Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Google settles Book Search suit

A $125 million settlement has been announced between Google (NASDAQ GOOG) and authors and publishers, as reported today by numerous news sources. A good analysis can be found at Business Week's Technology blog in the piece by Rob Hof. (See "Google Settles Book Search Suits with Authors, Publishers.")

The settlement, which is effective only in the U.S.—people elsewhere will only be able to view snippets of book text as they can now—is in some ways a win for publishers and authors. They will get new revenue streams for books that in most cases didn’t have a market anyway because they were out of print. However, Google also ended up paying what was relative chicken feed for the right to continue scanning books, and it will get what looks like a sizable chunk of revenues from subscriptions, as well as ad revenue. The only question is why it took well over two years for the two sides to come to an agreement that appears to work well for both of them, as well as for readers.

Regular readers may remember my July 2008 Observations where I discussed Google Book Search in the context of a print opportunity, inspired by HP (NYSE HPQ) Printing head Vyomesh Joshi's speech at drupa. Today's settlement clears the way for Google-enabled sale of out-of-print but still in-copyright books, in digital form. It seems clear many of these editions will be on the path from bits back to atoms -- how the print and print-related industries responds will be interesting to watch. The Official Google blog has further explanation about the arrangement, but nothing about printing!

The future is here!

With that somewhat grandiose subject line ('the future is here') one could be expecting great things, but I'd put the subject of this entry under 'small things that work great.'

Earlier this month, I was checking in on one my many printer industry metrics, in this case the number of cumulative downloads of GreenPrint software from download.com (over 91,000 as of today). I noticed among a list of "popular Printer Software downloads" a rather generically-named product entitled "Photocopier". (Click on the screen shot below to see detail.)

This basic program, by Nico Cuppen Software, works simply and allows me, in one push of its green button (see above), to make a quick copy using my scanner and laser printer. Now what's magic about this? Nothing really, but keep in mind that my scanner is part of an inkjet all-in-one and the laser printer is stand-alone (see my interview at the Databazaar blog for a description of my office hard copy setup). So I get my nice, crisp, toner-based black-and-white copies and work around the inkjet printer, which is seemingly forever on its last drops of black ink. And "real copies" aren't produced by inkjets anyway, at least to some of us old-schoolers!

To close on the theme of "future is here", this whole "peripherals talking to each other" is mindful of a very substantial project I worked on at HP (NYSE HPQ) more than ten years ago, which eventually made it to market under the brand "Jetsend". While today's simple solution I've described is hardly the independent, stand-alone peripherals vision of that program, in fact far from it with the ever-present PC doing much of the work, functionally -- how the solution satisfies a customer need -- it could be argued it's the same.

Hmmm, I think I see an upcoming Observations column here...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Observations: Sharp-Eyed Hard-Copy Marketers Help the Aging

Sharp-Eyed Hard-Copy Marketers Help the Aging

Month in and month out, the Observer’s editorial staff regularly cranks out 40-plus pages covering the steady stream of news from our industry. This includes myriad new imaging and printing products and services, along with the triumphs and travails of the companies that comprise “the business.”

Then our readers do their best to digest all of it to keep up with the state of the industry, with the goal of “staying competitive.” Keeping this in mind, for the last three years, I’ve used my monthly “Observations” column to explore less-obvious developments and trends that might be otherwise overlooked. I try to acknowledge and appreciate the role of history, looking back to how we arrived where we are today, and I like to look ahead, scan the horizon, and pick out what might seem now like a mere blip on the radar but that could someday have consequences for our world.

I also have a soft spot for passing along great marketing stories. For some this may bring to mind P.T. Barnum, but for me, it means a great application of marketing principles, where a customer need is identified and understood, and then a business is developed around satisfying that need in a unique or superior way. When all that comes together, the clever people behind it all are likely, though not guaranteed, to be rewarded in the marketplace.

Because of recent personal experience, I can relate to one of these examples that, although not specifically in the hard copy arena, is related to technology and communications. You may be familiar with the “Jitterbug” mobile phone that features a handset with very large keys and easy-to-read symbols, a bright display featuring simple messages spelled out in large characters, a sensitive microphone and extra-loud speaker, and a certain size and heft that theoretically makes it more difficult to misplace, at least compared to many of today’s mobile phones.

The Jitterbug phone service features user-friendly over-the-phone setup and support, provided by courteous English-as-a-first-language agents, and functions like populating the address book can be done voice-to-voice. The Jitterbug even has a comforting dial tone indicating it’s on and ready to use.

For our family, the experience of staying a little closer to distant, elderly relatives has improved dramatically. The Jitterbug’s combination of small things has added up to a big difference, eclipsing what had been years of frustration with conventional mobile phones and even land-line-based cordless models. It is not the cheapest telephone alternative, at least in our area, but it is by far the most valuable we have found.

The emotional need to share things visually is certainly just as real as that for voice communication, and this need helps bind family groups together. Pictures, notes, and clippings are important to the simple but critical concept of “keeping in touch.” And many of us have converted from a mostly snail-mail approach to e-mail and social networking that are so pervasive today.

But what about those who have not made this switch? For every PC-loving elder who has made the transition either with assistance from a younger-generation family member or on their own, there are those who have struggled and given up, or who never had the opportunity.

So is there a hard copy equivalent of the Jitterbug success story? Of course, or at least developing ones. There are at least two companies, CaringFamily and Presto, that have made tremendous strides in putting together a hard copy hardware- and software-based solution that satisfies at least some of the previously unmet communications needs of families with elders living remotely.

Think about the difficulty of using e-mail for anyone who is uninitiated: booting up the PC, getting on the Internet, logging into the e-mail program, and remembering user names and passwords. Then there is the confusion of reading, let alone sending, saving, and printing. Both CaringFamily and Presto, recognizing these difficulties, have set out to make the “inbox” a real physical inbox that is actually the output tray of a simplified but otherwise ordinary inkjet MFP. At its launch two years ago, Presto’s founder told a frustrating tale of setting up his own mother on e-mail, and used his experience as the inspiration to start the firm.

CaringFamily is a Louisville, CO-based company that has been pursuing the “communicating family” market since its inception in 2003. Paul Davoust, the company’s CEO, says, “The largest untapped market in the world for technology is that of the elderly population. Why has the tech industry as a whole been so poor at addressing it?” He reasons that the remedy is to start with understanding the problems through research and developing core competencies in product usability. Davoust believes that the oft-used phrase “product usability” is generally a misnomer. “Product usability is a common phrase in the industry but is typically at the margin, not built-in from the starting point like it needs to be.”

While Caring Family and Presto are on to some great discoveries and approaches in satisfying real unmet user needs, challenges remain. The world has yet to beat the proverbial “path to their door,” at least a well-worn one, in either case. In my November “Observations” column, I will take a closer look at each company and their similarities and differences. Marketing lessons to be learned include the critical importance of combining the features and benefits of products and services and how the “Four P’s” all come to play. There is even an “enterprise versus consumer” angle that might sound familiar to many of us!

Designing and delivering a hard-copy delivery system is a worthy business goal, in addition to being a meaningful way to improve people’s quality of life. Recall the famous recruiting line from Apple’s Steve Jobs to then-Pepsi CEO John Scully, “Don’t you want to do more with your life than selling sugar water to kids?” In the case of helping families communicate, it is more than just a scheme to get users to use more ink.

Friday, October 17, 2008

MPS Conference -- Call for Speakers

Over at the other blog where I now have editing and writing duties (see "Printer Industry Blogging Duties Expanded"), that being the "Printer Industry News", we've put out a "Call for Speakers" for the April 2009 first annual Managed Print Services conference.

I would encourage readers of this blog to consider the opportunity, if background and experience fit. The conference will be a first-of-its-kind in this fast-growing area of the industry, and with its client/customer-eye view, promises to advance the win-win aspects of MPS.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

HP (NYSE HPQ) is wild about wireless printing

One of the big impressions (no pun intended) I'm taking away from the HP (NYSE HPQ) press and analyst event wrapping up today is the company's emphasis on wireless printing.

While other suppliers -- Brother and Lexmark (NYSE LXK) come to mind -- may have been ahead on WiFi-enabled printers at one point in time (see my November 2007 Observations, "Wi-Fi Printing -- Look Ma, No Cables"), HP has filled the void in a rush, claiming 75% market share, higher than even the typical 40%-60% share commonly held by the company in many consumer and business printer categories.

In Tuesday's Consumer and Small Business Solutions keynote by Senior VP Stephen Nigro, made wireless printing a key theme, along with new or revamped services Creative Studio and Marketsplash. In the simultaneous press release, the company announced the following:

HP also introduced new wireless printers and committed to expand the entire HP Photosmart printer lineup with wireless capabilities by 2010. Highlighting the new models is the Limited Edition HP Photosmart C4599 All-in-One , which features a sleek design and piano-black finish to match HP Pavilion notebook computers. Notebook PC sales have increased by 50 percent each year since 2006,(2) presenting a large opportunity for HP to attach wireless printers at the point of sale.

HP’s new lineup of wireless printers includes three models that allow customers to print with ease from anywhere in the home.(3) The HP Photosmart C4500 All-in-One Series , the Limited Edition HP Photosmart C4599 All-in One and the HP Photosmart C6300 All-in-One Series offer built-in wireless capabilities(3) and are available for $129, $149 and $199, respectively.(4)

(2) Source: MAP, PSG Market Model, Final 1H07, Forrester 2007.

(3) Wireless performance is dependent upon physical environment and distance from access point.

(4) Estimated U.S. street prices. Actual prices may vary.

Hmmm, a printer in "piano black"...wonder where HP got that idea??? Oh yeah, that HP laptop...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Live from San Diego -- HP (NYSE HPQ) Imaging and Printing event

I'm at HP's annual Imaging and Printing event for the Press/Analyst community, in San Diego. The weather's beautiful, but it's not like we'd know it, with the full schedule HP's packed in for us over these few days. And while the "live" usage in this post's title might indicate otherwise, "live blogging" this event is out of the question, at least with my limited observational and typing talents. It's a three-ring circus here, as it should be, with HP's ever-broadening coverage of the printing and imaging field.

So I will direct my readers to a collection of press releases* for now, and will highlight a few of the high points from HP (NYSE HPQ) printer chief Vyomesh Joshi (aka VJ) and his kick-off presentation yesterday.

VJ's highlights included these vital financial stats from the last year: IPG revenues of $29.4 Billion, with an overall 15.4% operating profit, and 8% revenue growth attributed to the supplies portion of the total. Not to be satisfied though, he identifies an overall $265 Billion printing opportunity for HP, comprised of the growing digital portion of the imaging and printing business, now pegged at 10% of the total 53 trillion pages to be printed in 2010. Strategically, VJ spotlights the transition in the view of the business from "Printers" to "Printing" to "Pages".

So much to discuss, so little time. Now off to more sessions!

* HP press releases from yesterday (10/7/2008):

MySpace and HP to Unlock Online Content Through the Power Of Print - BusinessWire

HP and TANDBERG Unveil New Managed Service Offering and Expanded Reseller Agreement - BusinessWire

HP Announces Host of New Imaging and Printing Products and Solutions for Enterprise Market - BusinessWire

HP Offers New Web Solutions for Creative Print Projects, Small Business Marketing; Introduces Wireless Printers - BusinessWire

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A new blog, Print4Pay Hotel

Greetings and welcome to the blogosphere (I guess we still call it that), Arthur Post and his new blog, Print4Pay Hotel! I appreciate the link in his blogroll and will return the favor, immediately. Thanks Arthur and looking forward to future posts, like yesterday's "Copier Sales Tip Economic Stimulus Act".

Monday, October 06, 2008

GreenPrint's White Paper -- Save 17% on Printing

GreenPrint has published a white paper entitled "How to Reduce Printing Costs by 17% -- A Guide to Doing Well and Doing Good" and on yet another day of anxious (to say the least) financial markets, anything to save on expenses is appreciated.

Note the white paper's availability via Scribd.com, the subject of my May 2008 Observations.

BTW while Scribd.com reports the GreenPrint white paper's "view count" at under 100 so far, the company's free download version (GreenPrint World 1.1) of their paper-saving software approaching 90,000 downloads at Download.com. (Last time this blog checked, six months ago, the downloads were just under 40,000.)