Monday, November 30, 2015

November - 10 Years of Observations

Ten years ago, I started my monthly columns - an unbroken streak of 120 in a row!

In a column I wrote 10 years ago, in December 2005, I noted that by looking back 10 years (i.e. to 1995), we would see a different printing and imaging industry, with countless threats and opportunities in its future that were easily identifiable by 2005 but were cloudy and mysterious, if not outright unknown, in 1995. I would point to a list of “still in the future” organizations and technologies that were either altogether unheard of, or at least yet-to-become-pervasive, including “digital cameras, MFPs or all-in-ones, Yahoo, Amazon, Google, Napster, iTunes, MP3s, blogs, RSS feeds, [and] podcasts.” My point (one of many I tried to convey in that column) was that times change and we can look back at how the world has changed, with hopes that we will see we have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by some if not all of the changes.

That happened to be my very first column, written shortly after my departure from a 25-year-long career at HP, with most of that time from 1981 to 2005 directly involved with their (our!) printing and imaging business. And now that 10 years have passed since then, let me reflect a bit on my decade “on the other side” as a blogger/analyst, and include a similar list. (Before I do, let me clarify that in 2005 and for a few years following, Jim Lyons Observations (JLO) really was a “column”, a term I associate with content which is part of a regularly published hard-copy periodical, initially - in my case - The Hard Copy Observer. My continued monthly “column” cycle, when the HCO became an online-only publication, continues to this day and into the future.)

So what didn’t we know about in 2005? How about smartphones like the Apple iPhone; tablets like the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface; Google’s presence as an OS supplier (two if you count Chrome and Android); the Wearables juggernaut, with expensive experiments like Google Glass and - some might argue - the Apple Watch, but also the hugely pervasive, with devices like those from Fitbit; and the entire Social Media onslaught – Facebook and LinkedIn existed in 2005, but barely, and Twitter was yet to make its appearance, to say nothing of Instagram, Snapchat, and others.

More specific to printing and imaging, I put “digital cameras” on the “1995 MIA” list, at least in terms of their relatively minor presence in the overall industry, and while they have grown to dominate in both 2005 and 2015, their form has changed from predominately stand-alone to pervasive as a key component of smartphones. Pagewide inkjet printing was resident in some of the bigger R&D labs, but remained to make its presence felt in a commercialized sense, and “ink in the office” was only a pipe dream. Though the major printer OEMs spent significant energy, or at least verbiage cycles, on terms like “solutions”, “verticals” and “services”, the phrase “Managed Print Services” was a new one and MPS was an unknown acronym in an industry that still loves its acronyms.

Of course, that is just a start. Clearly, the past 10 years have included lots to analyze and write about! On a more personal level, that first column led to me to status as a regular columnist with the Observer, then also as a paid part-time staff writer and eventually Senior Editor with Lyra Research, all before the acquisition of the company by Photizo Group in 2012. It was a major career highlight to become part of the combined companies, though it turned out to be my second stint with Photizo, as I had participated as a part-timer staffer in their formative years, from 2006 to 2009. Leaving there in 2013, I was fortunate to be invited to bring JLO - along with additional duties – to The Imaging Channel where I continue to enjoy their hospitality, with their hosting most of my monthly columns to this day. I am also self-published, via Google’s Blogger, where all my columns from #1 to now #120 can be found.

In conclusion (for now)

I have to come to realize that I am very big on noting anniversaries and the like. I think it comes from having an historian’s bent, and firmly believing that we all learn from looking at what has happened in the past. The payoff, outside of the simple satisfaction of curiosity, is that by understanding the steps we have followed along the way to the present, we gain insight on where our steps into the future will lead.

Over my ten years of Jim Lyons Observations, I have had great hosting sites!

It was a commitment to this idea that got me started on Jim Lyons Observations exactly 10 years ago. And I have been tracking the current end-of-year anniversary for some time, knowing that I would definitely use (this) Monthly Column #120 to reflect and look ahead (while also knowing I didn’t have to worry as far as coming up with a column idea!). As described in the introductory paragraph, the significance is more than a “round number” – I used Column #1 to reflect back on the previous 10 years, using the “time capsule” pretext which was actually true! (Those who have ever seen a work area/desk of mine would attest to the possibility of ten-year-old, untouched information caches existing, especially in the days when hard copy played a more prominent role in information dissemination and storage.)

Looking back on that 10-year-old column, (in addition to seeing a columnist with more and darker hair and beard!) I am proud to know I have hung in there and I am very grateful for all the help, support, collegiality, and the like, from both those on the blogger/analyst/research side which I joined and was given multiple opportunities to grow as one of them, as well as those on the industry side who provided (and continue to provide) so much help in telling their stories.

Looking ahead, I may not be ready to commit to 10 more full years, but I have the energy, enthusiasm, and most important, the ideas(!!!) to keep cranking out, as I say in my masthead, “business and marketing developments in the Printing and Imaging industry, combining [my] many years of experience with an ever-enthusiastic eye on the future!”

And of course I could not have done any of this without you the reader!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nicely done, Epson - and CTA / CES

In my August 2015 Observations, I raved about the new line of Epson EcoTank printers and how their mega-ink-capacity (aka #SuperTank) would ease real customer pain points, relieving the hassle and mess (as well as expense) of frequent ink-cartridge shopping and swapping. (See "Epson’s EcoTank Printers make a big splash, for good reasons!")

So it should come as no surprise that the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), sponsor of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has named one of Epson's new products, the WorkForce ET-4550 to be precise, as a winner of one of their 2016 Innovation awards.

As far as criteria for the award, here is what the release states:
The WorkForce ET-4550 was evaluated based on its engineering, aesthetic and design qualities, intended use/function and user value, how the design and innovation of the product directly compares to other products in the marketplace and unique/novel features present.
Good call CTA / CES, and congratulations Epson America!

Monday, November 02, 2015

HP Splits Today - what about HP Labs?

With the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange minutes away, and the official beginning of trading of the two companies' shares ($HPQ for HP Inc and $HPE for HP Enterprise), all the planning and much of the speculation is behind us.

While completing a story on some new LaserJet printers recently (see "HP Printer Group Keeps Minding Customer Needs with new LaserJets for the Enterprise"), and their emphasis on data security, I wondered about this being perhaps a worry for the PC and Printer company (HPQ). Specifically, would it be a problem putting distance between them and their security-focused Enterprise mates, going from being all under-the-same-corporate-roof to being in separate companies. My HP Inc contacts assured me the relationship would simply evolve into a strong partnership, one like they have with so many companies already. And an HP spokesperson, when asked about the venerable HP Labs and how the split affects them, responded,

"HP Labs will be divided based on research area. Shared research between the two companies will remain with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with a licensing agreement to HP Inc."

With that said, congrats are in order to CEO Meg Whitman and all my friends at both HP Enterprise and HP Inc!!!