Wednesday, January 31, 2007
As we dutiful conference attendees returned from our luncheon program a crowd of many of the leading Wall Street analysts that participate in the Symposium were gathered around a single laptop computer. Clearly something major was going on! The analysts were reading the "not surprising but still shocking" news about the CEO shuffle at Dell (Dell Inc), and preparing to report to their own constituencies on the developments.
Michael Dell is back in the CEO role, and in a bit of irony on this last day of the printing industry's major annual conference, printers WERE mentioned in at least some of the news articles about Dell's recent travails and resulting shake-up.
A Kodak speaker on commercial printing who preempted the question with an umprompted answer during his Q&A session in the morning's opening keynote, Henry Wilhelm (yes, that Wilhelm of photo testing fame) after lunch, and the day-ending Wall Street panelists who'd listened in on the early morning Eastman Kodak Company earnings conference call, all confirmed that February 8th will be the day of Kodak's long-awaited inkjet printer announcement.
It wasn't really necessary to attend the Symposium for this information, as other news sources covered it as well, but it was a lot more fun!
Closing the morning was a redux by a favorite from last year, Linda Boykin of Office Depot. Linda's tremendous presentation skills again brought all of us industry insiders back to the reality of the real world. She revisited her "lady" from last year, and introduced the "consumer" cab driver this year, describing their real user needs and how she and Office Depot do their best to identify and meet them in the printer and supplies areas. As for the title of this post? Linda got us ready for a well-deserved lunch with a story about Prime Rib and Chilean Sea Bass, that actually related to toner and ink!
This conference doesn't have "Demo God" awards (that's the next one), but if we did it would have to include Linda!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
One of them, in fact, was a lunchtime chat by Lyra founder Charley LeCompte recalling the original Lyra Symposium in 1998. He talked about Lyra’s desire to come up with a “high fiber” conference, and thus in the beginning exclusively featuring analysts (and their accompanying analysis, of course), foregoing the "fluff" of thinly veiled commercials from company executives. They’ve wisely backed off the "all analysts" purist approach, as can be noted throughout my day’s worth of summaries, but the analyst presos are a key part of the Symposium. They’re just difficult to summarize in a few cryptic lines in a blog posting!
And for completeness, I'll mention the remainder of the Lyra staff's presentations on Day One. Larry Jamieson, who’s always relevant and provocative, presented on "Office Printing 2.0: Forecasting the Changing Roles of Workgroup"; Lloyd "Grey" Held and Cortney Kasuba, offered a commercial (er…I mean update) on the new Lyra service, "Balancing Forecasts with Real-World Print Data"; and Jiqiang Rong shared his analysis of selling printers and supplies in China, titled "An Olympic Feat: Selling in China".
Now off to toast Lyra’s 10th annual conference at this evening's reception!
The recent Lyra tradition is to close with a lively panel of Wall Street analysts, which definitely helps keep the enthusiasm and attention alive.
Before today’s WS panel, two vendor presentations offered some of those nuggets I'm that I'm referencing.
Immediately after the afternoon break, Xerox’s David Bates returned from the morning’s panel on MFP’s with a pitch entitled "Extensible Interface Platform: Increasing Customization, Productivity, and Security" that reinforced the point about customizing printers and MFPs to conform to the enterprise’s document workflow, rather than forcing the workflow to conform to the hardware’s idiosyncrasies.
Right before the Wall Street horde, Stephen Nigro of HP and Grant Fletcher of Rastar Digital Marketing offered a tag-team presentation on the latter company’s use of the former’s products, in "From Postcards to Billboards: Commercial Printing Technologies at Rastar Digital Marketing". Nigro’s setup was concise and focused on two key strategic models employed by HP – one based on the traditional "paper pie" that continues to be used, and the other that equates characteristics of Internet content and printed matter on the same two dimensions. Fletcher, of Rastar, a Salt Lake City marketing and printing company, then detailed some of their industry-leading practices in application of digital marketing techniques.
The Wall Street panel, moderated by Ann Priede, included a great line-up of Wall Street analysts and covered everything from the razors-and-blades models, company innovations and acquisitions, and impending opportunities and threats facing the entire industry. Way more than we can get into via a blog posting! Hate to say it but you had to be here.
With the official Vista retail release last night, it was fitting that Lyra convened the after-lunch panel on the subject of Microsoft’s XPS (XML Printing System). (For historic perspective from me, see Observations for April and August 2006.) Vicki Milton led the group of eight representatives of software companies (Adobe Systems, Artifex Software ELAN GMK, Software Imaging, Global Graphics, Monotype Imaging, Peerless Systems, Software Imaging, Zoran) who deal in some respect with this new standard. Note the inclusion of Adobe Systems, whose PDF format has been often identified by industry pundits as the target of XPS.
Much of the discussion was far beyond the interest area of this blog. Despite the idea of this as a head-to-head competition, as it’s seen among many in the industry, I like the idea expressed by one panelist. To paraphrase, basically a tussle between the two companies and their two standards is good for consumers – whoever best meets customer needs, wins!
While the Ricoh representative didn’t make it, the joke (?) was that with IBM Printing Systems on the panel, wasn’t that now all the same? And the discussion did go to their deal announced last week, and what it meant for the industry at large and Lexmark in particular. Steve Reynolds interjected that the word following the deal from IBM executives was that existing vendor relationships would remain and indeed be strengthened, but admitted doubt, with Ricoh themselves as well as Samsung, as an incumbent Ricoh laser supplier, seeming to have an inside track in the long run.
Much of the remainder of the discussion during the panel continued the theme from the two previous speakers – Chris Privon of HP, on "High-Performance Innovation in Business Printing", and Steve Reynolds, with a presentation entitled "Originals and Copies: Discussing Edgeline Technology and Other Office MFP Trends". Edgeline is HP’s inkjet-based printer/copier technology announced in 2006, currently deployed in their photo kiosk products, and "coming to an office printer near you" in Spring 2007, and creating waves in the industry along the way. In fact Reynolds’ presentation was admittedly divided into three parts: 1) an update on the traditional copier segments and players, 2) HP’s entry into the copier markets with the HP 4345mfp (which he describes as an “overnight success ten years in the making”), and 3) the looming presence of Edgeline-based products.
It’s interesting to observe the shadow that HP casts across the printing industry, even in the copier category, with its strong traditional players like Xerox, Canon, and Ricoh. HP’s relentless pursuit of market opportunities is amazing to watch in this industry as a whole and at this conference specifically. They openly tout business-oriented goals like the "$30 Billion opportunity" they refer to in their Edgeline discussions, but at the same time strive to best meet customer needs knowing that’s what will determine victory in the end.
Monday, January 29, 2007
One interesting parallel? Among Sundance's many sponsors, Adobe Systems and HP (NYSE HPQ) are two of five of the highest-level "presenting" variety, along with VW, Entertainment Weekly, and AOL. At the Lyra event, Adobe is the official Event sponsor and HP is among a handful in the top tier of "platinum" sponsors.
Good to see representatives of the Printing and Imaging biz taking such an active role in these important events!
Thursday, January 25, 2007
IBM of course famously divested another printer unit in the early 1990's, the company now known as Lexmark. That deal also had a very lengthy and graceful hand-off of branding rights that is mindful of the current transaction's details, though it is structured completely differently with the today's JV announcement. The relationship between IBM and Lexmark has continued with Lexmark acting as an OEM supplier for the Infoprint office printers.
It's assumed that these products are included under the aegis of the new organization, InfoPrint Solutions though the coverage emphasizes data center printers. The name, btw, seems to have "upgraded" to a mid-word capital "P" in its new form -- "Infoprint" is currently IBM's printer brand. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
When I blogged about the new "Kitchen Computer" from CES a couple of weeks ago, I was focused on the "integrated photo printer" feature. And at the time, though the press materials touted "home photo kiosk" capabilities, I bemoaned the fact that I could not find a decent picture showing this feature enabled.
Now, this morning's Wall Street Journal carries a review of HP's TouchSmart PC (sorry, link for subscribers only) by Katherine Boehret of The Mossberg Solution. While it's not an overall negative take on the product, it's not exactly a glowing review, either. One suggestion on how to improve future reviews? Ship it with a printer! Katherine comments "...its back side is made to hold a small H-P photo printer, which isn't included." I'm starting to see a pattern here!
The promise of walk-up photo printing in the kitchen is cool, HP. Take advantage of it! (The imaging software, which IS included, gains high marks, btw!)
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
She brings us up to the present describing her recent purchase of the Samsung CLP-510 color laser. The printer is apparently living up to expectations, but she does mention the fact that a full toner replacement (four cartridges) will add up to $250 versus the $230 she just paid for the complete printer, supplies included.
Robin also provides a concise user's view of the ink/laser comparison that we like to comment on from time to time.
For my money it's a pretty good commercial, so watch for it. It's not made an appearance yet on the company's advertising web page, which contains some other pretty good ads.
And here's a fair warning -- use caution when searching YouTube for either "staples" or "shake it"!
Monday, January 22, 2007
With the 2007 CES now just a memory, HP (NYSE HPQ) has released a lengthy list of products that brought home awards from the Las Vegas show. The printers and one scanner included in the release are "below the fold", with the Photosmart A716 photo printer (pictured above) the big winner as a 2006 PC Magazine product of the year (but announced at the show) as well as a winner of a Storage Visions Conference Award. Other mentions include the Photosmart Pro B9180 photo printer and Photosmart D7360 printer (for the CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards, as Digital Imaging honorees). The scanner mentioned is the G4050, which was a finalist in the CNET People's Choice awards. Not to be forgotten is the HP photo kiosk, HP Photosmart Studio a "Retail Resources Best of Innovations Winner" among the CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards.
Seems the biggest overall winner for HP (though a bit subjective) is the "kitchen computer" I blogged about from the show. The HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC's awards include Yahoo's prestigious "last gadget standing" award.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
by Jim Lyons
The Hard Copy Observer, January 2007
In last month’s column, I commented on the plummeting prices of color laser printers and argued that ever lower price points are not enough to change buying habits and that consumers and small businesses will only believe in the power of color laser printers if the industry shows them the way. I asserted that in-house marketing applications are a sweet spot for driving desktop color printing growth now that today’s more capable color laser printers can crank out original marketing materials and replace expensive outsourced color print jobs. The pitch that desktop color laser printer manufacturers are betting on is that color laser printers can actually save owners money and make life easier at the same time.
But what about the use of color in other printing applications? Will inexpensive color laser printers mean the demise of monochrome laser printers? Or are there some printing applications where black and white still makes sense? A recent Samsung marketing campaign proves there is still plenty of life left in monochrome printing, and the firm is focusing on a large and growing application where black-and-white printing makes a lot of sense—printing from the Internet.
A recent Samsung Internet advertisement, with a link from a major news network’s Web site on election night no less, touts the SCX-4200 as a "Samsung Home Internet Printer for under $150." The advertisement positions the SCX-4200, which is actually an MFP by Observer definitions, as a "cost-effective alternative to using a color printer and expensive cartridges on jobs that don’t require color, such as printing pages off the Internet."
Seeing Samsung’s advertisement for an Internet-specific printer brought me back to my work on defining and developing an Internet printer for HP over 10 years ago. However, truth be told, my company’s efforts back then were focused mostly on file formats and converting information from its Web presentation to an effective printed page. Samsung’s SCX-4200 advertisement seems to assume all those potential Web-to-print problems are solved (which is a reasonably safe assumption in 2007) and focuses instead squarely on the idea that customers do not need color when printing from the Web, so why pay for it?
A conversation with Tony Venice, senior solutions marketing manager for Samsung, shed some light on the advertisement and the underlying Internet-related positioning. Samsung research indicates that younger SCX-4200 users employ the product’s scanner to capture images for uploading to sites such as MySpace. In addition, Internet users print lots of Web pages, and most of that content (up to 80 percent) is either black-and-white already (text) or acceptable in monochrome (Web advertisements). Moreover, Venice believes that user sensitivity to the cost of color printing is growing, especially sensitivity to the high cost of color ink jet supplies.
Predictably, Samsung also positions its color laser printers as offering a cost-per-page (CPP) advantage compared with color ink jet printers. For example, the firm is aiming the Samsung CLP-300 and CLP-300N at the K-12 educational market by positioning these devices as ink jet printer replacements based on the color laser printers’ low hardware prices, small footprints, and economical CPP. The premise is that schools (or individual teachers) can make a relatively small hardware investment by replacing incumbent ink jet printers with low-cost color laser printers and see that investment pay off in far lower expenses for color supplies in the future, especially in the print-intensive but cost-sensitive world of education.
Of course, Samsung is relatively well positioned in the monochrome laser printer, monochrome laser MFP, and color laser printer markets but is a nonentity in the ink jet space. As a result, Samsung has a focused marketing campaign that allows it to aggressively promote a pro-laser/anti-ink jet message, and the firm seems intent on taking full advantage of its laser-only product portfolio.
There is at least some evidence that an "all color all the time" theme may be wearing thin. Two economists, Harvard’s David Laibson and MIT’s Xavier Gabaix, wrote an article on hidden fees, "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," that appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and was fodder for a recent article written by Christopher Shea and posted on SFGate.com. In his article, "Living in a Hidden-Fee Economy," Shea lumps ink jet printers with cell phones, car rentals, and hotel bookings as products and services that are less-than-straightforward in their pricing, with unwitting consumers paying much more than they are led to believe upfront. Shea asks, "How many people realize, when they walk out of CompUSA, a nice $99 ink jet model tucked under their arm, that it’s likely they’ve just committed themselves to spending nearly $1,500 on ink cartridges over the next four years?"
While Shea’s estimates for the total cost of operation differ from those of Lyra Research, the study reflects consumers’ heightened awareness of CPP, which is sure to be a hot topic in 2007.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
And speaking of old ideas becoming new again, does anyone remember the HP150, circa 1983? It was HP's answer to the IBM PC, and included a touchscreen and integrated printer!