Thursday, July 31, 2008

Live from Las Vegas

Less than three weeks from now (Wednesday August 20th to be specific), the World Expo 2008, sponsored by Recharger Magazine, will open in Las Vegas. And on the day before (Tuesday August 19th) Lyra Research is hosting the Lyra Supplies Forum 2008 at the same venue, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center.

I once again have the honor to be named the official live blogger for the event. So you see in Vegas, or check in back here on the 19th for all the latest, or better yet, both!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lexmark, Xerox -- earnings reports a mixed bag

Following this week's earnings announcements, the stock prices of Lexmark International (NYSE LXK) and Xerox (NYSE XRX) are heading in opposite directions.

Near the end of today's (Thursday July 24) markets, the shares of LXK are near a six-week high, up for the second day in a row and trading at over $36 and within striking distance of 2008's closing high of $37.68, achieved on February 1st. While a far cry from its early 2007 range in the $60's and even briefly the $70's, the stock is up an impressive 20% in just ten days, when it seemed all was despair and the stock closed at $30.28. This in light of what looks like what will be a $200+ loss day in the DJIA. Tuesday, LXK announced a year-over-year quarterly revenue decline of 6% but a quarterly profit increase of 30% ($83.7 million, or 89 cents a share, versus $64.2 million, or 67 cents) that exceeded Wall Street expectations. The results are a reflection of the execution of their previously announced strategy of de-emphasizing the lower-end and lower-profit inkjet business and stressing higher-end products for business customers.

From Xerox (NYSE XRX), shares are down today, following this morning's pre-market announcement of higher revenues (+8%) but lower earnings (-19%). Trading nearing the day's close is at about $13.25 a share, a 5% decline against Wednesday's close. Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal's morning summary concludes:

Gross margin decreased 1.1 percentage points to 39.2%, primarily due to the effect of more revenue coming from services and developing markets, the company said.

Xerox projected third-quarter earnings of 28 cents to 30 cents a share. Xerox also reiterated its full-year earnings forecast of $1.26 to $1.30 a share.

Xerox -- which has a large market share in digital industrial printing and a long history of selling big printers along with professional services -- is expected to face fresh competition now that rival Hewlett-Packard Co. is offering these services. H-P, moving engineering and marketing resources away from smaller printers, has been looking for growth in new areas, including large-scale commercial printing and photo processing.

While the threat across a range of businesses from HP (NYSE HPQ) doesn't come as a surprise, it's interesting that the services business is blamed (partly anyway) for declining gross margins, as they are typically considered the richer part of the mix.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More on iPhone printing, 2.0

With the recent excitement surrounding the new iPhone, the 2.0 software, and all the new iPhone applications, it seemed inevitable that we'd get some printing information from some where.

Well, thanks to a sharp-eyed reader (thanks SS), from comes a post entitled "Printing from your iPhone may be possible soon". Interesting indicator of Bluetooth printing in iPhone's future?

And on the same beat, King HomeTech is featuring an untitled post regarding iPhone printing. The blog's author is working with me on a further explanation for us mere mortals, so stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

So long, LaserJet Blogger Vince Ferraro!

Vince Ferraro, HP's Vice President of LaserJet Marketing and our industry's leading corporate blogger, is moving on. Vince has been the author of The LaserJet Blog for the last couple of years, and has just posted for the last time, at least in that venue.

He waxes a bit philosophical in his final post "On to new journeys -- this blogger's farewell", with some historical perspective combined with an eye to the future. (Gee, who does that remind me of?).

As far as this blog goes, I first recognized Vince's blogging efforts in November 2006 (see "Welcome to the Blogosphere"), and we've had a cooperative relationship since then, with numerous cross links and even the occasional guest blog. Of course, and true to blogging tradition, along with the tributes have come the periodic and (mostly) good-spirited "shots across the bow", which have been (mostly) well received!

And in the interest of full disclosure, the blogging relationship actually only represents a small portion of my long-term friendship with Vince, which began when we were HP colleagues and first crossed paths in the late 1980's.

As Vince recounts in his post, the LaserJet Blog emerged as the most well-read of all the many HP executive blogs. It was Vince's enthusiasm, as well as the interesting topics he covered, that led to this leading position and popularity.

To my readers -- check out Vince's last post, again, "On to new journeys -- this blogger's farewell", leave him a friendly comment, and stay tuned...I will be sure and post here immediately when Vince re-emerges (after a no-doubt much deserved vacation!).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Observations: Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Google (NASDAQ GOOG) Book Search (GBS for our purposes) has been on my radar for the last few years. The search giant’s “humble” goal to digitize millions of books appealed to me right off, as it just seemed to have that ring of over-achieving for which Google has become famous. While I’ve blogged about GBS a few times briefly in the past, I have included the following disclaimer in my print-industry blog, that GBS “...sits outside my general area of interest of printers, but hey, they use scanners to implement it, right?”

But now that one of our printing industry celebrities has made a bit of a stand on the importance of GBS, it’s time for me to shed the disclaimers and open up the topic for regular blog and column fare. It was only recently (May, 2008), when Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP’s (NYSE HPQ) Imaging and Printing Group, while speaking to the press at the quadrennial printing fair drupa in Düsseldorf, Germany (see the July issue of The Hard Copy Observer for full coverage of drupa), evoked the significance of GBS. Though I wasn’t in attendance for his speech, I eagerly read the Reuters account and immediately welcomed the entrance of GBS into the relevant world of printing. According to Georgina Prodhan of Reuters, Joshi predicted, “After the digitalization of music and photos, which are already well advanced, labels, marketing materials, and books will follow in the next few years.” Joshi referred to Google’s ambitious project to scan all the world’s books that are out of copyright, and said that the firm has already gathered digital versions of more than one million books. “If you want to get a book that’s out of print, digital is the way to do it, because you only print one copy,” said Joshi.

Now to my assessment of how and why GBS might be important to the printing industry, and whether or not I agree with Joshi, but first a little history. Unlike so many trends and developments that seem to bubble up and merge into one’s consciousness and that seem to have been formed from bits and scraps without any clear origin, I can distinctly pinpoint the source of what got me thinking and observing developments related to GBS.

Originally dubbed “Google Print” at its unveiling in November 2004, it was Michael J. Miller, in PC Magazine, dated December 27, 2005, that teased me with a piece titled, “Why Google Print is more important than you think.” With such a title, I felt compelled to read the article, and shortly after, a professional researcher and writer that I greatly respect confirmed his agreement that GBS was definitely something to keep an eye on.

Miller’s article reviewed a bit of history on Google’s approach to capturing out-of-copyright as well as in-copyright works and discussed a bit of the controversy regarding the latter, with its opt-out feature for publishers not wanting their works scanned by Google. He explained that this capture function constituted a different act altogether than the copyright-violating intent of a Napster, for example, whose memory, if not the actual company, still was front-and-center in 2005. Miller defended Google, urged publishers to see the light, and argued how a Google Search to a snippet of captured text from a book could actually lead Web searchers to buy the books in question.

Fast forward to 2008, and some of the controversy remains. Competing efforts have arisen, including those with participation from Microsoft (Live Book Search, since shuttered) and Yahoo and Microsoft (Open Content Alliance, with an opt-in, as opposed to opt-out, approach for copyright holders). Hmmm, Google against Microsoft and Yahoo, why does this sound familiar?

GBS continues to scan copyrighted as well as out-of-copyright books, and though the company doesn’t disclose the data, outsiders estimate a scan rate of more than 3,000 books per day. With Joshi’s quoted cumulative total of more than one million scanned books now more than a year old, the new total, if those rates still apply, would put the online library at more than two million books.

The figure above (click through for better detail) illustrates a screen shot of a search for Gone With The Wind, a book that is still under copyright. GBS displays a few highlights or snippets and provides links to popular booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble for would-be buyers. The “find this book in a library” took me to my local library’s search function with just a few more clicks. Given the right mindset (as Miller suggested in 2005), this functionality could be seen as a major “win-win” for owners and potential readers of the copyrighted materials, in addition to a source for out-of-print publications.

But what about printing? Joshi would have us think this huge library of digitized content can lead to printing opportunities galore. It’s interesting, though, that he would raise this topic at drupa, where HP was touting its impressively expanding line of commercial printing devices. It seems to me that personalized printing, as it may someday be emphasized by GBS, could potentially take away from centralized, commercial printing, even the customized, shorter runs that digital presses offer, including but not limited to the one-off out-of-print copies he mentions.

With the opportunity presented by Scribd and their “YouTube for documents” model (see my May 2008 Observations and also the Observer, 5/08) — existing desktop printers and simple stapling would probably suffice for converting most (shorter) documents to hardcopy. But when books are involved, even if not whole books but at least chapters or sections, it seems a desktop device with high speed but very low cost per page (a la the promise of Memjet), combined with affordable and easy-to-use document-binding capability (either physically combined or at least on the same desktop), could be a winning personal book-printing solution to go along with a capture, store, search, and royalty-capture engine like a future version of GBS, provided, of course, the whole world hasn’t jumped to Amazon Kindles!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Entrepreneurs and public relations

OK, readers, here's another one that's not a specific printer-related post but still very interesting (I allow myself about one a month).

In the interest of the positioning of Jim Lyons Observations (this blog) as the "printer product manager's personal notebook", I occasionally note the more general goings-on that catch my attention and that I (or my readers, who if they're reading on a regular basis, share my interests) may want to reference in the future. And any good printer product manager is at least a major part both entrepreneur and public relations practitioner, so here goes.

Guy Kawasaki's post, "The Wall Street Journal Lesson", caught my eye. Guy references a Wall Street Journal post by Wendy Bounds on "top entrepreneurial blogs", that he then followed up on, leading to a second WSJ post, "Anti-Social Aggregator? ‘AllTop’ Lists Any Story, Not Just Popular Ones".

All worthwhile reading, and also worthy of a page for posterity in the "printer product manager's personal notebook".

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Does $4+/gallon gas make home photo printing a better deal?

I was interested to see coverage in Business Week's Technology section by Aaron Ricadela on the nearly year-old HP (NYSE HPQ) Photosmart A826 printer, in a piece titled "HP Wants You to Print More Pictures". (And yes, we believe the assertion in the title is true, the company really would like to see you print more pictures!)

One of the favorably reviewed (four out of five stars) printer's "cons", though, are its "pricey prints", which Ricadela computes at 60 cents a pop for 4x6's, which he then compares to Walgreen's 12-to-19 cents and HP Snapfish's 9 cents, but not including shipping and handling, of course. And maybe the equation, for those folks "...looking to stop making drugstore runs", does indeed change when getting to the drug store means burning off $4 and up gasoline! That thought even occurred to me over the weekend, when making my Walgreen's run for a stack of photos that I preferred NOT to print (for non-economic reasons I've discussed here often) on one of my home photo printers.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More blogs posts I recommend

We've got a real series going here (don't think summer re-runs, please!), and today I'm sending you to a couple of posts that are, IMHO, extremely interesting and/or relevant, including one that I've authored.

First, I've penned a guest blog post that appears over at Printer Industry News, one of the Photizo Group's web properties. In my post on HP's new printing organization, I expand on what began as a simple conversation (one of many I've had in the last three weeks). I would love to have my readers comment, too. Any change is a potential risk, so what do you think? You're invited to comment here, there, or both places.

And another post, this one coming as a nice surprise, is over at Fabbaloo, a blog covering "Fabbing, 3D Printing, and Desktop Manufacturing." (see "Lyons Recognizes 3D Printing".) The Fabbaloo folks picked up on the reference to 3-Dimensional Printing in my June 2008 Observations, "New Horizons in Printing". Check them out, including today's post, featuring the current PRINT Magazine cover illustration (see left), Type and Form.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fear and Loathing on the Managed Print Services trail

Along with hot weather and barbecues, it seems to be the season for referencing other blogs and bloggers. Greg Walters is doing a great job over at the "Death of the Copier". He's very prolific, that goal all we bloggers share, and I have to mention specifically his recent post that combined his unique humor with real-life experiences. It provided me with a great education, from the trenches so to speak, along with a fun read that had me briefly hearkening back to Hunter Thompson and maybe even a little Joni Mitchell Coyote, i.e. "...a prisoner of the white lines of the freeway". The post is entitled "A Week In The Life of Managed Print Services". Highly recommended!

PS -- Am adding "DOTC" to my blogroll, right. (Correction, I'd already added it but it was obscurely sorted into the "T" secion. Now under "D" where it belongs.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Summer fun with the PoGo printer

It's nice to see Polaroid's $150 PoGo portable printer getting some love as its release date nears (July 6 at Best Buy and later in the month at Target).

There's a fun piece, on "10 Gadgets for Enjoying Summer Fun", from US News and World Report and appearing on Yahoo! Finance. It features PoGo, along with a range of other toys. Perfect summer fare, as we get ready for a Fourth of July weekend and, at least where I live, 100°+ temps. To all my readers, have a great holiday!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

From around the printing blogosphere

Welcome to the second half of 2008, and shall we hope for cheaper oil and more expensive stocks as we look ahead to the remainder of the year!

During this Fourth-of-July week, not much printer and printing news seems destined to come our way, but a quick look around the world of printer- and printing-oriented blogs finds some items of definite interest.

My colleague Ed Crowley at the Imaging Industry News blog posts an update and opinion about Pitney Bowes (NYSE PBI) and their decision to retain ownership of their Managed Print Services division. (see "Pitney Bowes stays the course".) Crowley points out that this divison, along with Ikon's (NYSE IKN), are the only two major providers of Managed Print Services "provide national (within the US) solutions for Managed Print Services (MPS), and who are also hardware vendor agnostic."

The recently re-energized Databazaar Blog has had a flurry of interesting posts of late. Today's post by Kara Soos, titled "Braille Embossers Enable the Blind to Print From a PC", continues Databazaar's series on "out-there" printers and technologies. In this case the world of braille embossers (so technically not really printers) is explored. Great work!

And my friends at the HP (NYSE HPQ) LaserJet blog have a new post about the CloudPrint print-from-your-mobile-phone service, announced last summer from HP Labs, that I've blogged about here in the past. (see most recently, "Observations: iPhone Printing, Revisited".)