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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"I have seen the future of Managed Print Services, and its name is Bruce Springsteen."


A bit of a stretch, but stay with me here.

" 1974, 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen played at the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge.

Although popular with the college crowd in the Northeast, Springsteen was not yet a star.

That night, he and the E Street Band opened for Bonnie Raitt.

The influential music critic Jon Landau was in the audience. Overwhelmed by what he heard, Landau wrote,

"I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

In the years since that momentous spring night in Cambridge, the Boss has had 14 albums go platinum, has won 11 Grammies and an Oscar and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame..."

Back in those days, stars were truly discovered. Crowds were organic, not Twitter-induced - the "buzz" was real.

This is way before MTV, before "57 Channels", email, the internet, Facebook, blow dryers and teeth whitening. The music was real.

To know Bruce back then was to either hate him or love him. And the Bruce fans were nuts, unique, outside of the norm - to the right of the bell curve.

His shows today are intense, but back then, the 4-hour sessions skyrocketed up and over the religious. Not because he demanded so much from his band, all of them willing accomplices, but Bruce did more - he demanded more from his audience.

From everyone within hear shot. Those of us in the very last seat, to the fans behind the stage, to the high rollers in the front row - if you didn't believe in Rock n Roll after one of his concerts, you didn't have a pulse.

One of the most interesting things I remember from those glory days - well, not back in 1974 - I consider myself a "second-gen" Bruce fan, from the Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town era - I think back to how we fans stuck together. How while standing in line to get into a show, we all had that "cat who ate the mouse" look.

The nod, the smile from fan to fan - we were in for something special, something not everybody "got" and that was fine with us. Actually, we preferred it this way. Bruce was ours. Not everyone's. And as much as we wanted to keep this a secret, we all knew that someday, Bruce would be moving out of the smaller venues into the mega-shows, the real world, mainstream.

And so it is with Managed Print Services - our Secret Garden, we lucky few who shared a wink and a nod, over a year ago in San Antonio, we are about to lose to the rest of the world, this special, undefinable "thing".

It's been a year, another turn of the globe, and MPS has just about come full circle.

The "big guys" have now gotten it right.

I rail against the titans, the over publicized global MPS takedowns less than 5% of us will ever see. The over-exposed CPC to MPS conversions straight out of MIF, touted as examples of MPS.

And yes, I protest the lack of human touch extolled by heartless MPS programs.

I challenge, I poke, I prod, I mock. Yet, deep down, I know the exercise is tragic if not futile. One step up, and two steps down.

You see, there is a part of me fighting to keep MPS bottled up, pure. Sure, me, the dark skeptic, exposed as an eternal optimist, even as the genie evaporates out for all to see.

The lack of MPS purity, I feel, has led to the detriment of so many MPS programs; Konica Minolta OPS, Samsung MPS Platform, the Lexmark thing, HP MPS redefining the size of an enterprise account down to SMB, from PagePack 1.0 to PagePack 3.0(there never was a 2.0) on and on.

And all those failed BTA/MPS programs, doomed from the very beginning, taking with them, bright-eyed and hopeful copier salespeople or service managers christened as MPS experts. Such a waste.

To be sure there are many, many bright spots - Great America offering leasing and MPS training, not to mention advice on how to hire MPS people.

Synnex, delivering just in time, HP OEM, and utilizing Stephen Power - the only old skool mentor who gets it.

And the Photizo Group, how frustrating it must be to see your work, copied and regurgitated as new; complete trade shows themed on your descriptive: The Hybrid Dealer. I mean, flattery can only go so far.

So, after a year, where are we now? Indeed, after three, where do you stand now?

For me, it's a realization that this has finally gotten bigger than us.

MPS is hitting the mainstream, the time for defining is passed, those of us who may have felt at one time in control of destiny, need to simply hang on, and make the best of it.

Those intimate Springsteen shows were special, a point in time that can never be duplicated, except in memory.

But the sheer, awesome, spectacle that is a Springsteen arena show, even if mainstream, is glorious.

As I consider the past 12 months, "I saw my printer and copier past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw MPS's future and its name is (fill in the blank)."

All is not lost - there are more windmills for us to charge on this MPS landscape - all it takes is a Leap of Faith, I think we should keep taking those tickets from the fat man, living the runaway American Dream.

Because, ultimately, I still haven't found, what I'm looking for...

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