Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year - and my personal "new tech" update

OK, just a quick year-end Happy New Year greeting to end 2012 and look ahead to 2013. But as the year ends, I wanted to set the record straight on some of my own personal technology portfolio decisions of late.

It took awhile but I am now in the iPhone 5 tent  (and yes those new earbuds are cool!)
In September, I blogged about my hesitation to move up to the iPhone 5, all based around its new connector and the feeling I would be fighting with my own household's "installed base" of old-school Apple connectors (see "For Want of a Nail..."). Well, I caved, and am now a proud iPhone 5 owner/user. (The owner part came a month earlier than the user part, btw!) Will now be juggling THREE connectors for the foreseeable future, including old and new Apples and of course, microUSB for Kindles, Nexus, and even a cool extended battery/case accessory I've been using for the iPhone.
After wavering, I figured out I really like Windows 7!
Around Thanksgiving, with less fanfare, I purchased, then returned a Windows 8 PC I had planned to use to upgrade the failed home office PC which had served us well for years. Actually, "returned" is not quite right - I kept the new hardware, as the reseller (Office Depot) couldn't swap it out with a new Windows 7 machine,  and instead I paid for their assistance in "downgrading" the HP desktop to Windows 7. (As a Microsoft Developer program subscriber, I have licenses for clean (i.e. now OEM crapware) Win 7 versions, and the downgrade - which I was advised is beyond the skills of simple advanced users - includes the advantage, and was priced the same as Depot's "de-crapwaring" service for new machines.)

And spurning Windows 8 after my experience with its difficult interface (or at least learning curve) and certain inconvenient incompatibilities, I've also just ordered a new Windows 7 machine (oddly still available from OEMs) for the office.
The Little Printer is cute and I want one, but still need some time
I also blogged recently about cancelling an order for another new gadget (see "Berg Ships Little Printer...") and have not regretted that. "Gadget fatigue" is real, at least for me lately, and while I suggested I might re-order this fascinating hard-copy product in early 2013, I will need to catch my breath from the routines with the new iPhone 5 and the Windows 7/8 back-and-forth first.

And with that, Happy 2013 to all of you!

Friday, December 28, 2012

December Observations: Spin-off Spinning – Looking Ahead to “The HP Printing Company”

December 2012 Observations

Observations: Spin-off Spinning – Looking Ahead to “The HP Printing Company”

My former employer, printing and imaging giant Hewlett Packard, has been the source of much bad news over the last few years. CEO turnover, over-priced acquisitions, and strategic stumbling have all made the company, started by “Bill and Dave” in 1939, the subject of much derision and speculation. And a tumbling stock price has made the ongoing crisis very real for share-holding employees and retirees.
HPQ stock price since 2000

The stock price, bouncing off a decade low in recent weeks, has been buoyed in recent days by calls for breaking up the company and rumors of corporate vultures like Carl Icahn circling (see "Rumors of Carl Icahn's interest..." ). The accompanying speculation makes one ponder a future with an independent HP Printing Company in our industry’s midst.

Could once-proud HP, founding firm of Silicon Valley, really be in Icahn's sights?
The most recent and most severe downward spiral began about a year and half ago with news that had little to do with the printing side of the house. The August 2011 announcements included a proposed spinoff of HP’s PC business and the cancellation of the firm’s short-lived TouchPad tablet computer (a would-be Apple iPad competitor that barely made a blip in the market) and exit from their WebOS investment, acquired via Palm in 2010. The simultaneous large acquisition of UK-based Autonomy, a provider of infrastructure software for the enterprise, was widely criticized as being too pricey at the time. (By November of 2012, HP management had accused the acquired company’s management of accounting improprieties, which led to that over-priced deal, seemingly discovering that the price was too high, well more than a year after the rest of the world caught on!)

That series of decisions in August 2011 was not at all well received by investors and industry watchers, lead to the departure of another CEO, Leo Apotheker, the third top executive to make an exit since 2006. Apotheker was replaced by current CEO Meg Whitman, who reversed the PC spin-off idea, and moved the former Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) under the company’s PC business and the leadership of Todd Bradley, simultaneously bidding adieu to “retiring” long-time printer chief Vyomesh Joshi.

And now, the world seems antsy about HP and its ability to turn things around. Some believe this situation to be a classic case of negative synergy – where the sum of the parts following a breakup of the firm would have more value than the current whole. According to some, we could see an independent HP Printing Company in the near future.

So what of a spin-off of the printer group? A little more history is worth noting at this point as this is not the first time the idea has surfaced. In 2002, former CEO Carly Fiorina successfully completed the acquisition of Compaq Computer. Before the deal was done one of the founder’s sons, Walter Hewlett, led a bitter proxy fight against the merger and suggested then that the IPG organization could fare better and bring higher value on its own (see “Hewlett suggests HP spin offprinting unit”, ). At that time, spin-offs for HP were hardly unknown – its original business in test and measurement products was successfully spun out, as Agilent, in the 1990s.

Spinning off HP's Printing Group is not a new idea

The printer group, the former IPG, has been out of the wake of most of the more scandalous news in recent years. Its acquisitions have been smaller and more sensible (I am thinking of Indigo – in the same time frame as Compaq – followed by Scitex Vision and MacDermid, which greatly bolstered the company’s successful upward market expansion into commercial printing). Negative numbers, at least in year-to-year compares, started to show up during in the 2008/2009 recession, especially in consumer printing. Since then, the portfolio has been a mixed bag, with Whitman’s assertion that print is in a “secular decline” becoming a headline-maker earlier this year. (See "HP's Big Problem.").

But those of us who make a living following the industry see definite promise and bright spots in HP’s printing and imaging business, even beyond the aforementioned commercial business, where the company has found growth by replacing traditional analog-based methods with modern, digital printing. In the enterprise space particularly, HP has a line of spiffy new monochrome and color MFPs and some new and expanding solutions based around document management and workflow improvements, as the worlds of physical and electronic documents become ever more integrated. Ironically, these solutions, branded under the “Flow” moniker, along with the print-and-scan hardware, are based in large part on solutions from Autonomy, the now-much-maligned acquisition target of 2011.

I personally think the new company would be formidable. HP’s investments and capabilities in its printing and imaging business have continued over the years, and more “autonomy” (ouch – forgive me!) for the business could do nothing but good for the proposed spin-off’s highly qualified but currently beleaguered marketing and technical teams. And who knows – if they need a CEO, I know a recently unemployed, but highly experienced executive who goes by the initials “VJ!”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great discovering two mobile-print-related "little things"

In keeping with the Holiday Season and remembering to appreciate the "little things", I have two to report here. In addition, they give me a chance to whip up a Christmas Eve post and wish "Happy Holidays" to my readers!

Having a little extra "play time" during this season is always appreciated, and these days (for me anyway) that seems to include learning (or re-learning) some of the ins and outs associated with my fleet of mobile gadgets.
Yes, that's a "Print" button in the lower left part of this Mercury iOS Browser screen shot

Discovery #1 - One of the iOS apps which I have downloaded and enjoyed using is the free Mercury Browser by iLegendSoft. Positioned as "the fast Web browser for iOS", and its "rich feature set includes themes, downloading, printing, fullscreen browsing, file sharing, adblock, tabs, multi touch geatures, user agent switcher, private browsing, passcode lock, save page, Facebook/Twitter integration and a lot more." And yes, that's my emphasis, on PRINTING!

Discovery #2 - So how to test? I currently didn't have an AirPrint device on my home WiFi network, but guess what? My LaserJet P1102w becomes an AirPrint printer, via the current firmware upgrade. Thanks HP!!! (And thanks to Sam Costello, at and their Apple iPhone/iPad section, for his extensive November 2012 guide, "What Printers Are AirPrint Compatible?")

And with that, one more Happy Holidays shout-out to all my friends and readers!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Web-savvy Professors

I received a nice surprise via email today, from the CEO of Best Online Universities. In the email, Scott Hawksworth informed me that I had been named to his organization's list of 100 Web-Savvy Professors in 2012. And from the looks of the list, I am in very good company. So I say, "thanks".

While I devote most of this blog to my printing/imaging and more general tech interests, I am indulging myself with this from the higher ed portion of my world, but after all, that's pretty tech-driven as well. I have been fortunate enough to find myself on several lists like this since beginning the teaching part of my second career in 2006, and these higher-ed-oriented honors seem to be generally more prevalent than anything equivalent in the world of printer industry writer/analysts. Or maybe I just think that, because... ;>)=

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Kiva microloan - for a good cause

I just returned from a short but sweet sunbreak south of the border, and as a result of interacting with Trip Advisor (which came through some excellent advice on local attractions), I was offered the opportunity to direct a $25 micro-loan via Kiva. Well, given the choice of a number of worth local organizations (local to where I visited, that is) I really didn't have to go farther than #1 - an Internet Cafe needed financing for, among other things, printer supplies!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Berg Little Printer ships - as gadget creep sets in!

I was pleased, though a bit panicked, to get an email that the Berg Little Printer I had on order was preparing to ship. I've followed the progress of this Social  Media hard copy device since its announcement just about a year ago, through its social media honeymoon (see "Lessons from the Little Printer that went viral"), and shipment delays that are nearly inevitable in getting a brand new product (solution, more accurately) into the market.

Having the printer on order for some time, I was anxious to give it a try, but the panic I mentioned above came from a bit of "gadget fatigue" I've been suffering lately. To give these new toys a real try, they need to be integrated into one's life, which I've done with many of the recent iPhones, iPads, Kindles, a Nexus 7, and even my Nest thermostat! (Readers may remember I'd held off on the iPhone 5, until breaking down over Black Friday's refurb deal!).

So, delivery on the Little Printer was postponed - cancelled actually. The customer service was very competent and friendly, and I look forward to getting back on the Little Printer horse early in 2013!

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Observations : Year in Review

November 2012 Observations
A Readle Word Cloud captures major themes from the year

Jim Lyons Observations 2012 - Year in Review, along with some longer reflections

So here it is – my Year in Review (YIR) blog post, and yes it’s posting in (late) November! How’s that for getting ahead of the game?

I have always enjoyed YIR recaps, whether in my personal or professional life. Whether it’s movies, books, stock market stories, or celebrity faux pas, I really enjoy a crisp write-up or list to help me reflect back. And since joining the journalist/analyst side of the imaging and printing industry, I have been involved in pulling a number of these recaps together.

And knowing how the end of the year can go by in such a fleeting fashion, I am getting a jump on my Jim Lyons Observations YIR by making it the topic of my November post – which if typical, will make it just under the wire at the end of the month (and like its counterparts, I am painfully aware that November is one of those poor months which is only 30 days long!).

And indulging me, please understand that my YIR has to include a little longer-term reflection on this blog and these observations. It came as a bit of a shock to take a look at the calendar the other day and realized the seventh anniversary of my departure from HP had past. That final day as an HP employee goes back to October 2005. In the time since, along with enjoying many personal and professional experiences, one of the most consistent things in my life has been this monthly column. Beginning with the December 2005 Hard Copy Observer (yes, the real “hard copy” version), I have been grinding out this monthly column/blog post, titled “Jim Lyons Observations”.

The last time I looked back was As I reflected in 2010 on how it all started in 2005, here’s what I remembered then:
My very first column was titled, “Hard Copy Time Capsule” and recounts an actual incident where I found a group of ten-year-old Observers during an (obviously rare) office cleanup that accompanied a career change. The three issues were from 1995 and between them include many articles that ten years later seem very significant in what became big things in the printing and imaging industry. Also included, predictably, were articles on things that proved to be inconsequential in hindsight. In that column, I pointed out the early predictions of growth in color printing and all-in-ones, which by 2005 seemed obvious, as well as many companies who had been industry participants in 1995 that were distant memories ten years later.

So back to today, at the end of November 2012, I am celebrating seven years, and a total of 84, columns, and seeing what might be learned in a look back, from two years ago, and now another two dozen columns to compare, what trends have changed and which have continued?

Well, there’s a hint with that question mark! I noted two years ago how so many of my column titles in the beginning were in that rhetorical question form.  I allowed myself two in 2011 (seems like a reasonable quota), and none so far in 2012 – so maybe the data show I am becoming more sure of myself, and less open to questioning? Who knows?

I am always been proud of my balance in Observations between the past and the future – while the industry’s history intrigues, I love looking at what is new and how the world is changing. I never wanted Observations to be a “Thanks for the Memories” piece, at least all the time.

And when I look at my themes, and getting a little quant-oriented, I classified each column as either “History”, “New Products/Technologies”, “Strategies”, “Current Events”, or “People”. Truth being told, just about all my columns touch on all these – current events and new technologies often come into focus when looking at some history, strategies are involved in looking at the new companies I write about, etc. But confining myself to characterizing each of my 84 columns - including this one – in one of the five categories suggested, here’s the data, including the last 12 columns, in the spirit of YIR, in (parentheses):
History  14 (3)
Current Events  25 (4)
New Products/Technologies       37 (4)
Strategy               7 (1)
People  1
Total 84 columns

And more on my promised “Year in Review”, specifically?.  The most recent 12 months have been turbulent and event-filled, to say the least. It has included industry changes, the loss of prominent pioneers, and even a research-side merger which brought together two of my employers – Lyra Research and the Photizo Group. And the data would explain that – the “History” columns reflecting those losses and the merger, and a nice blend of the other topics, including Facebook/Instagram, Berg’s Little Printer, and Kickstarter-related 
projects making up some of my favorites.

Here’s a World Cloud, from, that gives a more graphic view, and for now, let me be the first to offer greetings for a very Happy and Successful 2013!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kickstarter Teaser today - Paper and pixels!

When I saw my Kickstarter teaser email today (subject line - "Projects We Love: Paper and Pixels") I just had to take a further look! The popular crowdfunding site has recently become a go-to source for me, in search of interesting and sometimes quirky ideas related to printing. But this one turned out to be a little off-track from what I had hoped for, but with a little further thought, I see some real possibilities, as well.

First, the second idea ("Pixels") is a "A retro styled beat-em-up of truly epic proportions" video game, in the words of the listing, by Nicoll Hunt, of London. See more at Looks fun, but not up this blog's alley.

But the first one took some more pondering. The "Pop-up Paper House" indeed IS a printing opportunity, with the creator, Katherine Belsey, of that mecca of creativity, Brooklyn, NY. The enchanting 2 story, 8-room house is, again in the words of the listing, "Intricately detailed [and] folds flat for storage or travel. Light but sturdy, it is designed for play." The house details are printing via a home color printer, then mounted  on foam core, and are currently available on Belsey's web site (, as are, as the name implies, many delightful pop-up cards patterns.

The Kickstarter project's goal is to get into production with less of a DIY version. Belsey "would like to be able to distribute it as a ready-made product", for people who (sensitive to user needs here), without the skills and/or time for the current version, noting "children of doll-house playing age usually do not have the necessary skill or patience, and that their parents often do not have the time for such an ambitious project." Part of the project's $5,000 goal includes buying the necessary color printer, for prints to be glued onto laser-cut hardboard, and to get into production.

After this little bit of research, I am in, btw!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

HP's Enterprise Printing Tech Day

I am back on HP's Boise site today for their analyst/influencer Enterprise Printing Tech Day. As always they put on a great show, and it is really fun to be back on the site where I worked for nearly 25 years. A couple of quick highlights (that I can talk about) include an overview and hands on with new products and solutions announced at the end of October (see WSJ coverage) and latest in workflow and Managed Print Services (exemplified in this video on their work with General Mills.) More to follow!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Observations: Demo 2012 – Back to turning over rocks!

also published in Photizo io360

Demo 2012 - Back to turning over rocks!

I was pleased to attend the Demo Fall, 2012 conference, which took place at the Santa Clara, CA convention complex on October 1-3 this year. I have been to many of these events during its 22-year reign, starting with the original early-spring shows in Indian Wells, CA, in 1995, and mixing in the fall events as well, which for awhile bore the moniker “Demo Mobile.”

Up through 2005, I attended as an HP employee, scanning for new technologies and trends, which the company’s Imaging and Printing group might use to broaden its ever-growing industry footprint. And in fact, from those pioneering trips, I can point directly to tangible outcomes of at least one acquisition and one technology alliance (leading to a novel print-from-the-Internet patent application, my one and only – so far!). This activity, often shared with others who would tag along, helped HP stay current and move toward seeing itself in a less-myopic way—for example, as more in the communications business rather than as a participant (albeit leader) in the more narrowly defined printer business.

Since 2006, however, I have made my semi-regular trips to the Demo Conference as a writer/analyst but with a similar turning-over-rocks mentality. And having taken a break since 2009, I was especially eager to get back to the fray this fall. Demo of course was never a big "printing and imaging" show but has always great for taking the pulse of the overall technology business. I remember many times when a fellow attendee, during an introductory conversation, would ask something like “Printing and imaging – what are you doing here?” and how I learned to take this as a badge of honor, as in, “You may not get it, but I can think and observe a little more broadly than others.” (That’s at least what I told myself!)

So seeking printing and imaging relevancy, this year’s overall highlight for me was the first-day keynote by legendary inventor Ray Kurzweil. He is still going strong after a career that has been highlighted by major innovations impacting our business, including development of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and speech-to-text technologies, both of which became (through acquisition) much of the core of today’s Nuance Communications. Known as more than an inventor to me, he also is a prominent futurist, with a new book coming out soon. “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed,” coming in November, promises to drill down more into what his presentation at Demo covered: tying the future of technology to the science of the human brain and its workings. Interestingly, Kurzweil’s graphic examples illustrating the human brain’s functioning, centered around pattern recognition, used OCR as its core.

CoraCove solution converts paper forms to iPad forms
Among the 70+ demonstrating companies, nothing was the “direct hit” on printing and imaging as past Demo’s have yielded (e.g. Blurb’sprint-on-demand personal book publishing solution, Zink’s inkless photo printer, or the Anoto-technology-based Pulse digital pen from Livescribe). However, one of the “Angel Alley companies” (meaning they were in the exhibit hall but not on stage) was a Minneapolis-based startup named CoraCove I found to be of great interest. The firm’s CEO, Chris Zweber, explained their timely value proposition – the replacement of paper forms used by enterprise field personnel and others (examples being sales and delivery people) with the equivalent iPad version. The company is new and small but has a compelling group of demos and a strong value proposition that makes for a perfect case study in Photizo’s Digital Workplace Transformation Advisory Service, and I will be contributing a full-blown story there. Suffice it to say for now that Zweber’s company is indicative of a very strong trend in the overall technology business.

Beyond the previously mentioned HP acquisitions and alliances and other vivid memories from those years, aided by reflecting on the lists provided by the conference, I had fun going back through many of my past writing since 2005 to remind myself of interesting discoveries. But as I’ve learned about going back, it’s not all pleasant nostalgia – there are some cringe-worthy moments as well. In a blog post in 2009, for example, I refer to a “Tweeter photo”…ouch!

Other fun things from Demo 2012? One of the Demo God awards went to a student-initiated company form the University of California Santa Barbara, Birdeez, that has developed a mobile birding app (one of my long-time hobbies). And relating to my part-time gig currently as a marketing and economics professor, I truly enjoyed the post-demo “Sage Panels,” where venture capitalists and others who have “been around” evaluated the exhibiting companies’ future prospects on how well they understood their customers and their needs, or in Silicon Valley parlance, the “Use Case.” (And in keeping with the customer experience angle, of the sages assembled for discussion of Birdeez, two of the four panelists had some bird-watching background, which impressed me!)

Nice having Print-on-Demand show guides
There were also a few moments during the conference that are assuring to those of us with long-time print backgrounds. At the end of the first day, the conference emcee announced that what had been an online-only conference directory was now available in printed, collated, and stapled form, and the piles of hard copies disappeared by the end of the next day. And business cards? I was experimenting with going paperless and simply using social media connections with all the folks I came in contact with, but also by the end of the first day, I found myself digging through the briefcase for some old cards that could at least get me by.
Conventional paper business cards have their place too

More Demo references, from DEMO 2012 and past:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Print on Demand everywhere - not always a great idea

For years, really decades now, I have been a big fan of "print on demand" - trading off pre-printed matter for that can be generated "on the fly", when and it what quantity the material is needed. It just seems like such a natural, harkening back to the initial popularity of the overall "just in time" (JIT) supply chain philosophy that took off back in the 1980's and 1990's.

It reduces waste, assures the latest and greatest will be printed, and overall, moves the printing closer to the end-user, which all makes terrific sense. Granted, sometimes the aesthetics are compromised (think of a classically printed book versus a toner-on-paper, or more likely these days, ink-on-paper version), but we can usually live with that. Especially when referring to the book publishing world, the ability to get a printed copy of something obscure and often out-of-print leaves no real alternative.

BUT...this one just makes me a little sad. Our local post office has had one of their wonderful automated machines for years, and I have long been a fan, at least on my rare trips to the PO. Especially when it comes to weighing a large envelope or package, then dispensing the exact postage on peel-off adhesive media, and charging the credit card, it's hard to beat, compared to standing in line and getting human help to do the same thing, ending with traditional a metered postage label affixed to your item.

They have recently upgraded the machine, and added one, and while the old one always dispensed regular postage stamps, vending-machine-style, this new pair spits out $4.80 sheets of print-on-demand "stamps" - see below. And I am sorry, and maybe it goes back to philatelic interest of my youth, I feel my quality of life took a hit! I want my basic flag stamps (as well as colorful commemoratives) back!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Is America's "Mobile Comeback" good for Printing?

I have just posted a few thoughts on this subject on my "Going' Mobile" blog. The link is http://theimagingch

I would be pleased if you check it out, and better yet, leave your comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Following up on Entrepreneur Symposium

Per my post yesterday ("Entrepreneur Symposium Tonight"), I am pleased to report that the event came off like clockwork, and made me very proud to be associated with both the University of Phoenix Idaho campus as well as a member of the Boise-area entrepreneurial community.

The outstanding panelists, along with an audience which was a mix of University of Phoenix staff, faculty and students, and also a large variety of business community members, made this a very stimulating evening.

My personal thanks to panelists: the serial entrepreneurs (Faisal Shah, Steve Hodges, Aaron Stanton) and up-and-coming entrepreneurs (Lee Flinn, Alina Vaynberg and Peter Vomocil), and panel moderator and event organizer Dr. Krissa Wrigley, of the University of Phoenix.

And now? So much to think about!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Entrepreneur Symposium tonight - still time to attend!

I generally save my blog posts for printing and imaging stories of national or international scope, but this one concerns a more general topic that is also a bit more local in nature.

Friends and readers know of my interest in entrepreneurship, as well as the fact I have, for the past six years, been  fortunate enough to teach marketing and economics to undergrads and MBA students for the University of Phoenix, some online and some locally, here at our Idaho Campus in Meridian.

Tonight, an esteemed faculty colleague, supported by the outstanding staff at University of Phoenix, is putting on a forum which will include experiences from some of our area's most accomplished entrepreneurs, as well as from a few who are just getting started.

Space is limited, but I am told there is still room for a few more attendees from the community, and the event is FREE! Hope to see you there - I can't wait!


Friday, October 05, 2012

Printed Blog comes up short on Kickstarter

The subject of my August 2012 Observations, The Printed Blog's Kickstarter initiative, has reached its conclusion. A sobering email arrived in my inbox this morning, with the subject line, "Unfortunately, The Printed Blog by ThePrintedBlog was not successfully funded." The numbers on the Kickstarter page reveal a major shortfall in pledges (less than 10% funded). In my research for the August piece, I reported the postulation that 20% and 30% milestones were important in reaching a broader pledging audience.

Despite the bad news, the body of the message includes a bit of encouragement, however.
Unfortunately, The Printed Blog did not reach its funding goal by the project deadline. As a result, your $100.00 pledge has been automatically canceled and your credit card will not be charged.
Even when a project doesn't meet its goal, backing a project shows your support for a creator's work. The value in that never expires!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

New blog - Goin' Mobile!

I am thrilled to announce that my new blog has gone live, at The Imaging Channel! "Goin' Mobile" will focus on solutions, trends and opportunities, in the mobile space, which are relevant to (what else?) Printing and Imaging.

I will continue as Senior Contributor on the Future of Printing for the Photizo Group, as well as blogging here (at least monthly) at Jim Lyons Observations. But I am delighted with the opportunity to be over with the great team at The Imaging Channel and focused on the very exciting world of mobile!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Berg's Little Printer delayed - this is the hard part

The Berg Little Printer, Social Media’s “most favorite printer ever”, has hit a delay in shipments. Through emails and a blog post the London-based firm explained some of the issues in the way of shipping the product that was announced with such a splash late in 2011. (See “Lessons From the Little Printer That Went Viral”)

It was then over a half-year of waiting, leading to Berg’s announcement that they were taking pre-orders (see Little Printer BeginsPre-Order Phase – Social Media’s Most Favorite Printer Ever?”, ). On getting the word, I immediately ordered one, for expected delivery in October. But alas, reality set in. From Berg’s email:

Following extended rounds of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing, we are regretfully unable meet the original shipping date of mid-October, and now expect to ship the first run in the last week of November. We are very sorry for this significant delay.

I’m still on the pre-order list, and am excited to get the product, and will try not to get impatient. Having worked on the design/development side for many years, I know how it goes!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Observations - How Boise, Idaho Became a Printer Capital

also published in Photizo io360

How Boise, Idaho Became a Printer Capital

Observations: How Boise, ID Became a Printer Capital In debating ideas for the theme of my September Observations column, I had many choices. With each coming month, the drumbeat seems to quicken, with the future of printing itself in play and so many current developments on top of mind, including great product and services strategies and innovations coming from industry players both large and small. So I was not faced with “What to write about?” but rather “Which story?”

But there was one longer-term, historically significant event that would not escape me and helps to answer an important question, for many of us at least, of how Boise, ID, of all places, became a very important place in the printing and imaging world.

Unlike PC and software companies, for example, that are concentrated in more populous areas like Boston, MA, California’s Bay Area, and Seattle, WA, printers reflect a more far-flung geography. Just in the United States, we have locations like Rochester, NY, Lexington, KY, Boulder, CO, and many of the well-known Hewlett-Packard sites like Vancouver, WA, Corvallis, OR, and San Diego, CA, which are of historic and in most cases current interest. But I would argue that none of them can boast more great history and a continuing large concentration of printing and imaging talent and innovation than Boise. Without going into the “why” of the others, I have some special insight into “Why here?” having lived in Boise for 31+ years and having participated through most of that period in the printing and imaging industry, along with myriad friends and colleagues who also happen to be my neighbors.

The Definitive HP chronicle includes much on Smelek and Boise
The triggering event for my column was a sad one: the death of long-time technology executive Ray Smelek on September 3. The news of this long-time Boise resident’s passing reached me while I was traveling, much like the news of Dave Packard’s demise did years ago, and triggered a cavalcade of personal memories of Ray and our paths crossing many times. And notable in the memories, of mine and others, is Ray’s biggest overall claim to fame, business-wise at least, of his instrumental role in bringing the HP printer division to Boise, ID in the late 1970’s.

Working for HP in the firm’s Bay Area headquarters, Ray’s efforts with the city of Boise and the state of Idaho led HP to plant a foothold in “the Gem State” in the mid-1970’s. Boise became home to HP’s line of impact and eventually laser printers, and by 1984 was well established, at least as a “captive” supplier of hard copy devices (“captive” meaning that HP used its own printers for the firm’s line of technical and business minicomputers). That was the year that the mavericks in Boise “broke the mold” and offered a revolutionary $3,500 laser printer for the masses with common PC interfaces with a sales outlet in the PC channel. The rest as they say is history, and I’ve done my part in past blog posts to help document the LaserJet legacy (see “Happy 25th Anniversary LaserJet” coverage from 2009 and “25 Years of LaserJet”). In the interest of remembering Ray’s business contributions, as well as many of his wide-ranging community and philanthropy efforts, nicely crafted tributes followed his death in the Idaho Statesman and on the Idaho Technology Council website, an organization that made Ray one of its two inaugural inductees in the Idaho Technology Hall of Fame in 2010. (Ray’s co-inductee was another HP legend based in Boise, Dick Hackborn.) I encourage my readers to seek out those tributes, in addition to numerous mentions of him and the Boise move, in the 2009 book, The HP Phenomenon, by Chuck House and Raymond Lane. Ray himself authored a memoir in 2009, titled Making My Own Luck.

I also wanted to document several personal memories of Ray. As a young(ish) HP recruit to the Boise Disc Memory Division in 1981 (the “other” division on the young Boise site at the time), I was aware who Ray was from nearly day one, as the general manager of the Printing and Tape division next door. But I had little day-to-day contact with him, except being aware who he was through very occasional site-wide gatherings, where once an even younger colleague of mine swore he was seeing Lee Iacocca, a famous business leader of the time! (I had to be the one to inform him that it was actually Ray Smelek.) A couple of years later, that same colleague and I (still on the disc storage side) enjoyed visiting with Ray and other printer division folk, in the HP booth at Spring Comdex 1984, where the original LaserJet was introduced. So while he looked like a classical CEO, Ray did booth duty, too!

But, already, through his community contributions, it turned out I was not the first member of my family to meet Ray. My wife was employed during our early Boise years as a grant writer for the College of Idaho, where Ray headed the board of trustees, so she came to know him personally, before I did. As he had heard she was in the Boise area because her husband had been recruited by HP, she came home telling me that Ray wanted to know a little more of my story, too.

After that, I had more occasions to be around Ray, but as mentioned previously, we were merely crossing paths, as about the time I went into printing, Ray was heading off for a long run on the storage side of the house. But going back to that curious encounter with my wife, I was always impressed of his knowledge and interest in the organization and the people, even the newbies of the time. Others who knew Ray better confirmed to me that was a special trait he possessed, that of being highly-tuned to individuals and possessing a broad people knowledge and awareness—a good trait to emulate.

Many individuals have been cited as being the key developer/thinker/designer/inspirational leader in terms of the LaserJet and its 25+ years of success (all directed out of Boise I might add). But more than taking a village, the LaserJet’s dimensions and duration actually required more like a sprawling city of contributors to raise it—internal to HP and among many partners, including notably Canon. But Ray Smelek was the most instrumental person, bar none, in establishing an HP presence in Boise, going back to the 1970’s. And I want to be a voice in thanking him and remembering him for that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mobile printing and SEO - "Can I use a printer with my Nexus 7?"

As I get a little more re-engaged with my coverage of mobile printing, it's fun to think back how important the whole space has been for me. Going back to my first post on iPhone Printing, which appeared in July, 2007 (see "iPhone Printing"), I have continued to be fascinated in the development of printing solutions for smartphones and tablet computers.

And the work has also been a great way to learn about Search Engine Optimization! Often in those early days, as I'd scour the web for news on iPhone printing ideas (remember that the first iOS apps were a year away at that point), I would find my own blog posts were rising to the very top of "Page One" of my organic Google searches. A few friends and colleagues, dealing in more trafficked subject areas, were quite impressed!

Which leads me to the subject line of this post - this blog post does not cover, literally, how to use a printer with the Nexus 7, but instead is the literal search term (phrase) which has caused one of my posts (see "Nexus 7 Printing") from July of this year to make it back to #1.

I am back to #1 with "Can I use a printer with my Nexus 7"
And kudos to web-metrics tool Statcounter, btw! That measurement tool that I got started with back in the early days of my "Social Media career", which included blogging and not much else, has continued to evolve for the better, with oodles of useful information, including, on the "Recent Keyword Activity" page, the search term ranking for the subject keyword combos. In my case, today anyway, "Can I use a printer with my nexus 7?" is #1! (See screen shot above!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

My iPhone 5 upgrade - "for the want of a nail..."

I found myself awake at 2 AM mountain daylight time this morning, Friday September 14, 2012, and though not totally by design, I was compelled to try to get my planned Apple iPhone 5 upgrade going online. It was one hour after the midnight PDT commencement of pre-ordering for the phone (which was announced on Wednesday), so I was not by any means among the first to be attempting this, getting going a bit after 2. And I found big trouble, even in just loading both the AT&T and Apple e-commerce sites. As the time ticked away, I also found numerous tweets and blogs indicating the pre-order allocation of product was already gone. (see “Apple’s iPhone 5 pre-orders sold out”.)

But during the couple of hours or so of attempting to order, interlaced with keeping up on others’ experiences with the situation via Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media, got me reconsidering my decision. The Lightning connector that is included in the new iPhone got me thinking. I am from an extended family of many iPhone and iPad users, so whether at home, in a car, or visiting, it's almost always easy to find a good-old 30-pin power adapter. And so far, I would be alone in making the switch to the new and no doubt more efficient and smaller Lightning plug. And it’s not a pure Apple environment as we are also managing Kindles and Androids in the extended family mix as well, so adding in one more “standard” connector just seems like a complication I want to really consider if I am ready to do. (And given that the waiting time now for an iPhone5 has been pushed at least two additional weeks, I can use that “thinking time” wisely.)

I couldn't help but think it was interesting that a friend and I were just reminiscing about the old HPIB connector that came on all HP instruments and computers along with their peripherals back in the 1980s, and how that standardization was an advantage, while it lasted, when something was better enough to disrupt things and force the change. It really is classic “innovator’s dilemma” stuff.

So for now, I'll be happy (as I have been with my iPhone 4) for at least a few more weeks, and continue to consider my next move. And there's also hope for an adapter, but as of this morning, there was some confusion over whether or not Apple will include a free Lightning-to-30 pin adapter or not (see “iPhone 5orders shipping with free Lightning to 30-pin adapter [Updated: Maybe not]”, and after all, adapters are adapters – remembering back to the hassles with the original iPhone and its nonstandard headset.

It all reminds one of the old saw about losing the war the lack of a nail. Or at least it does. now, in my sleep-deprived state!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Capturing memories, PastBook style

Print lovers have to appreciate this headline!
It was great to see news this week on $250,000 of venture funding going to PastBook. They are an Amsterdam-based startup featuring a service to allow users to store photos from their social media sites into a more permanent, organized format, including hard-copy books.

The Insider, part of The Next Web, has a great story on the company, including their brief history and future plans, by Robin Wauters. (See "PastBook raises $250,000, helps you capture your digital memories.") The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Clayton, in their TechEurope Blog, offers a summary of the Insider coverage, and a great headline (see above, and “PastBook’s $250,000 to put Digital Memories in Print”.)

As part of TechCrunch's coverage (see "PastBook Raises $250K To Help Preserve Online Memories,Instagrammers First In Line"),
Steve O'Hear described the company's offering, which features Instagram integration as its first platform, with Facebook to follow. O'Hear offers the following:

The cloud element is reminiscent of things like the latest pivot from Jolicloud or services such as memolane, and there are a plethora of on-demand printing offerings that will turn your Instagram or Facebook photos into a physical book.

We've covered photobook-making and the tie-in to sites like Instagram here, for several years, and if the number of services offering this service qualifies as a "plethora", that must be good news for print, right?

O'Hear goes on to state the company plans to go well beyond print in the future, and also points out the (beta) availability of web browsing and PDF printing in PastBook's current offering.

Those additional formats include producing a PDF file, which I tried (with great results) with my recent Instagram photos. As a Beta user, it was offered as a freebie, though in the future, there will be a charge for creating a PDF. This charge represents an interesting revenue opportunity beyond that built into the photo-book pricing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August Observations - Kickstarting the Printed Blog

also published in Photizo io360

Observations: Kickstarting the Printed Blog

 When ideas or trends come together, it can be a beautiful thing. And that is how I felt when I read about The Printed Blog’s (TPB) efforts to raise funds on the popular crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter. On August 21st, founder Joshua Karp and The Printed Blog became one of nearly 4,000 “live” Kickstarter projects, seeking $25,000 in pledges over a 45-day period to be used for “… a number of things to get the ball rolling on our unique publication,” according to the Kickstarter listing.

I have been a long-time follower of TPB and its adventures “swimming upstream,” at least in the minds of some, as a print-centric publication making a go of it in today’s world. One of my favorite topics over the nearly seven years I have been doing my monthly Observations column has been an irregular series on Karp and TPB, first covered here in April 2009. (That piece followed significant attention for TPB in the general media.) Describing TPB’s efforts as the “Ultimate Countertrend”, I related founder Karp’s passion for print and his business aspirations. I followed up with a piece on TPB ceasing publication in 2010, then rebirth andexpansion (via technology license) to Russia and Portugal in 2011, along with anew one-page print product, The Top Sheet.

Expanding on plans for the $25,000, Karp explained to potential pledgers on the Kickstarter site, “It will be used to begin the production of a 3-issue series of The Printed Blog, which includes content gathering, printing, mailing, and the paying of our wonderful bloggers and photographers $50 for their published contributions (more as our budget increases!). You will also be funding our publicity and the development of non-invasive advertising contracts to allow The Printed Blog to become a self-sustaining publication.”

My interest in Kickstarter goes back some time, too, by first participating in several projects (iPad-related accessories) beginning in early 2011. In March, 2012, hard copy got into the act, and I blogged (over on the Lyra Insider blog) about the “hot combination” of Kickstarter, and Instagram-inspired Instaprint, a printing solution for Instagram photos (see “Instaprint – Hot Combination Includes Print”,  ). Instaprint’s creator was seeking $500,000 to roll out a shippable version of their product, which had been shown off in prototype mode to positive reviews. This Kickstarter project, unlike my iPad-related ventures, fell quite a bit short of its goal, and from Instagram’s creator, Breakfast, per their website (, is word that they are now pursuing a rental model.

According to a recent analysis by Micheal Wolf of GigaOm, a good indicator for success is when a project gets to 20 percent funding, and 30 percent is even better. Says Wolf, “Talking to crowdsourcing platforms, some believe once you cross 30 percent funded threshold, it gains momentum by moving outside of your own personal network and attracts strangers.” This is mindful of the sociologically-based theory of “The Strength of Weak Ties,” and when I look at my Kickstarter “backer history” (to use their terminology), most were spurred by media coverage, outside direct communication with the companies or Kickstarter itself (Instaprint being the exception, discovered via one of Kickstarter’s e-mail newsletters.)

And as long as we are checking in, what else is new with TPB, outside the Kickstarter initiative? A couple of months back, I had been in touch with Karp on his requests for information on printers capable of producing substantial runs of the firm’s Top Sheet. According to Karp, “We went with the Ricoh Aficio 8200DN. We’re publishing The Top Sheet at two locations [in the Chicago area, at] 1,000 copies, twice a week. We’ve started to get a bunch of advertiser inquiries, too (we’ve run a few paid ads already). I’m hopeful that we’ll be cash flow positive for five days a week at two locations in about four weeks. After that, we’ll aggressively expand to other locations. By next year at this time, we’ll be the highest daily circulation print newspaper in Cook County.”

The TPB project is well short of its $25,000 goal in just a few days, and in fact well short of the 20 percent and 30 percent marks, as well. But best of luck to The Printed Blog with its Kickstarter initiative and other endeavors. I have a feeling you will be reading more about them here, in the future.

Full disclosure department: As with the Instagram Kickstarter initiative, I am “in” with The Printed Blog, as a backer. The mechanics of Kickstarter offer various pledging levels for each project, with some “perks” at each level. In the case of The Printed Blog, I pledged $100, which, if and when the effort reaches its goal, I get a TPB t-shirt and “a unique postcard collage made from words and images from our magazine!” Other levels included some preferential editorial treatment for writers in the TPB itself, but I figured I have enough editorial coverage already.

Jim is a regular contributor of news and analysis and the author of a monthly column, Observations, for the Imaging Observer 360, in addition to serving as co-director of Photizo’s Digital Workflow Transformation Advisory Service. He also blogs and tweets on developments in the printer industry. In addition, Jim is a faculty member at the University of Phoenix, teaching marketing and economics in the school’s MBA program. Past columns, links, and other musings may be found at Follow Jim on Twitter, @jflyons.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Updating April 2012 Observations - Facebook and Instagram

In my April 2012 Observations, "What A Difference Seven Years Makes", I covered the (then) recently announced Facebook acquisition of Instagram, characterized then (though Facebook was still pre-IPO) as a One Billion Dollar Deal! In case you were off with the Curiousity on its way to Mars, or somewhere else equally off the grid, Facebook has had their IPO, and now with a stock price currently barely half of its $38 offering price. And most recently (yesterday), the FCC approved the acquisition. On SAI Business Insider, Owen Thomas has some great "new math" on the deal, including the fact the deal is now estimated at a $747 buy.