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Thursday, May 3, 2012

TheDeathOfTheCopier - Japan!

It is my great and humble honor to be writing a column in OA Life, Japan.

I look to share MpS adventures, technology travels and the odyssey that is imaging.

Thank you MWAi, Mike, Mark, Gavin, and Hiro - for helping this happen.

Thank you.

Click to email me.

iTEX 2012, The Heart of CopierVille is Still Beating

It ain't mobile print(last gasp of a dying niche) but which iTEX exhibitor might just get printing (not all of it) relevant again...?

It's no secret, iTEX has been taking it on the chin lately with bad venues, obvious 60-minute commercials camouflaged as Power Hours, and empty-headed booth-drones claiming to have been in MpS for 25 years.

Heck, some of the presentations were given a stage worthy of side-show-Bob carnival barkers - "step right up, see the bearded lady..." where is my bamboo stick?

Well, at least somebody got new shoes and it was Vegas, right?

Just kidding - the show was a success.  A big success.

Those Who Stay, Will Be Champions

Without a doubt, hands down, shorter hours and everything, the show was a good time.  I saw business being conducted in the booths, everyone I talked with was not only positive, but most were also buoyant, almost - dare I say - giddy.

No, really.   People in this dying industry are smiling.

And do you know why?

The ones I spoke with are lined up perfectly to be survivors.   And this time, the power brokers are the agile, defiant, independents.  That's not to say the OEMs are eunuchs - well not all of them.  It just means that the role of the OEM is changing, transforming from a large, centrally based command and control center, to a more flexible responsive entity.

Well, one can dream.

We've all been there, "...whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger..." - the smart have utilized MpS, the quick are moving beyond marks on paper and the strong are forging their way without blaming anyone.

Staying the course, taking responsibility, and not wasting energy on bitching. The Heart, it still beats...

MpS whiners need not apply.

With the puffed-up and contrived angst around the "false promises of MpS" it was refreshing to find more than a few successful MpS providers.  Even though I understand and support the notion, I won't call them Hybrids.  I call them businesspeople.

It is my personal belief, that if you're a copier dealer and have half a brain, you can be successful with MpS.  Yes, I know, the two may be mutually exclusive (wait for it...wait...)

One reseller I spoke with explained how he analyzed the market, looked at his strengths, calculated a plan, articulated his MpS vision both internally and with his existing clients, and executed his plan.

Today, his revenue consists of around 47% MpS services.  He is satisfied with his progress, but moving forward, honing his value prop around his customers' needs, not those of his mainline, OEMs.  That's called customer-centric vs. OEM-centric. Huh.

Oh, and are you ready for this - he came from outside the industry, bought a dealership, and whipped it into shape, like a real business, raising both the bar and the curve.

And when things were tough, he didn't look around and ask, "...what happened to all those promises..."

Get Used To Disappointment

If I detected any displeasure, it was with the Power Hours(again).

You can't please everybody, all the time, and no matter which show I've been to, I hear people lament over the class/workshop/seminars.  The gripes typically go like this:
  • "The content was too basic."
  • "The content was too complex."
  • "The guy tried to sell me his system."
  • "We heard all that 6 years ago."
  • "That session was nothing more than a rolling commercial, describing his product, not a process."
  • "I walked out."
Now, just because these are common statements, it doesn't make them less valid.  Indeed, one of the MpS workshops I sat in really was a 60-minute commercial.  And I spoke with one person who walked out of TWO sessions because the content was "stale, dated and inaccurate". (not my words)


But this reaction was rare and presented by people I consider to be rather advanced in the art that is MpS.  The overwhelming majority of the people I asked said they enjoyed the show and came away with many 'golden nuggets'.

Well done, ITex/Questex. Well done.

ITex - Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of them All...

With Lyra, Transform, World Ex, and other shows, you can count on seeing people from each organization working the rows, the booths, and speaking.  Charlie, Ed, and Patricia could be doing everything from hobnobbing with the elites to chasing down HDMI cables for the next presentation.

It's their show.

Not so with Questex - and that's okay.  Questex does not sell MpS.  Questex has never provided remote meter reads or automatic service dispatch; they don't know of or give a hoot about the three stages of MpS.

Again, that is okay.

Questex publishes trade magazines and manages events - and they do that well.

In a very real sense, Questex/ITex is simply a platform for us in the industry to display our wares, pontificate about ourselves, and generally show off.

But it doesn't end there.  ITex is just the name of the stage that Questex Media manages - what happens on that stage is not only our responsibility it is a reflection of who we are.

So last year, people reported the venue sucked and "nobody attended" - well, last year, our industry was sucking and nobody had a presence.

This year, the show was fantastic, attendees positive and upbeat, right now, the independents are cheerful and looking toward the future.  The show is reflecting the mood.

All the world's a stage - says the 'barb. 

For the life of me, I don't totally understand this joviality - every indicator is down with no rebound in sight.  The largest print OEM in the world is getting out of print and the next generation of end-users barely read off paper, let alone send print to it.

Be that as it may, I am as sick of the negativity as I am of the blatant "ignore that" mentality.

I say we rock.  Let's persevere or go down fighting.

Print can be relevant, again.

A week ago, if you told me the most impressive thing I would see at ITex was a piece of hardware I saw 4 years ago, I would have laughed.

And after I stopped laughing, had you mentioned to me that 'not only could this piece of hardware bring print back into the spotlight, it may even save mobile print' I woulda dropped you right where you stood.

Well, I stand corrected.  How so?

The goal is to make print easy, not available on every street corner for a price - what most mobility models miss is the cost to the end-user. Sure there is a laser printer down in the business center, but it takes longer and costs a dime a sheet.

What I witnessed could make over-charging customers for print, a thing of the past. I saw an MFP that is blazing fast at 60ppm, performing this speed at 5% or 100% coverage, black and white or color, full-bleed no less - it just didn't matter.

And cheap.  Four cents for color, penny B/W.  And cheap.  $700.00 cost.

As the pie of available prints shrinks, the big, centrally located, 11x17 copiers are too expensive, too loud, too slow, and too old-fashioned.

And they require a service agreement.

Also, today's printers are slow, expensive to feed, suck too much energy, and have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.  The machines and their toner cartridges are fading yet not all the prints will go away, it's an example of the Long Tail.

So who will be there to print all those buggy-whip designs?  The lowest, almost disposable, devices, that's who.

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

At those prices, $900.00 for a 60 page per minute, full color, printer, with very low operational cost, barely any moving parts - why would anybody ever want to purchase a service agreement?

And let's say,  just for giggles, each purchased unit included ink refills at half price.  Let's just say.

Why wouldn't every hotel on the planet have one of these?  Why wouldn't every Starbucks?  Hell, why wouldn't you have one to print Christmas pics right then and there for Grandpapa and Grandmama?

There you have it.  Mobile print everywhere and not a dime to show for it - no CPI, MpS, no margin or service calls.  Nadda, zip, zero.

Have a nice day.

The Belle of the Ball - Sindoh/MemJet

And there it was.  Sitting there unassuming.  Back in 2009, I saw the MemJet engine spitting out A4 color prints on some guy's couch in a hotel room somewhere.  It was cool and for the next 3 years we all waited for the 'real thing'.

Like a ghost, MemJet haunted the halls of Lyra and trade shows across the country.  We heard of desperate deals consummated with the devil - and still no device.

From San Diego to Sydney to Oklahoma City - the rumor mill and paper trail churned on.

It's real, not a wraith.  I saw it.  Touched it and even videotaped it working
Lawsuits aside, Sindoh the Korean concern utilizing MemJet in their machine has got a tiger by the tail on this one.

Stay tuned for more as I get more on them...

So in the End...

ITex 2012 is in the rearview.  MpS is all over the globe and the copier dealer is on the rebound.

Just when you think you're getting out, they pull you right back in...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why We Can't Let #Xerox Go


If you've been in the industry for over a year, you know how much the ecosystem changes.  You also know that rumors of business deals churn faster than your 36 month ex-dates.

Especially when it comes to which OEM is buying who, what dealership is consolidating and who is getting sued by Canon/HP.

We have a small but rather colorful niche which is likely to get a bit smaller.

Not 'doom and gloom', it just is.

I keep my eyes out for new and interesting tidbits of information, getting a feel for trends - nothing statistically supported, no study groups or polling numbers.  I pay attention to how often a company or person pops up on my 'radar'.

Over the last 60 days its been Xerox - more specifically, Ursula Burns.

Videos and quotes have been flowing into my view so often and I decided to listen in on the Xerox earnings call.  Very interesting.

These calls pretty much go without incident - one typically needs to listen deeply, digging out encoded tidbits of insight.  It is quite typical not to hear any mention of competitors and report the landscape in extreme generalities.

That's why one statement made me do a double take:

Ursula Burns, Xerox Corporation, Chairman and CEO, responding to a question posed by Bill Shope - Goldman Sachs, Analyst on the competitive landscape, 2012, Q1 earnings call:

"...Yes, I think that I would speak about two companies outside of the other group. 

So the other group is Canon, Ricoh, KM. You know, the normal technology people, technology hardware providers, and they are still infants in document outsourcing.

They are really not large players. They are trying to get together solutions and offer them, but we really don't compete actively against them..."

WOW - bit of the old smack-down, eh?

Now listen, I have never worked for Xerox, seems they are the only OEM I don't have intimate experiences with, and it is true that I write for the Business Transformation Center  which is Xerox sponsored, but up until 12 months ago, I considered Xerox a competitor.

Twenty-four months ago, I evaluated PagePack. Ten months ago, I was looking at PagePack 3.0. and just 8 months back I evaluated the ColorCube. Xerox hardware and program are impressive, any way you shape it.

Over the past 60 days I have come to know the story of Ursula Burns - out of the projects and up through the ranks.  I like that.

At Less than 9 bucks, XRX is a steal.

Merger talk and take-over rumors are part and parcel of the imaging industry - from Ikon to Danka, Ricoh to Global, everyone on the outside recognizes the incestuousness atmosphere while we inside shrug our shoulders and say, "what?"

The swirling chatter today is that the X is prime for a take-over and Dell or HP are would-be suitors.

Personally, I don't think HP is a strategic position to take on anyone.  And I don't think they are all that gun-ho on continuing down the toner-based path.

So what about Dell?

With Xerox deriving over 50% of its revenue from services, Dell might fare well acquiring all those inroads to global IT entities; spin-off the Global arm, converting it into cash.  Again, I doubt Dell wants to get into the copier/printer world, wax-based or otherwise.

I know what you're thinking - who else would take Xerox?  Look west...far west...Seoul.

Samsung may want a channel where they have none now.  Samsung might like the idea of instant invite into the best of the Fortune 500.'ll never happen...still...

Detroit hasn't been the Automobile capital of the World for decades.  GM is owned by Canada and Chrysler has been sold off to an Italian automaker.  Boeing has to compete on the world stage no longer holding dominance.  And HP is in the middle of sending her once cash-cow, out to pasture.

What happened to all the American companies?

Well, in the End, money is money - generated by clicks, seats or acquisitions - it makes the world go 'round.

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Greg Walters, Incorporated