Thursday, May 31, 2007
One of those veterans leaving the company, as reported in the HP release "HP Appoints Michael Hoffmann to Lead Supplies Business", is recent supplies boss Pradeep Jotwani. A 25-year veteran of the company, both inside and outside the printing business, Pradeep was a young channel manager when an internal call came out to actually "name" the new printer product being fast-tracked to the nascent PC Sales Channel. While most company veterans favored tradition and wanted the new product to carry the "catchy" moniker "2686A" (as a proud descendent of the room-sized, $100 thousand dollar "2680" laser printer), some thought now was the time for HP to "get" marketing and do something truly catchy. And the (fairly reliable) legend has it that the most popular idea was Pradeep's -- the made-up "LaserJet", which was linked to HP's recent "ThinkJet" product ("thermal ink jet"), and was unpopular with some of the techies because there was no literal "jet" involved in the new laser printer, unlike with TIJ. As they say, the rest is history!
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Actually, my opinion is that HP may be kidding themselves a bit on much of this. Print buttons on blogs? We've survived without them so far, so that should tell us something! And back to that 48%? What happened to all those camera phone photo prints? Seems like they'd be the dominant source of home printing, based on predictions of the last few years. The world is changing, or more accurately, the world has already changed. Print "ain't what it used to be" and will play a diminishing role in the future, at least as a proportion to all information shared. You read it here first!
On this theme, HP's LaserJet blog covers similar topics but also reaches, in my opinion. Vince Ferraro mentions Scribd in his latest post, "LaserJet Printers in the Web 2.0 World", as I've covered previously in early March and April. But in my opinion he's also stretching it when he states "I like what they are doing because they are essentially trying to create the YouTube equivalent for documents and this content ultimately needs to be printed". No doubt, some of those docs will be printed. But many will be shared in other ways.
I prefer a broader view of printing as a part, and only a part, of ever-changing information flow. HP is wiser to stick with that thinking as the foundation of its strategy, as Vyomesh Joshi is quoted in the PC Magazine piece I posted about yesterday:
While we are very successful, I want to transform our business, it's not about the means, it's about the end. It could be making DVDs, printing, or viewing. Build on our core competency, and move our organization.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I blogged about the Staples "Shake It" printer supplies commercial back just after the holidays. It was a printer-related TV commercial that had been getting so much play that I thought it was worth noting and linking to. And, despite the growth in my blog traffic since then, I still get a significant number of hits on my blog via search terms like "Shake the Printer ad".
So the current favorite in the category? The Fedex Kinko's "No More All Nighters" commercial, which features one office worker chugging a pot of coffee while simultaneously learning that a co-worker has subverted the staff's need for an all-nighter by using FedEx Kinko's. You can see the commercial at the official site or at YouTube. The quality is better on the former while you have a chance for comments on the latter. (Only one comment so far though.)
And another interesting advertising angle? My Google search for "nomoreallnighters.com" (an unneeded redundancy in effect as this is the domain provided in the commercial's call to action) yields a top-of-the-page sponsored hit for Mimeo.com! (The first natural hit is, naturally, the FedEx Kinko's site.)
Friday, May 25, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I’m off this week but will be checking back occasionally…
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I'd considered buying a new machine with Vista pre-installed that could serve as a testbed, but that seemed a bit impractical and yes, even cowardly. So, earlier this week I took the plunge with my everyday working laptop, via an upgrade software package I received from HP (NYSE HPQ) as a purchaser of an XP Laptop during a pre-Vista window (last Fall). It was a lengthy process, with the biggest chunk of time creating the old XP recovery disks (12 CDs with numerous failures) before the actual Vista install. And so far so good! I like the look and feel, and even little things like the utilities for power management and wireless access have improved usability.
One thing that helped my experience be so smooth? Though billed as an "upgrade", the software DVD I received allowed the equivalent of a brand new installation, thus avoiding the bloat of the pre-loaded "craplets" that has been much discussed in the Apple commericals and also by Walt Mossberg in his Personal Technology column. Of course, as this is not an upgrade, all the applications previously installed are gone. But my missing apps weren't a big deal -- I installed my MS Office Suite, but then realized my dependence on Google's (NASDAQ GOOG) applications suite really helps in not being so client-bound as I think I am.
And (drum roll please)... how about the printing? Both my HP Color LaserJet 2550 and my HP LaserJet 1320 came up fully plug-and-play, and printed my initial test pages beautifully. As that other and much older commerical used to say, "no runs, no drips, no errors"...oh wait, I can't quite remember but maybe they were talking about inkjets?
And as further reinforcement of any potential cognitive dissonance (aka buyer's remorse), this morning, at TheStreet.com, Jonathan Blum writes about his experiences, very much in the same vein as mine, concluding it's "worth a weekend" to upgrade to Vista.
In the end, I'm please, and relieved!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here's the table that I created that accompanies the May Observations column in The Hard Copy Observer. I recognize this is just a start, and influenced by my personal judgement and the business experience of the management of PrintingForLess.com, and I welcome your comments/amendments/disagreements!
by Jim Lyons
The Hard Copy Observer, May 2007
Most people know that small businesses account for a surprisingly large proportion of jobs and play an important role in the U.S. and worldwide economies. So it should come as no surprise that there is a printing and imaging opportunity in this market. Even in the early days of the desktop printer market, the first generation of products such as the HP (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet provided the professional image quality and ease of use that helped small businesses "look big."
And the focus on small businesses has intensified today. One of the most dramatic moves in this area was Xerox’s (NYSE XRX) recent announcement that it will acquire Global Imaging Systems for $1.5 billion. At the end of April, HP announced it would acquire Logoworks, a company that provides design services to small businesses. HP’s acquisition is much smaller than Xerox’s in terms of dollars, but it signals HP’s continuing effort to serve small businesses with products and services that allow them to print materials in-house.
Two years ago, HP announced a strategic relationship with Logoworks (Observer, 6/05) and a handful of other Web-oriented services that target small businesses, and the goal of targeting small businesses was definitely on the mind of Vince Ferraro, vice president of HP’s LaserJet business, when I interviewed him for my column on in-house marketing (Observer, 12/06). The subject of that column was solutions that enable small businesses to print in-house on desktop color machines instead of outsourcing print jobs to copy shops and commercial printers.
But what about the printing needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are not best served in-house? That conundrum led to my interest in learning more about the business guided by one of the speakers at AIIM/On Demand: Andrew Field, president and CEO of PrintingForLess.com.
PrintingForLess.com, the self-proclaimed "#1 Online Commercial Printing Company," employs a bevy of Heidelberg presses but is extremely focused on printing work for SMBs. Although the firm is located in Livingston, MT, it is equipped for completely virtual communications via telephone and Internet access. This remote headquarters location certainly validates the print industry’s participation in the e-commerce equation, even when the net product is printed material that has to be shipped to its final destination.
Field's business approach is a sensible one: PrintingForLess.com;s goal is to assist customers with the design, ordering, production, and delivery of printed materials, so customers can focus on the more essential tasks of operating and growing their businesses. All too often, companies forget that most small-business users are not early adopters—small businesses typically lack the time, interest, and resources necessary to deploy the latest high-tech, cutting-edge digital imaging solutions.
Field describes his company’s typical customers as including "doctors, dentists, hair stylists, concrete contractors, landscape companies, and myriad nonprofit organizations," to name a few. In a dramatic example of the breadth of his firm’s existing customer base, Fields reads a list of recent customers from my personal zip code, demonstrating that my friends and neighbors in Boise are doing quite a business with PrintingForLess.com.
Interestingly, the company does not shy away from the question of when to print in-house or at a local copy shop but uses its Web page to directly address the issue. According to the firm, print jobs for which image quality is not critical and only small quantities are needed are perfect for in-house desktop ink jet printers. When better image quality is required and the print job is larger, local copy shops may be the best solution. PrintingForLess.com says that the typical sweet spot for its services is a job that costs roughly $500 to produce. I've created a table that contains a brief overview of the factors that influence where to produce a print job. My intent is to offer this as a starting point, but by no means do I intend for it to be a be-all, end-all. Customer and industry input is welcome!
[Note and correction: earlier versions of this blog post and the hard copy version in the May 2007 The Hard Copy Observer misspelled Andrew Field's name. We apologize!]
Friday, May 11, 2007
Ed Baig of USAToday recently did a great review/comparison of Eastman Kodak Co's EasyShare 5300 and the HP (NYSE HPQ) Photosmart C5180 All-in-One. Titled "Almost a photo finish between Kodak, HP printers", Baig finds the printers fairly comparable. He favors the vividness (vividity?) of HP's photo colors, and finds interesting pros and cons for both machines, making the comparison difficult to sum up in a few words. So...if you're in the market or just curious, read the review!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The new PC Magazine came in the mail a couple of days ago (as mentioned in my earlier post about the potential future of inkjet printing), and the cover story is "PC Labs Picks The BEST NEW PRINTERS". Just seeing that makes my pulse bump up a bit, let alone noticing the cover photo of the HP OfficeJet 7680 inkjet all-in-one printer! It's basically an instinctual reaction at this point, from years of being directly involved with the marketing of new printer products and the hopes and dreams of being showcased in the annual PC Mag Printer Blockbuster edition, which typical came in the Fall in "the good old days". Also different in those days, compared to now, is the one issue would literally feature HUNDREDS of printer models, sliced and diced into numerous technology- and feature-driven categories. (I find it an interesting coincidence that just when I've been thinking about my response to the arrival of the annual PC Mag Printer Edition stirred emotions in me, Sears has kicked off an ad campaign about the tradition of the Sears catalog, which I can relate to as well, when the Fall arrival the the holiday toy catalog was always a milestone event during my even earlier days!)
This edition (May 22, 2007) covers only a total of seven products, a sampling of recently introduced printers and all-in-ones aimed at the small office/home office market, though author M. David Stone (a fellow 20-year-plus printer industry veteran) points out the blurring of categories over time and works potential buyers through a much more useful list of characteristics to consider -- including print quality, single- versus multi-function, mono versus color (including a nod to the advantages of color laser for one of my favorite categories, do-it-yourself marketing), and duty cycle factors, including paper handling and the products' actual rated duty cycle itself. It's an excellent review for the beginner or experienced printer buyer -- highly recommended!
Also recommended? The remainder of the piece, which is available online or in print form. There, Stone covers the seven models including inkjet and laser printers from Lexmark (LXK), HP (NYSE HPQ), Canon, Xerox (NYSE XRX), and Dell (NASDAQ DELL). I won't spoil the surprise of who receives the coveted PC Magazine Editors' Choice awards -- you have to go to the article!
Models covered in the PC Magazine 5/22/2007 edition include Lexmark C534DN, Canon imageClass MF4150, HP Officejet Pro L7680 Color All-in-One, Dell 3115cn MFP, Dell Photo 966, Xerox 618ON and Lexmark E250dn
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Comments from Memjet execs Bill McGlynn and Kim Beswick are included, as are those from Steve Hoffenberg of Lyra Research. And Glen Hopkins of HP, who first surfaced in the press in the Business Week piece I covered several weeks back in "HP, Memjet -- Words Heating Up", is back with more disparaging comments.
Per the article, HP is not impressed:
"It's not a breakthrough technology," said Glen Hopkins, HP's vice president for research and development for inkjet printers...
...Hopkins said the Edgeline is for serious businesses that need both speed and quality. He says the Memjet product sacrifices quality to keep the price low. "They're coming at it from a different angle and are assuming people want really fast speed but don't care that much about image quality and product robustness," he said. "They're making trade-offs that we have not made in the past and don't anticipate making in the future."
Not so, says Kim Beswick, Memjet's vice president of marketing. Beswick said the company is achieving high quality and speed.
Beswick said Memjet has no plans to compete with HP's Edgeline products, but sees a niche for its technology with small and medium businesses and consumers who want speed and economy.
Hoffenberg said HP is wrong to dismiss Memjet so quickly.
As far as those other partners? Dey comes up with a list (Dell, Sony and Kodak) that he admits McGlynn won't comment on, but later goes on:
The company hasn't reached a deal with a printer manufacturer yet but is talking with well- known electronics companies not yet in the printer business, McGlynn said.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Peter Burrows of Business Week has put together an intriguing acquistion argument in a commentary entitled "Why Dell Needs Radio Shack". Larry Dignan on the SeekingAlpha blog responds and counters Burrows' points, but does gives credit where credit is due for "thinking outside the box" -- as in big box?. Both discussions are excellent and worthy of a read.
And Radio Shack (RSH) shareholders can be happy no matter what might result in the end -- the speculation in Business Week is asserted to be responsible for a $2 share price gain in the stock since Friday.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Stone also offers some interesting rule-of-thumb metrics that stress the kinds of orders-of-magnitude comparisons that have the industry buzzing. For example, the HP Edgeline page-wide-technology product shipping this year has an if-sold retail price of over $23K, compared to the similarly-spec'd Memjet prototype projected to be available commercially in 2008 for $200 to $300. And the 2-second print time for Memjet's dedicated photo printer? "The fastest personal dedicated photo printer I've ever tested takes about 25 times as long", states Stone.
And speaking of Stone's tests, stay tuned. The May 22nd PC Mag also contains his piece on the latest and greatest 2007 printers, which I'm digesting and will report on tomorrow.
Consumer Digital Imaging Group sales totaled $778 million,down 14%, largely reflecting expected declines in digital capture revenue as a result of the company's strategy to reduce its digital camera portfolio in the low-end price range, decreases in photofinishing services at retail, and an industry-wide decline in snapshot printing. This was partially offset by growth in kiosks and related media, imaging sensors and royalty revenues. Loss from operations for the segment was $114 million, compared with a year-ago loss of $167 million,driven by significantly lower SG&A expenses, partially offset by higher silver costs. Highlights for the quarter included a 23% sales increase in the KODAK Gallery and a 13% increase in sales of KODAK PICTURE kiosks and related media. Additionally, Kodak remains in the top three in digital camera market share in the U.S. and worldwide. The company also introduced its new inkjet printer line during the first quarter and began shipment to retailers in March.
And from CEO Antonio Perez's comments:
On the Consumer Digital side, I am extremely pleased with the reception of our new line of consumer inkjet printers. We are selling everything we can make – which reflects both strong demand and the usual realities of ramping up production. It’s clear that our targeted customers really understand the value of Kodak quality, ease of use, and ink for as little as half the cost. Best Buy has proven to be a very effective launch partner. We are now adding other channel partners to our distribution network and are moving into additional geographies. To date, we have announced deals with MediaMarkt and Dixons in Europe and soon we will be announcing deals with other major retailers in the US. We are very happy with the retailers’ response to this new business model that clearly benefits consumers and will continue to make new retail announcements as we get closer to each introduction. Our goal continues to be to sell at least 500,000 units in 2007. Given the enthusiastic response, we plan to increase our 2007 inkjet investment by as much as $50 million in order to accelerate our ramp up, boost new product development, and position ourselves to better supply current and future demand. Let me tell you, this was the easiest and happiest decision that I had to make this quarter.
I give Perez credit with his comments, for staying on strategy with the new inkjet printer positioning message and being honest about an early ramp's mix of supply and demand factors. (I've read elsewhere that lack of product in the channel, ie BestBuy, must be wholly the result of intense demand.)
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Tiara Chairman Art Diamond noted that the industry is abuzz with forecasts, predictions and concerns regarding the effect that Silverbrook's MemJet™ (sic) and Hewlett Packard's (NYSE: HPQ) Edgeline™ and ColorLok™ ink jet technologies might have on the laser printer market. "These recent advances could displace toner-based machines at every market segment level from the low end to 70+ page per minute devices," Diamond said. "We deemed it essential to hold a Panel Discussion that explores future scenarios as part of our annual assessment of the state-of-the-art and the state-of-the-business of electrophotography."
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I'm attending "Connections 2007 -- The Digital Living Conference and Showcase" and just sat through a very interesting presentation by Parks and Associates Director of Research John Barrett, entitled "Social Media and Web 2.0". Barrett was summarizing Parks' findings from three recent studies, entitled Digital Media Habits, Global Digital Living and Web 2.0 & the New Net. And while I'm admittedly a "printing and imaging guy", I'm never expecting much if any direct discussion of my chosen industry at an event like this, no matter how interesting the topics may be in a broader sense (and how much down-the-road impact, plus or minus, might ultimately be at stake for printing and imaging). HOWEVER, that was not the case today!
Among the expected discussion topics including the heavy age bias in social networking activities like the use of MySpace, instant messaging and blogging (yes, the kids do it!), and the difficulty (but not impossibility) of monetizing this huge cultural trend, one area was hit on multiple times -- perhaps the most lucrative area for today's social networking revenues relates to photo sharing and resultant photo PRINTING! Barrett quoted the studies where more than twice as many social networkers spent money on printing photos (either at home or by ordering online) than any other activity. An example -- one of the studies, with data from Q3 2006, revealed 33% paying for printing photos at least once a month, more than twice as many as the #2 item, paying for using an online dating services.
The idea that there is paying and profitable business to be had in this industry is of course not lost on industry leaders like HP (NYSE HPQ) with their Snapfish service, and Eastman Kodak Company with their EasyShare Gallery. But it's still fascinating (and encouraging) to get a glimpse of how relatively important it is in the Social Networking/Web 2.0 ecosystem, especially from a reliable source outside the P&I business. One other factoid:
GreenPrint, the company based in Portland, OR focused on printing that's more environmentally friendly, has introduced a new font named EverGreen. The promise is to allow more content per printed page by using the new compressed but stylish and readable font, thereby reducing usage of printer paper, ink and toner. What was say, a 10-page report, can now be compressed into an 8-page report.
My results so far? My final draft of my May 2007 Observations column, spanning a page-and-a-third in 12-point single-spaced New Times Roman in Microsoft Word, ran to just two lines over a full page when shifting to EverGreen. I could then reduce it to less than a page by a little margin adjustment. (I should add that I also got to under a page simply by changing to a 10-point version of New Times Roman but I suppose like all things in software there are always multiple approaches to solving a problem, each with their own individual trade-offs.)
I'll be keeping tabs on the success of this product over time, and no doubt dredge up some historical font memories too. One thought that comes to mind is the old HP (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet lineprinter font that we used to use for those Legal-size, landscape monster spreadsheets -- and no, not that was not in Excel, but Lotus 1-2-3! (See Testing 1-2-3, January 2006 Observations.)
Note: The PDF version of the Press Release uses the EverGreen font.