Thursday, June 28, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
by Jim Lyons
The Hard Copy Observer, June 2007
Recently I’ve been using this column (the monthly "Observations" that also appears in The Hard Copy Observer) to explore some of the great marketing stories in our industry that provide examples of the seemingly simple process of identifying a customer need and then developing products and/or services that meet that need. However, understanding user needs is often much more difficult than it sounds. Small companies typically lack the resources to research and fully understand customer needs. In large companies, employees often underestimate the impact of their intimate knowledge of a market or they may be insulated from the market in other ways. For example, best-selling author Tom Peters provided an anecdote some 25 years ago about executives at the Big Three automobile manufacturers in Detroit and their inability to recognize that Japanese automobiles were making major inroads in the United States market. The executives were blind to the fact that they lived in an artificial market where they drove company-provided American cars and parked in corporate parking lots among employees’ company-provided American cars. The same nearsightedness can affect printing and imaging companies despite a heritage that includes HP’s "Next Bench Syndrome."
In a change of pace, I am "zooming out" a bit this month to examine the underlying fundamentals around user needs and the printed page. My goal for this column is to provide a little insight into current and future customer needs, with the hope that enterprising vendors, big or small, can anticipate these changes and be there first with good solutions. In accordance with some rather lofty marketing theories, one can argue that printer customers do not really buy printers, per se -- they buy printed pages that are produced on demand as transparently as possible, with the printer hardware and software playing the role of the middleman. If the printer does its job in a satisfactory manner it will be virtually invisible while cleanly, quickly, and painlessly producing printed pages.
So how are those printed pages being used and how has their use changed? Can we see from past changes what the future might bring?
First, let us start in the home and home office. A 2006 Lyra Research study of 265 U.S. home laser printer customers is one of my favorite recent examples. The users ranked their most popular printing applications, and, as expected, text documents surpassed all other categories and accounted for 90 percent of all printing applications. Printing e-mail correspondence and printing driving directions rounded out the top three printing applications, followed by spreadsheets, Web pages, news articles, presentation slides, and high-resolution photos. The driving directions response (at 41 percent) is a significant change that would not have happened a few years ago, but will most likely peter out a few years down the road (pun intended). It seems likely that the increased popularity of in-vehicle and personal GPS systems will substantially reduce the need to print and carry hard-copy directions.
That is one example, but what about photos? In the home laser printer study, printing high-resolution photos ranked low on the list of printing applications. It is fair to assume, however, that photo printing would score much higher among home ink jet printer users—for now, anyway. The story is changing with each new generation. It is easy for us in the printing industry to get caught in the traditional thinking that "real photo = printed photo," and that all those digital images captured via digital still cameras and camera phones are just waiting to be pulled out of their digital memory and converted to print. Not so -- people and their relationship to photos has been evolving. I recently weeded through family archives in the fun but distressing process of deciding which family photos to keep and which ones to toss. As it turns out, many of my best and most treasured family photos were not printed, but captured on 35 mm slides. Archives of color prints as the dominant personal photo archive is really only about a three-decade long phenomenon.
And what about document printing among the younger generation? No less than Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, was recently quoted in a New York Times article as saying that his college-age daughter told him, "I don’t need a printer." Not surprisingly, Joshi admitted that this attitude scares him. Like many people of her generation, she lives online and finds it unnecessary or too difficult to put bits onto paper. As a recently hired college faculty member of a graduate-level business program, I am learning that among my students a college "paper" may rarely, if ever, be reduced to hard copy form, even through the review and grading process.
Ed Crowley, president of the Photizo Group, previously commented on managed print services (Observer, 04/07) and shared his views on the changing role of paper as it affects the corporate world. He maintains that paper’s role in information dissemination and storage is virtually obsolete, and its primary use now is to aid information consumption. For example, a report arrives via e-mail, a user prints all or part of the report to read or take along to a meeting, then disposes of or recycles the paper rather than archiving its physical form. In the optimist’s way of thinking, this could actually increase printing and paper consumption, as the same documents may be printed more than once. However, I do not buy that argument. Instead of employees copying and distributing an entire report, I see folks printing only a couple of pages, a chapter, or the executive summary.
If this is all a little too "doom and gloom," do not be discouraged. I’ve mostly identified existing print applications that may be on the decline. What new applications will drive incremental prints? I will continue to explore that question in future columns.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
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'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
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
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
Friday, June 01, 2007
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 [...]
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...