Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mobile Printing 2013 - The year in review - We're getting somewhere!!!

Innovation in mobile printing in 2014 will include marketing!

Looking back on 2013, there were a considerable number of developments in the world of mobile printing, from players large and small. I have identified a few of what I consider both the key developments and remaining areas of opportunity.

1 - Narrowing down the printing process to the fewest possible steps! Users of both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets benefited from operating system revisions, specifically in KitKat (Android 4.4) and iOS7.

Android's ability to print directly to HP printers in essentially one step (in addition to the existing Google Cloud Print option) is a breakthrough in ease-of-use (as I blogged about here), and other printer OEMs will need to catch up. On the Apple side, basic WiFi printing has never been simpler with iOS7, and that includes a plethora of available AirPrint wireless printers (an updated list, provided by Sam Costello @aboutipod, includes hundreds of printer and MFP models, from over 20 vendors, current as of November 2013). And the new iOS version, in a nod to business/enterprise users, also offers new Mobile Device Management (MDM) configuration options, including the ability to "configure accessibility options and AirPrint printers", according to Apple. More on this coming in early 2014!

I had to wonder if we'd reached the ease-of-use tipping point just recently, when a friend (from outside the industry) asked me why it was so much more troublesome to print to his WiFi printer with his Windows laptop (with arcane steps for finding and setting up the printer in question) compared to how easy it was to print, essentially a "point and shoot" process, from his iPhone!

2 - The first significant "coming together" of printer industry players around mobile printing also took place in the latter part of 2013. The Mopria Alliance brings together Canon, HP, Samsung and Xerox, with "the shared goal of providing intuitively simple wireless printing from smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices", according to the Mopria website.

On my Imaging Channel "Goin' Mobile" blog - which also debuted in 2013, making for at least another minor milestone in the mobile printing world, I took my own look at the alliance and its prospects (see "Mopria Alliance Brings Traditional Printing Rivals Together for Better Mobile Printing"). This will be "one to watch" in 2014, to see what tangible results may come out of it.

3 - Get back to the marketing and economics basics in 2014! The general behavior and attitude in this part of the printing and industry, going back to the beginning of the explosive growth in mobile devices' innovation and popularity, which I conveniently peg as the first Apple iPhone in mid-2007, has combined denial ("this won't hurt printing"), opportunity ("they'll print more if only they know how"), and posturing ("we have the best way to print from mobile"). That last characteristic, posturing as "the best", is starting to crack, with the Mopria alliance, recognizing that "all of printing" is in this together, and I see this as big progress.

Better printing from mobile devices is probably not a long-term differentiator (albeit a nice first-to-market in the case of the aforementioned KitKat solution with HP.) And that "they'll print more" statement above, lacks any real understanding of customer needs and segments. With a billion-plus mobile-toting users around the world, there are so many different combinations of users' printing needs, and creative, targeted solutions need to start hitting the market. The photo up top, taken in a big box store on Christmas Eve this year, points to a beginning, with HP actually labeling one of their Officejets as a "smartphone and tablet printer". It is a small step but indicative of an important direction!

I look forward to much more innovation to come, especially on the marketing side. Happy 2014!!!

(Note - in addition to the companies mentioned here, my coverage in 2013 has included Breezy, Epson, OKI, Ricoh, and Thinxtream, as well as others, and I am grateful for their support and will be tracking their progress in the coming years with great interest!)

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 2013 Observations - Kids say the darnedest things!

As so often happens, this month's column idea came together through a good bit of serendipity. I always have a “hopper” full of potential “Observations” subjects, but more often than not the confluence of several random tidbits gets me intrigued, and I go down a path I would not have been able to anticipate days or weeks before in putting together my monthly musings.

This month’s subject is hinted at by the title (more on that at the end), but came about from a variety of stimuli. An important one was the The Wall Street Journal and a mid-December story in their "Work and Family" section, “What Kids Notice at the Office. It changes by age—and is rarely what parents think” .
And while nothing specific about the article by Sue Shellenbarger was relevant to my normal printing and imaging subjects, it awakened my “looking at things through a different set of eyes” point-of-view. Especially with the holidays upon us, including my own good fortune of spending much of the time with my young grandchildren, sharing in the festivities and excitement and imagining how they are taking it all in, maybe it's a natural time to be thinking  more generally about kids and the upcoming generation.

It even made me go back to memories nearly twenty years old, and the still-enduring “visioning” project I wrote about here two years ago (see “November Observations: The Lasting Power of a Good Strategy…Or Two!”). In the course of that months-long cross-functional team exercise, and in one of our more breakthrough endeavors, our group interviewed middle-schoolers via focus group format, probing on their views towards printed material of many forms, and how those views might different from that of their elders.

I also recalled watching my own young offspring, during that same era, interact with the office machines I would bring home from work (mostly LaserJets and ScanJets – go figure!). Overall, they delighted in “breaking the rules”, at least some of the time, as I recalled them trying to feed tiny Post-it stock into the manual page feeder of one of the printers (not so successfully, I might add), and (more successfully) making 3D scans of their action figures on the glass of the designed-for-2D page scanners.

But the confluence was not yet complete. At the Business Imaging Expo, in Las Vegas, also in mid-December, I was fortunate to attend an excellent review of Ricoh’s marketing research into Millennials’ (aka Gen Y) overall attitudes and the “numerous changes taking place today as a result of generational gaps and differences”, according their press release leading up to the event, as presented by noted industry visionary and Ricoh’s America Corporation VP of Strategic Marketing, Terrie Campbell. Ricoh then followed with another release, covering both Campbell’s conference topics and others, as part of their “2014 Predictions”, that makes for very interesting reading, especially here at the turn of the year and, for many at least, a time for reflection.

Much has been made of these generational differences, and the print and imaging industry has so often focused in on paper usage, and the veracity of the idea that Gen Y generally avoids print in favor of the electronic. Everyone, from retired HP printer chief Vyomesh Joshi, who a few years back worriedly admitted that his own daughters didn’t print, to a fellow industry analyst who argued with me that his own kids print more than he himself does, seems to have entered the debate. A study from 2011 by TRU, a division of TNS Research Global, and reported by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Print-in-the-Mix website (http://printinthemix.com/research/show/88) declares mixed findings on this exact subject - which actually shouldn’t be surprising.

In kudos to Campbell and Ricoh, they are looking beyond the simplistic “do they really print less” question, to the overall attitudes and preferences of those Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995, now aged from their late teens to their early thirties, and those same “kids” my team interviewed in 1993 as middle schoolers).  This goes right along with Ricoh’s emphasis on “change management” as the higher-level pursuit that has guided their Managed Document Services efforts of the past few years. So it will be interesting to continue to follow their pursuit of business opportunities availed by the shifting generations.

We still seem to enjoy "kids saying the darnedest things" on TV

But before closing, a little more, as promised, on the title of this post. It is a reference to a segment of the same name from a 50s/60s TV talk show (but even before they were called talk shows, I think), where a folksy host would interview children and see what amusing answers they would come up with when responding to rather "grown -up" questions. And that theme has continued to the current day on TV with the popular AT&T commercials (see illustration)! But despite the amusement factor, my recollections here have ended up on the little more serious side, of "what can we learn from younger people", and how might those burgeoning thoughts be translated into projections of changes to come based on shifting needs and values?

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013!

HP now selling "Smartphone and tablet" printers!

Greetings to all my readers! On my traditional "last minute" shopping trip this morning (Christmas Eve), I found this HP Officejet 4630 on an end-cap in the electronics section at Target. It's a "Smartphone and tablet" printer - how about that!

Come back here, before the end of the year, for my recap of other significant mobile printing milestones, as well as my December Observations.

But as for for now, I am out, and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finally! My updated spreadsheet with year-end (Q4FY13) printer results from HP

I am a bit delayed in posting these end-of-year (Q4FY13) printer results from HP.

The company was clearly feeling good about things when they announced earnings and hosted a conference call in late November, and this included their printing unit, with numerous mentions of the hard-copy segment. Several highlights (first from CEO Meg Whitman, followed by CFO Cathie Lesjak) include:

    Our Printing business delivered an excellent quarter with continued strong profitability. We outperformed the market for the second successive quarter, gaining 4 points of total unit market share over the prior year. Revenue for the quarter was down 1%, but we saw growth of 1% in constant currency. For the second consecutive quarter, we grew unit placement, which was up 6% over the prior year, driven by strength in laser volume and our SMB home business. Our managed print services business also had a good quarter, with double-digit TCV growth driven by our partner program. - Meg Whitman

    Turning to the Business units. We're very pleased with the fourth-quarter performance in Printing. The initiatives we've begun executing to increase printing relevance, drive high-usage units, and improve unit shares are paying off. Q4 revenue of $6 billion was down 1% year over year, but up 1% in constant currency, as hardware unit growth offset declines in supplies. Total unit shipments grew 6% over last year, and this was the second quarter in a row of year-over-year unit growth, and as Meg said, we continue to gain share. We are seeing great results with Ink in the Office, which helped drive Q4 SMB hardware sales up double digits, and Ink Advantage had strong performance across all regions. - Cathie Lesjak

My Google Drive spreadsheet has been updated. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nuance Imaging Analyst Day - #NDIAnalystMeeting

Another day, and another hashtag. It must have to do with the looming end of the year 2013,  but printing and imaging is hopping these days, with one exciting event following another. I am in Miami today, hosted by Nuance Communications and their Imaging Division.

While I've signed a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting me from describing anything we are being shown today (at least for the time being), let it be said that the company that offers industry-leading capture, document management, and managed print solutions (think Ecopy, PaperPort, Equitrac and PDF Converter, among many others), has much more up its sleeve, and also more complete integration across its existing and future product/solution portfolio.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Live from Las Vegas - at Business Imaging Expo #BIX2013

I am not here for the NFR or the ACA (National Finals Rodeo and American Country Awards), but they provide a fun backdrop. The real action is at the Business Imaging Expo, where the information is flowing at a furious pace. Best way to keep up? Twitter and #BIX2013 - hashtags are the thing these days, anyway. Those acronyms seem so 1990 don't they?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nexus 7 Printing - You've Come a Long Way!

As I've prepared for the upcoming Business Imaging Expo and my seminar on mobile printing, I have enjoyed the opportunity to survey the state of the industry. My work in this market space, over time, has allowed me to observe the evolving relationship between mobile devices (and their users) and printing and imaging.

One area I will highlight next week is the developments in printing from Google's Android OS. As the recent screenshot (see above) shows (via one of my Nexus 7 tablet computers), the new KitKat version (Android 4.4) offers not one but two integrated print options, one for printing to Google Cloud Print and one for printing to HP ePrint printers. I have now put these options to the test, and will be reporting on them next week (in person) as well as via expanded blog posts.

My original "Nexus 7 Printing" post, appearing here last July,  reported on my printing experiences with the first generation of the Asus/Google tablet, and its reliance on third-party apps. So the built-in printing featured in KitKat represents significant progress, both from Google as well as HP, again in the lead position with a significant mobile printing opportunity.

I am very much looking forward to next week at the Business Imaging Expo, to discuss the state of Android-based printing, along with so much more, and of course, look forward to further developments in the mobile printing world in 2014 and beyond!