging software, which IS included, gains high marks, btw!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

LaserJet Series II Memories

One of my favorite bloggers, Robin Raskin, has reviewed printers for a long time, and in her recent post she waxes nostalgic about her first Laser Printer, the HP (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet Series II. (Robin's impressive, as she gets the syntax exactly right, after twenty years!) She claims to have paid over $2,600 for it which I believe was actually the final resting place for the price, as it started at $2,495 I am almost sure. (The 1987 introduction pre-dates the first edition of The Hard Copy Observer, the industry's ultimate authority on such matters, so fact-checking takes on a little more effort!)

She brings us up to the present describing her recent purchase of the Samsung CLP-510 color laser. The printer is apparently living up to expectations, but she does mention the fact that a full toner replacement (four cartridges) will add up to $250 versus the $230 she just paid for the complete printer, supplies included.

Robin also provides a concise user's view of the ink/laser comparison that we like to comment on from time to time.

Staples' "Shake It" Commercial

Similar to last week's report from the comics page of my local newspaper, this week's observation on the pervasiveness of printer supplies issues in our popular culture comes from watching NFL Football and CNBC. Staples (Staples Inc) is running one of their Easy Button commercials, certainly in part inspired by the popular TV show "The Office". It depicts the junior member of the office staff literally shaking the entire (fairly bulky) office printer that he's noticed is running out of ink/toner, when casually commanded by his mates to "shake it".

For my money it's a pretty good commercial, so watch for it. It's not made an appearance yet on the company's advertising web page, which contains some other pretty good ads.

And here's a fair warning -- use caution when searching YouTube for either "staples" or "shake it"!

Monday, January 22, 2007

HP Announces CES Awards


With the 2007 CES now just a memory, HP (NYSE HPQ) has released a lengthy list of products that brought home awards from the Las Vegas show. The printers and one scanner included in the release are "below the fold", with the Photosmart A716 photo printer (pictured above) the big winner as a 2006 PC Magazine product of the year (but announced at the show) as well as a winner of a Storage Visions Conference Award. Other mentions include the Photosmart Pro B9180 photo printer and Photosmart D7360 printer (for the CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards, as Digital Imaging honorees). The scanner mentioned is the G4050, which was a finalist in the CNET People's Choice awards. Not to be forgotten is the HP photo kiosk, HP Photosmart Studio a "Retail Resources Best of Innovations Winner" among the CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards.

Seems the biggest overall winner for HP (though a bit subjective) is the "kitchen computer" I blogged about from the show. The HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC's awards include Yahoo's prestigious "last gadget standing" award.

Getting ready for a big week!

Actually two big weeks -- there are lots of things to get done this week, in preparation for a two-conference week next week in Palm Springs. The Lyra Imaging Symposium kicks off its 10th annual event next Monday January 29th, and is followed two days later by Demo 2007. I attended both events last year, and compared and contrasted them in a special column for The Hard Copy Observer last March. They were a couple weeks apart, in Palm Springs and Phoenix, respectively, but this year, as luck would have it, they're both being held in the Palm Springs area, just a few miles distant from each other.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Those Problematic Printers

Just as printers were identified last year as potential portals for hackers and other miscreants set on raising mischief in the Enterprise IT world, the story has come to light again. Computerworld is covering the issue.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bound and Gagged

The Tribune Media Services comic by Dana Summers had a great one today! My January Observations had a discussion about consumers' sensitivity to the perceived high cost of ink jet cartridges. Well, pity Bound and Gagged's poor Octopus who whines to a pair of fish, "Your lucky you're not an octopus. The cost of ink cartridges is killing me!" And I believe that would be black-only cartridges! Check out the 1/15 Bound and Gagged at the Tribune Media Services site, comicspage.com.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Observations: All Color All The Time?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One plus one equals...?

In late December Kodak (NYSE EK) announced a delay in news on both the sale of its medical imaging business and its intentions in the inkjet printer market. Now the company has announced the sale of the business unit, and The Wall Street Journal, from its headline anyway, sees a connection between the two, in "Sale Positions Kodak for Printer Push".

HP's Kitchen Computer

This week at CES, HP (NYSE HPQ) announced the HP TouchSmart PC IQ770. In addition to numerous innovations, it includes the ability to more or less integrate an HP photo printer. As the initial CNET review notes, "...another reason why we like the TouchSmart PC, it can work like a photo kiosk." A nice photo that shows the "kiosk" configuration is not yet available (the one above is the best I could come up with), but HP's demo video makes for interesting viewing. Note that one of the first "headlines" in the video includes the phrase "your information at your fingertips". Now there's a phrase I've heard somewhere before. Let's hope HP and Microsoft aren't heading for a big trademark dustup ala the current Cisco/Apple spat over Iphone. (Actually with HP's new computer showcasing Vista's capabilities, MS is probably in a generous mood.)

And speaking of old ideas becoming new again, does anyone remember the HP150, circa 1983? It was HP's answer to the IBM PC, and included a touchscreen and integrated printer!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Printers Mentioned in CES Panel Discussion!

It was about ten years ago when I attended my first CES and participated in a panel about printing and imaging. It was weird being in Vegas in January and trying to get over the "if this is Vegas it must be Comdex in November" syndrome. But it didn't seem strange that there would be a printer panel. Now, in 2007, it doesn't seem weird at all to be in Vegas in January (after all, there is no Comdex anymore), but it does seem unusual to have such a hard time even finding printing products. BUT, during yesterday's "SuperSession" hosted by long-time strategic analyst Tim Bajarin, the prospects for printers as part of the future digital home were highly touted by one panelist. And no it was not HP's Satjiv Chahil, but rather Levy Gerzberg of Zoran. Read it all here in Zoran's press release.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year, and must be time for CES

My first post of 2007, with the Consumer Electronic Show starting this weekend in Las Vegas. Check back here for CES developments in Imaging and Printing!