Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Demo 2009 Hard Copy Update

This Demo 2009 update also appears in the March 2009 edition of The Hard Copy Observer.

Demo 2009 Reflects Economic and Environmental Issues

Like all recent industry activities such as conferences and trade shows, the Demo 2009 conference, held from March 1-3 in Palm Desert, CA, offered evidence of the sagging economy. The show’s 19th annual Spring event (a newer Demo Fall plus international versions also exist) hosted about 500 attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, press, and analysts, down from its more typical 700+, and the 39 exhibitors were a significantly smaller group than the previous and more typical 60+.

While never a printing and imaging show, per se, the Observer has covered Demo in recent years, just in case an interesting product or service shows its face. The biggest “direct hit” in the recent past, showing at Demo 2007, was the Zink “zero ink” printer prototype (Observer, 3/07), but that was an exception. Usually, a few of the exhibiting companies offer something that is related to printing in a somewhat less direct way.

500-Year Old Innovator

This year’s most notable print-oriented solution belonged to one of the sponsoring companies, and not one of the 39 exhibitors per se. Canson, a 500+ year-old French paper company, launched its digital pen solution, dubbed PaperShow, earlier in 2009, thus disqualifying the firm from consideration for “exhibitor” status, which requires an actual launch from the stage of the Demo show.

But as a show sponsor, Canson and PaperShow had more than ample exposure. The solution bears much resemblance to the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen digital pen, which was one of the highlights of Demo 2008 (Observer, 4/08) but has a few important and interesting differences.

Like Livescribe, the PaperShow’s underlying pattern-recognition technology is provided by Anoto, a Swedish firm that has relationships with a number of printing and imaging companies, such as Hitachi, HP, Matsushita, and Oki. Different target markets are one of the key differences between the two digital pen solutions.

With the Pulse Smartpen’s audio recording capabilities, Livescribe is targeting its digital pen solution at college students who need to record written notes and live lectures and then combine them in an organized way.

Canson is focusing its PaperShow solution at business and education environments where collaboration and interaction are required. The product is initially available at Staples for $199.99, including the pen and a USB Bluetooth key, which provides the communications interface for the required host PC.

Unlike the Livescribe solution, which features the option to “print your own” Anoto-patterned paper, the PaperShow solution has a different way to involve users’ printers. The PaperShow Web site describes the printing side of the Canson solution as follows: “Print your PowerPoint slideshow on Papershow printer paper and use it when giving your presentation to enable annotation and audience interaction.”
For the business and education markets that have been dependent on conventional PowerPoint presentations for a generation, this new approach is interesting but may be a bit challenging to explain and difficult to sell without thorough demonstration efforts.

Another appearance at Demo 2009 was by a previous Demo exhibitor and subject of the Observer: Blurb (Observer, 3/06). CEO Eileen Gittins returned to the event three years later to sit on a panel for CEOs of prospering Demo-launching companies. She reported the San Francisco-based firm reached $30 million in revenue and is profitable with its focused approach to selling the benefits of hard-copy, custom-printed books.

The conference’s own changes in printing may have been the most interesting print-related element of Demo 2009 beyond the Canson Papershow solution and Blurb. Based on “green” and no doubt related cost concerns, Demo 2009 replaced its traditional commercially-printed, often stylish and artful program guide with “basic black”—a functional monochrome set of pages that were stapled but not duplexed and appeared to have been printed on a traditional office laser printer or MFP.

As CNET reporter Dan Terdiman pointed out in an online article at the beginning of the show, those old bound conference guides, elegant as they were, were also difficult to recycle and most likely hit the dumpster in the days or weeks following the conference. Demo relegated the attendee list, which was in recent years included in the conference attendee bag as an office-printed and stapled multi-page document, to a Web-only existence, as the Demo Web site continues to grow and broaden in its capabilities.

Our View

Overall, Demo 2009 was smaller and less grandiose in its approach compared to previous years. The economy clearly has affected all industries, startups and entrepreneurs in particular. But the show’s ever-present positive spirit continued to make itself felt, despite this year’s gloomy environment.

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