Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I Think I'm seeing about Print09

To set the context, I love print and printers and like globals. My day job is managing my IRA (see sidebar for full disclosure.) My radar is limited to what I can find on the screen. No "inside" knowledge. No compensation from anyone in the industry.

What I Think
Kodak has gotten back to it's roots in the consumer industry. Their exhibit is efficient in the context of a national trade event. It's modular and could be repurposed in many settings. A trimmed down version could fit in a retail setting. The same sensibility could be duplicated on the web. On the screen and the buzz sphere - different from the real world, but still important -t they succeeded in "sucking all the oxygen out of the room."

From the videos and live streaming there was still the "educating" the customer story. Can you imagine Kodak "educating" a consumer to buy their cameras or to create that "Kodak moment?" Hardly. My bet is that going forward they will also figure out that part.

HP has made more alliances, the most interesting one with Pitney Bowes. But I feel they are still trapped by top management focusing on too many things. No doubt they are the 800 pound gorilla in the States, but their consumer facing dna is probably very far away from the print piece. Their Print division on the other hand has the in place infrastructure to be the backbone of a "many to many" distribute and print network. If it were a standalone business unit or spun off as a separate company, I bet it would grow much faster.

Xerox was only sporadically on my radar. Their tweets were all about "come to this event or that event" and "wow, I'm having a great time.". I did see something about the inline short run packaging on the Igen, but didn't have the time to search. (I like "discover" much more than search.)

Yesterday I did get to a Xerox video that seemed just right. Simple, with "good enough" production values. The interviewer did a good job and it was easy to get to the video on YouTube. Most impressive was how quickly it was done and posted. .

From where I sit, Xerox has enterprise dna. That's both a bug and a feature. The problem is that the very enterprises where the brand is strongest are exactly the ones in which the brand is under severe attack. The new normal is a threat to any organization that has lived as the "trusted provider." Inefficiencies are inevitable when "trusted brand" protects margins. I'm betting they can transform themselves fast enough. But the jury is still out.

I was surprised and disappointed that Oce and InfoPrint didn't appear to me as much as I had hoped. From my point of view, they have the strongest tech in the industrial strength infrastructure part of the industry. Although I did find a good Info video about "intelligent barcodes. They had a top ranked CMO presenting, but I never found a video that allowed me to hear what was said. Meanwhile, Oce is in the lead with books, versioned newspapers and QR codes, but again I didn't come across anything that I could view or link to.

The most interesting (2me) was Pitney Bowes and Bell&Howell. They are exactly in the right place to drive efficiencies in the connection between the printed product and distributing the printed product. In my mind, that's the real growth opportunity in the States. As cost of production continues to be driven out of the value equation of print, "delivery" still has lots of waste to be invented away.

The overall sense was that natural differentiation is picking up steam. Oce + InfoPrint in industrial strength solutions. Kodak with the right voice, but still not highlighting the Prinergy piece and the ability for hybrid digital/offset workflows. I still not getting a clear signal from Xerox. The challenge from ink jet solutions in production printing is formidable. I'm hoping they can bring to the fore their MPS and ColorQube offerings and will eventually see the value in connecting their MPS to the PSPs.

In any case, the "Printernet" portfolio I've assembled is doing very nicely.

Go Print!


  1. I really like the Xerox ColorQube and I think it is going to revolutionize the way printers are made these days. I am somewhat watching from outside the box, but when i saw the ColorQube I really got excited. It seems like the perfrect printer solution to expensive cartridges, But on the other hand, refilling your cartridges at home seems out of the question.

  2. That's also what it looks like to me, although I've never seen one. (I'm just a stay at home blogger).

    But remember betamax and VHS. Betamax was widely acknowledged as the much better product. The market went to "good enough" now, instead of better later.

    Can Xerox execute? Can they lead an "army on the ground" and create customer evangelists? I hope so, but I'm not seeing it yet.