Monday, July 6, 2009

InfoPrint could be the engine for Ricoh+IBM

Print is always where the rubber meets the road.

The knowledge, in the form of data, that is generated on the web is trapped on the web until it emerges in print. The fundamental problem is that print and TV are the Rodney Dangerfields of the 21st century communication ecosystem. They "get no respect."

The very fact that TV and Print are mass media makes them uninteresting to intellect workers at the top of the various pyramids. Since the discourse is controlled exactly by those intellect workers it's easy to understand why cell phones + web 2.0 gather all the buzz. It's undeniable that the path from buzz to money is pretty clear. What is often ignored is that buzz is a very, very high risk business. That's why the rewards can be so great.

Infrastructure is a boring, lower risk business.
Print and TV are the endpoints of the communication infrastructure. When they go mobile that means there will be more of both. A good example is when Print invented paperback books. The greater the mobility, the more the endpoints (paperback books) penetrated the mass market. Mobility has always driven mass markets.

Augmented reality (AR) is probably where this is going. It can be usefully framed as personal TV on a flat screen. The Kindle and kindle look alikes can be seen as mobile "print" for readers. Neither are mass markets. They might be some day. But for a long time the amount of buzz will be completely disproportional to their effect on life in the real world. As smart phones become mobile, personal flat screens, web search will stop being the cool thing. As it already has for the younger smart phone generation, it will become merely a fact of life. Facts of life are infrastructure. Infrastructure is good business for globals.

In the real world, TV and Print are the only push media.
The web, for all it's wonder and complexity, are pull media. Pull media is optimized for search and exchange. Push media is optimized for unexpected interesting information. Learning most often happens when a teachable moment opens the mind for unexpected information that can be judged interesting. That means Print. That means TV.

Ricoh, IBM, InfoPrint
Ricoh and IBM are both 8000 pound gorillas. IBM in the cloud, Ricoh on the ground. Ricoh keeps coming and coming. The Ikon purchase and subsequent attack on Canon was masterful and very expensive. IBM is in a fight for the Cloud with the other 8000 pound gorillas, Amazon and Google. Both still have not unlocked the value of InfoPrint.

Ricoh Innovation Labs at iCandy are all about the cell phones and QR codes. But I don't see QR code dna being inserted into the game changer it could be in Print piece. IBM innovation in the Cloud is all about the infrastructure. Traffic, health and energy seem to be top of mind. But no focus on improving public education.

InfoPrint grew from line printers. Their dna is about organizing communication for presentation in Print. In the old days it was about statement printing. Today it's about "transpromo." But as the tech has changed, they've been building on their tradition of industrial strength logistics and "good enough to get the job done." They are executing industrial strength experiments in analyzing and gathering the data. At the end of the day, the deliverable with reasonable margins is the spread sheet. InfoPrint is learning how to deliver better and better spreadsheets every day.

Marketers need spreadsheets to satisfy their supervisors. Everyone in every organization needs spreadsheets to satisfy their supervisors. When the cells of those spreadsheets actually point to the mechanisms that affect the real world marketers can sell more stuff. Selling more stuff in the States is a low margin business.

Educators and health professionals need spreadsheets to help people get smarter and healthier. No matter what happens to the business cycle, the need for people to get smarter and healthier will experience secular growth. Their are problems about the cost of monetizing meeting that need. But that's why a business is a business. They figure out the schemes that monetize real value creation.

The irony is that the globals still think that they create the value in the form of services and boxes. Yes, but there are every lowering margins. That's the infrastructure business. It's a low margin web scale business.

The high margin, human scale business is delivering the content and harvesting the behavior to create the spreadsheets by analyzing what happens when other people's content is delivered. That means Print and TV. Once dynamic QR codes that can carry more information than a pURL are put in Print that means a connection can be made from Print to TV onto a flat screen. The flat screen can be on a smart phone, a tablet, a computer, in the classroom or in the living room. The Print is always in the user's immediate real world environment.

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