Thursday, May 31, 2007

When to Outsource?

PC Magazine's coverage by Mark Hachman of HP's (NYSE HPQ) Printing and Imaging event this week includes a discussion of decision-making wrt when and when not to print in-house. Faithful readers will note this was a key discussion point in my May 2007 "Observations" column in The Hard Copy Observer and this blog. I interviewed Andrew Field, CEO of PrintingForLess.com, about his benchmarks for outsourcing, and carried a table that described some of the decision points. So it's interesting to read HP's views, of course keeping in mind their interest (at least if the "their" refers to the Desktop/Workgroup Printer people) in bringing more work in-house.

Coining the term "LaserJet"

Today's the day (May 31st) that a large wave of HP (NYSE HPQ) veterans will put in their last day with the company. An optional early retirement program takes effect, and to my many former co-workers who are taking this big step, congratulations and good luck. And don't hesitate to get in touch, please!

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

More on HP Web Printing Initiative

The San Jose Mercury News has a story on HP's (NYSE HPQ) expanding interest in enabling printing from the Web, as I've covered in numerous posts over the past year. An interesting statistic revealed in the article is that 48% of printing in the home is "directly from the Internet". And in addition to its acquisition of Tabblo earlier this year, HP is announcing a relationship for printing from SixApart blogs. (What, no Google Blogger? Yet?)

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

eWeek, PC Mag carry interview with HP's Vyomesh Joshi

eWeek and PC Magazine are up today with a summary and full-length interview, respectively, by-lined by Jim Louderback, entitled "HP Printer Chief: 'We Could Ink Jet Anything'". The interview, conducted by Mark Anderson, runs the gamut from the history of printing and generational changes embodied by Web 2.0, to competitive threats from Eastman Kodak Company and Memjet, and then on to 3D printing and large format printing in the home, of all things! This will take some further analysis of HP's (NYSE HPQ) position on so many topics, so stay tuned, but it's great reading for now!

Fedex Kinko's Print Online Commercial


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

Wal-Mart and Dell

The two seemingly invincible business machines from a couple of years ago, who showed that no organizations are truly invincible, have teamed up with a plan for Dell to gain some retail distribution via Wal-Mart stores. How about their printers and supplies??? Not surprisingly it looks like a PC-only deal, for now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Creative Printer Advertising

After Friday’s big news about Microsoft’s acquisition that gets them front and center into the online advertising fray, I thought it would be especially timely to look at some Printer Advertising topics, courtesy of Shane Vaughan, VP Marketing at Internet Advertising up-and-comer Balihoo. Thanks Shane!

I’m off this week but will be checking back occasionally…

Thursday, May 17, 2007

HPQ Printing Metrics May 2007

HP (NYSE HPQ) announced its Second Quarter '07 earnings after the bell yesterday so I'm following up with a tradition I started a few announcements back, logging the stated details provided about the printer business. This time, the numbers were less plentiful, as can be seen from the table, and some of the growth rates were less spectacular than in periods past, no doubt partly due to that bane of financial types, the "difficult compare" when the previous corresponding period (in this case Q2FY2006) was a blow-out.

Market Meltdown Revisited

On February 27 and a very drastic and nerve-wracking day in the stock markets, I captured a matrix of some of the companies I had been blogging about, and their share prices. With a major rebound in the last few months and another record close yesterday for the DJIA, I thought it would be interesting to go back and see how those stocks have fared. It shows there was money to be made but still a need to pick the right stocks!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Into the Vista Abyss?

For a long time now, I've prided myself (and occasionally pained myself) on being an early adopter, at least in a number of product categories. So it was long overdue for me to upgrade at least one of my PCs to the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system. I'd been frankly a bit intimidated up until now by my own past experience with Op Sys upgrades, and no doubt the Apple Commercials haven't helped that mindset. And, more germain to my chosen industry, all the discussion of Vista printing issues over at the LaserJet Blog made me leery as well.

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

Small Business Printing -- when to stay in-house, when to go out-sourced


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!

Observations: The Year of Small Business?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another Kodak/HP photo printer comparison

With all the news lately here's another I almost missed but wanted to get it in before the end of this week.

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!

HP LaserJet 1018 deal -- $65.45!!!

This is not a "Web deals" blog (yes, I've got a few favorite "web deals" sites of my own so email me if you're really interested), but it's a slow Friday afternoon, and going into the weekend here's one I've just got to flag. We've seen some sub-$100 deals for mono lasers from vendors like Brother and Samsung in the past, but here's one on a genuine HP LaserJet (NYSE: HPQ) for just $65.45 after rebate. No catch that I can see, except it's only available at www.hpshopping.com and the offer is a $64.50 rebate on a $129.95 list price. So you get a 12ppm, highly rated mono laser for less than 2/3rds of a C-Note! Amazing...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Almost like the Sears Catalog!

The stated purpose of this blog, Jim Lyons Observations, is to highlight and comment upon important news and developments in the printing and imaging industry in a near real-time fashion. With the excuse of putting current events into historical perspective, the blog is sometimes required to get reflective. And even with this "out", most of the time I try not to be TOO nostalgic, assuming I've got at least a few readers under Baby Boomer age. However, this time I just can't help it!

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

Memjet business in HP's backyard

Today's Idaho Statesman features a page-one feature story by Ken Dey on Memjet, and the Memjet Home and Office business headquartered in Eagle, ID. As the hometown paper for a large portion of HP's (NYSE HPQ) Imaging and Printing Group, the Statesman goes beyond the usual coverage of the Silverbrook technology possibilities that we've grown accustomed to seeing, and also pursues potential partners and the likelihood that HP might possibly become a Memjet partner.

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

Note to Michael Dell -- Please keep the battery-of-the-month club!


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

PC Mag covers Nanotech Ink Jets

In an article teased on the cover of its May 22, 2007 edition, PC Magazine reports on the Silverbrook and Memjet story at a fair level of detail, including some good illustrations and the comparison to HP's (NYSE HPQ) Edgeline products. M. David Stone's piece also discusses potential partners, speculating that HP, Lexmark (NYSE LXK), Canon and Epson are not out of the running but that other partners are likely to come from a list of less traditional names.

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.

Kodak's announcement yields some interesting tidbits

Eastman Kodak's earnings announcement came at the end of last week, in the form of a quarterly loss less than last year, but still more than the Street was looking for. As the new week begins, a further look yields a few bits of interesting information. From the release (my bolding):
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

Future of Laser Printers in doubt

An interesting press release came my way yesterday that warrants a brief report. The Tiara Group is sponsoring a conference, in fact it's the 24th Annual, entitled "Toners & Photoreceptors Seminar" that runs June 4-6, 2007, in Santa Barbara, CA. That's a beautiful location, and maybe a little cheer will be necessary, if the doom and gloom outlook for the Laser Printer (and thus toner) business is as bad as it sounds. One of the seminar's panels is described in the release (emphasis marks are mine):
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

Photo Printing -- Web 2.0 manna?

My dictionary (online of course) defines "manna" as "a usually sudden and unexpected source of gratification, pleasure, or gain" and while I might be exaggerating a little here, bear with me.

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 introduces EverGreen font


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.