Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thanks for the plug, Cornell Enterprise!

Thanks Cornell University and The Johnson School's Enterprise magazine. My alma mater, Cornell's Johnson School, includes this blog, Jim Lyons Observations, in a feature on Alumni Bloggers in their Spring 2008 issue, mailed a few weeks back to subscribers but just now coming up online. Readers, please take a look, and thanks again, Cornell and The Johnson School.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Observations: New Horizons in Printing

New Horizons in Printing

One of the joys of being a printer industry “observer” is the combination of steady predictable trends mixed with the serendipitous nature of much news and development in the industry. While 2007 was hard to beat for momentous milestones for industry stalwarts including HP, Kodak, and Xerox, and attention-gaining surprises from newcomers Silverbrook/Memjet and Zink, 2008 has had its share of interesting developments as well. As we reach the year’s half-way point, I first think about some of the “little things” that I’ve seen and learned, including a delightful match of customer needs and industry capabilities I’m calling “media printing,” as well as a variety of other emerging technologies that have been lumped under the biggest of possible “printing” umbrellas and may grow to be of great importance someday.

At the risk of giving away some trade secrets about just how to be an industry observer, one of my methods is following company and trade communications (of course, The Hard Copy Observer tops this list). But I also like the serendipity of entering “printer” and “printing” into the search bar of Google News a number of days per week and just seeing what pops up.

In 2008 so far, in addition to media printing (more to follow), I’ve come across drug printing, 3D printing, organ printing, and electronics and solar cell printing, to name a few. Many use ink jet technologies in one form or another and provide a glimpse at many new horizons open to printing and print technologies.

• Drug printing is a form of the long-established ink jet industrial marking business, which HP has entered via its Specialty Printing Division. It is more than just printing a few characters of a cryptic code on a pill now though and includes images and variable data. The wonders of digital printing long ago came to the pharmaceutical industry, but now it’s the pills themselves that are being printed upon. (see "Drug Printing".)

• 3D printing and organ printing are also both variations on ink jet technology. 3D printing has actually been around for a long time and, as I always thought, it involves adding a “Z” axis to “X,Y” printing devices, and replacing the ink in a typical printing solution with a hardening compound that, when dry, hardens as a stable 3D object. 3D printing is grouped under the “rapid prototyping” technologies and is becoming a practical way to produce parts, competing with more established machine shop techniques. It’s hard to put a machine shop on a space station though, which is the somewhat far-out promise of 3D printing. With organ printing, or more generally “bioprinting” ink jet applications, a similar tack is used, but the printer jets biological materials (cells) to create a replacement organ or other body part for human patients. (see "Organ Printing".)

• Solar cells for converting sunlight into electricity are another important type of “cell” that is being printed—both with offset and ink jet techniques. Electronics printing (using print technologies to create circuit boards) has been with us for some time, and now it’s being applied to the emerging category of solar cells and panels. (see "Solar Cell Printing".)

With that range of technologies in mind, it was interesting to be introduced first-hand to the capabilities of a neighboring company here in Idaho: Gold Link Media. Specializing in “distributing content using the latest digital media solutions” per the firm’s Web site, Gold Link Media features printing capability for CD and DVD media that employs heat transfer film images produced by a Xeikon digital typesetter at CDigital Markets LLC of Baltimore, MD. Digital technology for this type of printing favors short runs and offers variable data printing, just as in more conventional digital printing. Gold Link Media uses a custom Trekk Equipment device along with the film supplied by CDigital to complete the media printing process at the same time that the firm puts data on the disk and the packaging.

Despite overall satisfaction and strong customer acceptance of its current media printing solution, Gold Link Media founder and president David Fish has his eye on emerging upstream printing developments that involve, yes, ink jet technology. For example, Tapematic, of Ornago, Italy, is touting a six-color UV-curable ink jet solution.

And one irony of the technology history of this category? Indigo Systems (Observer, 9/99), long before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE HPQ) in 2002, had an initial foray into this market with its Omnius card press. As we watch HP “turning over many stones” in the industrial and graphics-arts markets in search of continued growth in its printer business, may we perchance see the firm’s presence again in this space?

Solar cells, DVDs, kidneys and spleens? What’s next for printing? Keep reading, and I’ll keep observing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kodak (NYSE EK) again making news on product, financial fronts

Wall Street is being buoyed today by Eastman Kodak Company's stock buy-back announcement, with shares of EK up about 15% in mid-day trading. (See "Eastman Kodak rallies on buyback plans".) With Kodak's share price at historic lows recently ($12.34 close on Monday), management no doubt feels like they're bargain hunting with the $1 billion earmarked for share re-purchase. (Also see Kodak's official press release for further details.)

On the product front, Motorola (NYSE MOT) and Kodak have teamed up on the new Motozine ZN5 camera phone. (See "Can a cell phone replace your digital camera?") Interesting that Kodak had a release yesterday entitled "KODAK Imaging Technology Takes Aim at the Mobile Imaging Market" that doesn't mention the Motozine or Motorola.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

HP (NYSE HPQ) re-organizing printing group

Boise's and TV station KIVI seem to have the scoop on a new "streamlined" printing organization being put in place by market leader HP (NYSE HPQ). No press release is available at the site as of early this evening, Boise time, but the Statesman's Joe Estrella and David Staats, in a short piece entitled "HP streamlines printing group, but is mum on Boise impact" includes comments from HP spokesperson Ryan Donovan, addressed questions from the Boise-area station's news gatherers. Stay tuned!

9pm MDT update -- The Statesman link above is still live, but the piece has been expanded to include other Boise-area employers and has been retitled "HP shrinks printing, imaging group, but stays mum on Boise jobs impact". Other pieces have made it online, too. See "H.P. to Reorganize Its Printing Division" from The New York Times and "HP to reorganize printing unit" from The San Jose Mercury-News. Also I've edited out the "?" from the earlier post headline.

730 am MDT (market open) June 19 update -- The Wall Street Journal has a short piece, H-P to Reorganize Printer Unit, citing The Idaho Statesman and The Associated Press. Still no company news release.

Day One at Lyra Europe

After a welcome from Lyra’s Frank Stefansson, CEO and Executive Vice President, the conference keynote was offered up by Bertrand Cerisier, VP and Director of Marketing with Xerox Europe (NYSE XRX). The “Office Printing” module followed, with Lyra’s Ann Preide and Larry Jamieson, presenting on “Redefining the Office Printing Environment: Pages and Hardware” and “Printing in the Office: Lyra's 2008 SME Survey of Five European Countries”, respectively, followed by industry member Wouter Koelewijn, CEO of X-Solutions, presenting on “Maintaining Control of Document Workflow”.

The afternoon continued, appropriate to the just-completed Drupa conference, with a session on “Wide Format and Graphics Arts”, shifting the balance to industry reps, with HP (NYSE HPQ) represented by Josep Tarradas, Lab Manager of their Large Format Division and Andrew Stewart, Worldwide Sales and Marketing Director for Switzerland’s Ilford Imaging. The execs spoke to the topics of environmental and profitability, respectively, but interestingly, more and more its clear the two need to be tightly integrated – one without the other can’t really sustain in the long term. The President of Lyra Research, Charles LeCompte, concluded the session with a near-term reflection, “Did Ink Jet Emerge at DRUPA?”.

While it’s impossible to adequately summarize a conference in a blog posting, I’ll try to offer a highlight or two from each presentation.

Cerisier – Now that we’re comfortable with the new Xerox logo (which proved a bit of a distraction at the January Lyra Symposium, when it was brand new), the content can take back over, and this glimpse of a turbulent market (“Doom or boom”) was compelling. His price erosion slide, certainly accurate in its data, is still is a bit of a head-scratcher – low-end color lasers with price erosion rate of 25% a year and higher-end MFP’s at 12%? Something to ponder, when a lower end category is coming down so much faster than one at the higher-end?

Priede – A couple of interesting points, somewhat tangential to the traditional “data dump” that this top-of-the-conference presentation traditionally provides, giving at least a high-level glimpse into Lyra’s treasure trove of data. Unit and dollar growth, through 2011, by printer category is typically presented, but a new (to me anyway) twist is the introduction of page growth by category, which of course ties together hardware and supplies business conditions, at least in the macro sense. And kudos to Lyra for a little thing – all the slides refer to “colour” printers! When in Rome…

Jamieson – A glimpse into this presentation can be gained by reviewing a “preview” at the Lyra web site. (See “The Lyra Europe Imaging Conference Reveals Color Printing Profiles Dividing Eastern and Western Europe”.) Lyra’s survey findings present a mix of the expected along with some at least mild surprises.

Koelewijn – User Interface (i.e. UI) is key to workflow, with an interesting analogy to the iPod user experience, also one of my favorite examples to use when talking about the marketing of products and the marketing of services.

Tarradas – Everything (well maybe not quite) you ever wanted to know about HP’s Latex Inks, originally announced in March with follow-up at Drupa, with some interesting name-dropping: Nike, Microsoft, and WalMart are all favorably inclined towards Green solutions in their indoor and outdoor promotional signage, and this preference will drive the business, including all the intermediaries and other players in the business ecosystem.

Stewart – An overview of the aqueous inkjet hardware and supplies opportunity and defining its relative positioning. Quoting from one of the presentation’s slides, “The aqueous market has positioned itself as a high quality indoor graphics market whereas the solvent market encompasses the high volume and outdoor signage market, Both formats co-exist with very different market strategies and in many cases under the same roof.”

LeCompte – Answers his own question about inkjet emerging at Drupa with a somewhat conditional “absolutely”, with a plethora of offerings from all the usual suspects (especially, as he points out, those attempting to vault squarely into the commercial print space using new applications of inkjet technology). His favorite product at the show? The $2.5 million HP (NYSE HPQ) Inkjet Web Press, due to ship in September 2009. Which relates to his “condition” about Drupa and inkjet – all the “showy” were not shipping products.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Welcome Lyra Europe attendees and participants!

The 2008 Lyra Europe Imaging Conference is kicking off in Amsterdam. Stay tuned to this blog for a few of my Observations as the conference progresses this Wednesday and Thursday, June 18th and 19th. Also please share your comments and insights here!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Limiting printing in the city of San Francisco

In a story datelined Sunday, June 15th, PC World has a story by Patrick Thibodeau of Computerworld headlined "San Francisco Goes Green, Limits Printing". The article describes the City of San Francisco's plan to meet the environmental responsibility goals regarding the city government's information and communications technology, set forth by mayor Gavin Newsom in February.

The article describes a pilot program aimed at reducing paper usage by 20% that includes simply (?) eliminating personal printers and forcing users to "print down the hall" to a departmental or workgroup, and then relying on user behavior to re-prioritize the importance of printing when the time to walk to the shared printer is taken into account.

SF's CIO Chris Vein offers a not-unfamiliar list of print-reducing or print-eliminating steps including the aforementioned shift away from individual to shared printers, plus "...the availability of tools that make it easy to fax without paper and create PDFs, and the development of a centralized document management system will all help the city meet that goal."

The city is to date not including the savings in supplies and hardware in their goals, but the data (per the article) indicates a .44-cent-per-page cost for SF's paper, so the unaccounted-for portion should be much greater than that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Business Week features HP's (NYSE HPQ) Vyomesh Joshi

Business Week's Aaron Ricadela has a new piece entitled "HP's (NYSE HPQ) Printing Chief Is on a Mission" in the online version of the magazine. The article includes an up-close conversation with Vyomesh Joshi (aka "VJ") and the multi-pronged efforts that HP is taking on to keep growth going in the traditionally critical Printing and Imaging business. Among analysts quoted on the HP business situation are Jayson Noland, Analyst at Robert W. Baird; Shaw Wu, Senior Analyst at American Technology Research; Jonathan Eunice, Founder and Principal IT adviser at industry consultant Illuminata; Roger Kay, Founder and President of industry consultant Endpoint Technologies Associates; and Stephen Baker, Vice President at NPD Group. Slowing growth is being addressed by attempts encouraging more printing from the Web, moving upstream into more Graphics Arts applications areas, and moving into services, none of which come as surprises to readers of this blog.

Nonetheless, BW and Ricadela present an interesting summary of the business situation. I recommend it as well worth reading, including some unique commentary on personality types and the differences between VJ and HP CEO Mark Hurd, and the inclusion, as a contrast, of Executive Vice-President and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Shane Robison, who "'...has the ear of the king,' Kay says...".

Monday, June 09, 2008

Printing from the Web -- another approach

As regular readers know, I'm a fan of "printing from the Web" solutions, and have written here early and often about solutions from, among other, HP (NYSE HPQ, see "HP's Smart Web Printing..."), Lexmark (NYSE LXK, see "Lexmark's Web Toolbar"), and Microsoft (NASDAQ MSFT, see "IE7 Improves Printing..."), ReadWriteWeb has a post from a couple of weeks back that is worth noting here. In "Want a Printer Friendly Version of RWW? Here It Is!", RWW's Marshall Kirkpatrick reports on a solution for the widely read technology blog that uses the Firefox add-in Stylish. Stylish is a clever and popular Firefox extension that allows an easy method for switching HTML styles for given web pages -- in fact I'm using one right now that coverts the Google Blogger edit screen for wide-format displays (see "Blogger Wide Screen Editor").

A search at the Stylish site on "Print" reveals over 50 styles that have been crafted so far, at least some of which are directly related to better printing of target web sites. (Others are the result of a search "hit" on "print" that doesn't directly relate to actually printing of the subject web page.)

This "printing from the Web" solution is obviously a bit (or much) more for the technical "DIYers" out there, as well as being reader-based (or client-based) and rather than site-based. In fact in the comments to the subject post (don't miss these), RWW's Richard MacManus promises a site-based "print friendly" function, coming soon. Another commenter suggests an alliance with HP (NYSE HPQ) for a "Print this Post" button.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Latest Zink Milestone -- PC Mag on the Polaroid PoGo

The Zink/Polaroid partnership announced at January 2008's Consumer Electronics Show has borne fruit, in the form of shipping product, at least review units, and one of the first made its way to my favorite reviewer, PC Magazine's M. David Stone. In his June 4 review, David shares some interesting findings on the new $150 Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Printer that's based on Zink's "Zero Ink" technology. I've covered Zink "early and often", including their Demo 2007 launch to the CES 2008 partnership announcement.

In addition to his usual hands-on insights, Stone offers a great perspective on the corporate positioning at work here with Polaroid and the PoGo.
Aside from the obvious change to digital technology, the one big difference between the Polaroid experience then and now is that it's not about the camera. It's about the printer. The premise is that many, if not most, people are walking around with their own cameras, often in the form of cell phones, so all that's missing is a printer. Polaroid has added the missing piece, so you can print from PictBridge cameras, as well as from phones and other devices that can print via Bluetooth.

It's also interesting that the usual printer trade-offs that industry denizens have to come to know and love understandably shift a bit when defining a new product category. For example, print quality (PQ), in this case, the color fidelity in the 2"x3" prints from mobile-phone-captured photos, may not be paramount. Stone's somewhat forgiving of PQ that he calls "far from ideal", accepting that it may be ok in this format and application, and factors such as water and scratch resistance weigh heavily on the positive side.

A great and informative, if a bit mixed, review as well as a major milestone for Zink.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Greening up Small Business

The June issue of Inc. Magazine (as well as their web site) carries an article entitled "Save the Planet -- and Save the Company a Lot of Power and Paper". It makes sense that the appeal to Small Business, Inc.'s target market, has to play up the dollars-and-sense appeal to typically hyper-cash-flow-aware business owners, in addition to the somewhat more altruistic (or at least longer term) environmental side of things.

The inclusion of "saving paper" in the title of the piece can be tracked back to the inclusion of GreenPrint software in their roundup of environmentally-oriented office solutions. The remainder of Inc.'s selections are oriented to the power-savings aspect of "green".

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Managed Print Services Resource Center

The Photizo Group has a great new site worth noting, the Managed Print Services Resource Center. Their June 3rd press release describes the intended target audience for the site in its title, "New Information-packed Resource for MPS Strategists", and is definitely worth checking out!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Latest Internet printing twist -- "pay-for-print"

With the higher end of the printing industry focused on Drupa for the next week, it's interesting to note a new print development far away from the colossal Düsseldorf, Germany trade show. A reader forwards this announcement ("Coupons, Inc. Debuts Brandcaster, Industry’s First Syndicated Promotion Serving Network"), describing their service which should benefit the desktop printer industry. Michael Liedtke's piece for AP (see "Ad network strives to make coupons more meaningful") provides an interesting description of the service, and who else stands to gain or lose from the successful adoption of this service, which serves up reader-relevant coupons to subscribing web sites, fashioned after Google's (NASDAQ GOOG) AdSense approach. Rather than paying for "click-throughs", the advertiser will pay "per print" for each coupon printed, with the rationale that the ad viewer motivated enough to print out the coupon should be a much more likely buyer.

On-line coupons were one of many original trends inspiring the printer industry's optimistic view of the Internet, as the enabler of the "distribute-and-print" transformation. Brandcaster promises a next-generation approach to printable coupons.

Drupa double-take

The subject line on the email reads "HP (NYSE HPQ) Announces Multimillion Dollar Sale of Indigo Technologies", leading to my instantaneous take of "Wow, now they're divesting graphics arts businesses?". But actually, the shortened email heading is more complete and clear (with that all important prepositional phrase at the end) in the business wire headline, "HP Announces Multimillion Dollar Sale of HP Indigo Digital Press Technologies to Consolidated Graphics" and describes a 36-press deal that adds to the existing 19-press fleet owned by HP-customer Consolidated, an Indigo digital press owner since 1998. The company is obviously prospering with $1.2 Billion in revenues, but not quite ready to take on ownership of HP's Indigo division, as that first headline had me headed, which means we're still waiting for the first big Drupa-based acquisition announcement!

An interesting quote in the release regarding the application area for some of Consolidated's business:

Photo specialty printing, which includes photobooks and similar digitally printed products, is the fastest-growing segment of the HP Indigo business. According to IDC, the photo merchandise market will grow 91 per cent from 2007-09, with worldwide revenues expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2009. (from IDC Market Analysis, Worldwide Online Custom Photo Merchandise 2008-2012 Forecast: The Photo Merchandise Bible, February 2008)

Monday, June 02, 2008

HP (NYSE HPQ) Drupa news and overall printing outlook

As covered in last week's post on the opening of Drupa (see "Hello Drupa"), the mammoth quadrennial commercial print show roars on through this week and into the next.

The Wall Street Journal had brief coverage on the inkjet emergence into this space (see "Inkjet Printers Get Set to Turn the Page"), and some the product offerings by individual vendors will be covered in this blog in coming days.

HP (NYSE HPQ) also had some guidance on their overall printing business to share from the site of the Düsseldorf, Germany show. While the company's May 20th earnings announcement and company discussion (see slides and analyst-call transcript) had little to say about IPG's (Imaging and Printing Group) results and outlook, despite at least some anticipation to the contrary (see "A little pressure on HP (NYSE HPQ) printer results"). IPG chief Vyomesh Joshi shared high-level strategy and prognoses in a Friday interview, including a 4%-6% annual revenue growth rate expected for FY2008 and FY2009, with margins of 14%-15% for FY2008 and 14.5%-15.5% for FY2009. (Note these margin estimates were corrected from original coverage.)