Thursday, June 28, 2007

SharedBook introduces Blog2Print

Today SharedBook, a company I've been following since their appearance at Demo 2007, announced a book-printing widget for creating hard copy books from blogs. And unlike Blurb and HP (NYSE HPQ), who both selected other blog platforms for their first forays into Blog Printing, SharedBook's initial effort is centered on my blog platform of choice, Google's (NASDAQ GOOG) Blogger.

The other companies, book-based Blurb and office-and-home-printer-oriented HP, were gently chided here for their choices. But Blurb has since come around (and as I posted just last week I'm overdue to give their book-from-blog tool another chance), and I'm on the list of HP's beta Blogger users to try out their print widget, as originally commented on here last month.

So with a quiet summer I've got quite a few projects to experiment with! My first look at creating a book from the SharedBook tool was quite impressive and I encourage others to take a look. And the business models behind these three solutions all warrant much further comparison and discussion -- while Blurb seems to be more of a vanity press for bloggers, SharedBook has a model that combines personal blog book publishing with the assumption that there are at least some blogs out there that readers want to convert to books for their own use. HP is focused on readers of blogs, but only really seeking to play catch-up with all the popular news sites that feature "print-friendly" versions of their web content. And I know doubt will learn more as I get in deeper, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

People writing fewer checks -- More change in the role of paper

Yesterday's announcement that the United States Federal Reserve is shuttering more check-processing centers provides another piece of evidence on the ongoing changing role of paper, as I've been tracking in this blog, and summarized in my June 2007 Observations. Seems that in addition to the overall check volume diminishing (ask yourself -- do you write as many checks as you did a few years ago?), the legal change that allows the return of a digital image of a check, rather than the paper check itself, has also allowed a reduction in facilities and jobs dedicated to check handling. This latter change, though instigated by government action, still represents a change in popular attitudes.

Inkjet printers and truthiness?

We're within a week of the Fourth of July, so it's a time when summer thoughts start dominating many minds, and the news, business and otherwise, seems to take a backseat for awhile. (Apple's iPhone being this week's notable exception!)

So with a little time to look around for printer news in some less-than-usual places, I found this one today from Salon.com about inkjet printers and their "truthiness", ie when reporting a cartridge is out of ink, is it really? I think most of us have encountered this and I, for one, continue on until my print quality is seriously impaired.

The Salon.com piece links to more thorough coverage by Ken Fisher at ARS Technica.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GreenPrint featured in Inc. Magazine

The July 2007 issue of Inc. Magazine features four companies under a cover story entitled "How to Launch a Cool, Profitable, Worth-All-The-Risk, Kick-Ass Start-Up (And Live To Brag About It)", and one of them, lo and behold, is a printer software company! Regular blog readers will recognize the company that I've featured here several times this year, GreenPrint, and compliments to Inc writer Stephanie Clifford for a very informative piece for the magazine.

Like the other three companies featured in the story, Inc. also seeks out a critique from a legendary entrepreneur, and in GreenPrint's case its from another printer-industry-related "celebrity", Quark co-founder Tim Gill. GreenPrint CEO Hayden Hamilton points out some of Gill's fast-and-loose analysis in his blog entry about the critique, and the section could be sub-titled "How These Same Start-Ups Need to Withstand Criticism from Ill-informed Celebrity Commentators". Hamilton offers data to refute some of Gill's misperceptions, and from my experience with the GreenPrint software, the customer benefits are as much about control and convenience, which Gill misses entirely (and something his background with Quark should come naturally to him). On the other hand, the QuarkXPress story is one of the great ones in our industry so he certainly knows something!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

HP Product Announcements and Inkjet Blog

As marketing gets down to a finer and finer science at HP (NYSE HPQ), they're not only regularly hitting seasonal marketing "windows" (not the MS kind) but now seem to be down to exact dates, with a "summer fun" inkjet and photo-oriented press release timed for today, June 21st, the traditional first day of summer. I'll leave the products and their details to those interested in following the link, but will comment on an important (to me anyway) part of the release that caught my attention.

Near the end and following the product details of the press release, a sub-head reads "HP inkjet printing joins the 'blogosphere'" and goes on to identify the third HP Printing Blog with the catchy (and humble) name "HP Experts Talk about All Things Inkjet", joining my oft-referenced LaserJet blog and another on the Edgeline products. Despite many industry caveats about corporate blogs, my kudos go to the author of the first post, HP's Stacie Savage, for her tone and humor. There are some links to clean up, and I'll wait to see a few more good posts before bestowing them with the honor of inclusion in my blogroll, but so far so good!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Print still captures imaginations"

Chris Shipley provides a Blurb update at the DEMOLetter site, headlined with the provocative phrase up top. She reports on the hard-cover-book-publishing company's growth, recent new capital infusion, expansion to Europe, and alliance with Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing service. Quite some progress for Blurb, and congratualations!

I've had a soft spot for the hard copy emphasis featured by Blurb since seeing them at the Shipley-hosted DEMO 2006, with a report on the company and inclusion in my blogroll to the right. But I must admit, I haven't done my initial Blurb book, now almost a year and a half later. Frankly, my first experiences were negative, with the software not working quite right (beta software I must add) and then a preference for blog slurpers that initially didn't include my platform of choice, Google's Blogger. When that finally all came together, my attempt to publish a book of my blog was shelved (sorry!) as the layout provided by the now-working software was not laying out my book in an efficient manner (essentially one and only one post per page, long or short, left too much white space). So resolution for Summer 2007 -- I will try again! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thanks Databazaar Blog Printer Pundit Week

and Welcome Databazaar Readers!

I am proud to be a participant in "Printer Pundit Week" over at the Databazaar Blog, which has been on my blogroll for some time. My friends there continue to do a great job as part of our Printer Blog Community -- a very exclusive but growing group!

I'll republish my interview here in a day or two, but for now encourage you to read what I have to say at "Industry Expert Jim Lyons Discusses HP, its Competitors, and the Future of Printing". And if you're coming from over there, to my blog, welcome! Please have a look around Jim Lyons Observations!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lexmark Buy-out Drumbeat

At least here in my blog, I missed the flurry of rumors about Lenovo buying Lexmark last month as I dared to go on vacation for a few days. Now the rumors are swirling again, and the Lexington Courier-Journal carries a snippet in its Sunday edition.

Interesting to think -- who might be a buyer? Especially in light of my oft-covered tales of 2007, which include Silverbrook and Memjet, and Zink too, offering potentially brand new printer industry players new off-the-shelf technology paths into the business. And then there's Dell, a big Lexmark OEM buyer but maybe just maybe hitting the exit doors of the printer business? Times they are a-changin', with the chance of a radically different crop of competitors chasing industry leader HP (NYSE HPQ) by a year from now...

Friday, June 15, 2007

MOO rethinking business cards

MOO.com, a UK-based company with the motto "we love to print", earned at least a bit of attention from the printer industry with a mention from Vince Ferraro at HP's (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet blog a few weeks ago in his most recent post, entitled "Imaging and Printing 2.0". Any Web 2.0 company that proclaims the importance of printing, especially outside the direct photo printing space, is bound to attract the attention of our industry.

And more than that! Chris Nuttal of The Financial Times, at the FT Tech Blog, reports on MOO's success in "Collect Moo cards and advance to Web 2.0" earlier this week. And it's a great story -- founder Richard Moross tells of his vision to expand and redefine the role of the venerable business card, a communications tool that's been around 300 years. At this point, MOO's MiniCards have become a collectable for some, and popular for a growing number of applications as described in the post. The company offers the ability to print their MiniCards and NoteCards using images from a variety of partner web sites and services, including most notably Yahoo's Flickr. The company seems to be delivering on what HP is promising in their recent "Print 2.0" announcements. But of course having small, grass-roots print-based businesses taking off on their own is not necessarily bad for HP -- assuming MOO's production takes place on HP printers/presses.

I wasn't able to speak directly to the company for this report, which made me think change may be in the works for MOO, sooner rather than later. With the recent acquisition flurry in the Web 2.0 space, even with HP and its buys of Tabblo and LogoWorks, is MOO in the sights of someone, printer company or other? And with the Venture Capital backing so prominently featured on their web site, a "liquidity event" is probably never far out of the minds of the MOO management. Of course, a buy-out now would preclude the goal of becoming the next Vistaprint (NASDAQ VPRT), the "free business card" company that now has a market capitalization of over $1.5 Billion. Vistaprint grew throughout this decade delivering on a unique value proposition to a myriad of individual and small business customers. Despite their detractors, they've satisfied millions of customers (nine million, per their current web site) on their way to financial success. Good luck to MOO on a similar journey!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Zink makes investment in manufacturing plant

I mentioned earlier in the week, in a post entitled "HP Edgeline hits the streets", that it looks like the printer industry newsmakers from earlier this year, including HP (NYSE HPQ), Memjet, and Zink, are following up their earlier announcements with more of the hard work that leads to real products providing benefits to real customers. Further confirming that trend is today's announcement from Zink that they're buying a manufacturing facility from Konica Minolta. And for those who don't remember Zink's well-covered Demo 2007 announcement here's a refresher -- Zink's "magic" is in the paper and the company touts it as "Zero Ink" technology. So, it's a paper plant they're buying, not an ink plant! (See bizjournal.com for further details.)

And that's not to forget Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE EK), the other leg of the four-legged-stool (sounds dangerous!) of inkjet and/or photo printer announcements from earlier in 2007. They've been shipping their products since March (see "Kodak's inkjets 'Good Enough' per the WSJ"), and they're making news of the own today, with a 2-plus-point stock jump, based around a new (and old) sensor technology that has the potential to remove the flash from photography. Forbe's Carl Gutierrez has a nice piece on the announcement and its implications. Good thing nobody's sitting on a huge flashcube annuity business, I guess!

Observations: The Changing Role of the Printed Page

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HP's Edgeline hitting the streets

Last Friday, on June 8th, Fisher's Office Systems of Boise ID hosted its long-anticipated demonstration of HP's (NYSE HPQ) new Edgeline-technology-based color MFP products, the CM8050/CM8060. Fisher's is the exclusive Edgeline outlet for the state of Idaho and one of a quite small number of resellers in the Americas that are included in HP Edgeline's closed distribution scheme.

The partnership between HP and Fisher's seemed to be producing significant interest, as two separate visits by this reporter noted a steady stream of interested small and medium (SMB) and even large company representatives turning out for the demo.

After a frantic first quarter of printer and technology-related announcements, the chatter has cooled off significantly, as the various players, big and small, go about their business getting product to market. One international business source, The Economist.com, has a piece this week with an update on this blog's recent favorite subjects Zink and Silverbrook Memjet, as well of course HP Edgeline.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dell TV's -- In or Out?

Interesting reports surfaced today that Dell would discontinue marketing LCD TV's under their own brand, while continuing to sell those of other manufacturers. Later reports included a general denial by Dell, but did also acknowledge some fire to go along with the smoke, indicating a change in their TV offering, with an expanded number of models from a handful of well-known industry players.

Dell's expansion into the TV market has many parallels to their entry into the printer business a few years ago. News has been very quiet on the printer front, but one would have to think they are examining that business as well, as they go through massive change and re-focus.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Guy Kawasaki's $12,000 Start-up


As many may have already read about, in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, about Guy Kawasaki's start-up "Web 2.0" business called Truemors. In true Guy fashion, he's doing things differently and being almost painfully honest about it. He provides an education on doing things on the cheap in a recent blog post, succinctly titled "By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09". And in a follow-up post today, he defends the $4,824 in legal fees that make up over a third of his overall outlay. (I find it hilarious -- and I'm sure Guy does too -- that he's having to defend under-$5K expenditure on legal fees as exorbitant, proving the old axiom that everything's relative!)

Despite his somewhat rocky road, Guy provides lots for us to learn in the printer industry -- including doing a start-up on the cheap! One other direct connection our business for which HP (NYSE HPQ) can take heart -- Guy shelled out $399 (about 3% of his overall budget) for the Truemors logo created by recent acquiree LogoWorks. (See above.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Techdirt on Blog Printing

Sorry I missed this at the end of last week (June 1) but it's still not too late to point to a great post on one of HP's (NYSE HPQ) printing announcements I covered a couple of days before in "More on HP Web Printing Initiative". Mike Masnick over at one my favorite Web stops, Techdirt, asks the question "Blogs Need a Separate Print Button?". The comments that follow, 19 at this point, provide a great pro/con/alternatives debate as well.

Web-based Stock Photography -- printer industry perspectives


The NY Times' Eric A. Taub has a great piece today rounding up the web-based stock photo market, entitled "When Are Photos Like Penny Stocks? When They Sell" (thanks TVA). It's well worth a read.

I'll offer a couple of thoughts as the topic relates to those of us in the printer industry.

Stock photography has been seen as an important component of the small-business-oriented Do-It-Yourself Marketing solution that HP (NYSE: HPQ) and others have been working on the last few years to boost usage of their newest color laser printers. So what's the fit of low-priced, easy-to-access stock photo services that give users easy access to photos and other graphic elements, to be used in marketing brochures and the like? The Times summary explains the fit in glowing terms:

For small-business owners or others needing images, microstock sites can be an alternative to conventional stock agencies, which base fees on the published size of an image, circulation and other factors.

Microstock sites charge far less, and, with few exceptions, buyers pay a flat fee, no matter how large the image is or where it is used.

'Maybe a $300 photo for a pamphlet distributed to 300 people is not worth $300,' said Jon Oringer, the founder of Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com), a four-year-old microstock agency.


Officially announced a year ago but in the works somewhat longer than that (think "grand opening"), istockphoto.com continues as an HP (NYSE: HPQ) in-house marketing partner, along with, among others, LogoWorks. LogoWorks was recently acquired by HP -- does it follow that iStockphoto.com may also be on HP's shopping list? Well, early last year after HP announced its partnership, iStockphoto.com was acquired by Getty. (see "Mazel Tov, iStockphoto".)

Oh, one other footnote. As an printer industry vet but also a newcomer to tech journalism/blogging, I'm glad to see this is how NY Times says it -- see quote (my bold):
Kelly Cline, a Seattle-based food photographer, has uploaded 1,363 images to iStockphoto, and her work has been bought 68,215 times. Significant payments began to arrive once she had 500 to 600 images in her portfolio, Ms. Cline said, adding, 'If you upload more, it’s like shooting arrows in the air.'


I'm feeling much more confident in my grammatical judgement!

(Note: the photo included in this blog post is one of the iStockphoto "freebies" offered by HP.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Differing Values among Printing Customers

Fellow industry analyst Ed Crowley of The Photizo Group has provided some great data and insight for a blog post over at the Seeking Alpha Consumer Electronics blog. The premise of his argument is pretty basic despite lots of behavior to the contrary -- some printer customers print lots more (and thus buy much more in the way of supplies) than other customers. And therefore market share as measured in printer units sold can be a poor and even misleading measure of profitability. Ed's analysis takes industry players' unit market shares and compares those to operating profit market shares, with some very interesting results. Highly recommended reading!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Great, creative business analysis

This is not exactly on the printer beat but it does highlight two of the most powerful and important companies in the tech industry these days, Google and Yahoo. But the main reason I'm bringing it to my readers' attention is the creative use of publicly available business data to gain some insights into trends at the two competitors. Take a look at this for some fascinating insights, both in results and methodology!

Google vs. Yahoo: The open jobs report by ZDNet's Larry Dignan -- UBS is out with its 2007 analysis of open job listings at Google and Yahoo and what they tell us about the two companies’ respective direction. The short version: Both are thinking video. Google is on a lawyer binge while Yahoo wants engineering types. Here are a few notable figures from the report: Google had 2,854 open [...]

Dell Printers?

It's hard to believe that just a couple of years ago, the printer industry was focused on the question of how long it would take Dell to transform this business, as they aimed their seemingly unstoppable supply-chain-and-marketing machine on printers, after flattening their PC competition.

Well, things, obviously, have changed! Dell announced their quarterly earnings yesterday, with revenues and earnings "beating the street" even though to the casual observer revenue and earnings growth of less than +/- 1% doesn't seem that great! Add in the 8000-employee layoff, and the stock is spiking up to over $28 in pre-market trading this morning, which is above its 52-week high.

But??? No mention of printers in any of the announcements...