Of all the computer products and peripherals a customer buys, the printer is usually the only one that produces a tangible, "hold it in your hand and look at it" result. And that result is, for many customers, absolutely essential to the way they do business. More than anything else a customer's choice of printer affects the way they are perceived and the way they will do business with you. ARN's Ellen Cresswell asked around to find out just how well printers are keeping up their end of the bargain.
What we found was that, as well as the usual forces of getting faster, getting better and getting cheaper, printers and vendors are becoming more conscientious. They endeavour to use consumables more efficiently, and damage the environment less. They are easier to service and more intuitive to set up. They're trying to save time in the office and look better than ever in black and white and colour. Can printers make the world a better place? Read on and find outIBM1998 will see IBM update its range and introduce two new models. IBM's printer systems manager, Paul Cosgrove, says 1998 also marks a change in marketing strategy for IBM.
"Due to network computing, there's a certain swing from stand-alone products to networked solutions," he said.
Cosgrove says IBM will be concentrating on the solutions market instead of the commodity market, and the channel will be an integral part of that plan.
He also says that while the channel is currently focused at the mid to bottom end of the printer market, IBM will need to expand its channel to the high end of the spectrum. "That end of the market needs a high degree of skills on products and the industry," he said.
According to Cosgrove, the networking solutions end of the printer market requires a different mode of thinking. "It's not for the faint-hearted," he said.
The high-end focus will include more training for IBM's channel partners to increase skills and knowledge of the company's complex networking printer products.
Cosgrove says IBM plans to grow its channel partners' expertise outside of its current skill set.
He admits "things are getting more complex in the networking areas," and IBM's channel partners require more specific training.
IBM's regular channel education program includes product training as products are released, and a number of formal education sessions throughout the year.
The company has printer-specific training and is also developing an education program on the Internet with partner information, general product information, pricing information and FAQs.
Cosgrove said the Web service would keep the channel abreast of maintenance issues and industry trends.
Meanwhile, the lower end of the market is still turning over important dollars for IBM, and Cosgrove hasn't forgotten that.
"The key thing is that the bottom end of the market is more commodity driven at 10 to 20ppm," he said.
Tel 13 2426
Fax (02) 9354 7766
Ink-stick innovator Tektronix bills its system as "hand-in-hand simplicity", unlike the relative complexity of laser printers.
Tektronix's CPID marketing manager Neale Gallagher says the company's goal is to displace the black and white printer in the office market.
"Black and white is almost a thing of the past; colour is not that much more expensive," he said.
Tektronix is still basking in the glory of the Phaser 360 which was released earlier this year. The company will re-release the Phaser 350 in 1998 with its price reduced by 50 per cent. While the 350 will have a low price point, Gallagher says Tektronix will still be without an entry level machine.
Both printers use eco-friendly ink sticks, which print vivid colour on a range of paper grades. The ink sticks use minimal packaging, which earns Tektronix green points. And the printer has a low TCO, mainly because Tektronix provides all the black ink sticks for free.
After moving to a two-tier distribution model and appointing Tech Pacific earlier this year, Tektronix's major battle now seems to be in convincing its resellers to join up with the distributor.
"The challenge is encouraging resellers to join up with Tech Pacific," Gallagher said.
He said most channel incentives would be operating in conjunction with Tech Pac to get them to join the distributor. Training workshops with resellers will be run with Tech Pacific, while all point of sale material and print samples will come straight from Tektronix.
The company is also establishing a Web-based information resource that will have sales collateral in Acrobat form, as well as downloadable brochures and price lists. Gallagher says product specs and user stories for use in sales will be available at that site.
Tektronix's major market is corporate customers, traditionally in the graphic arts arena. Gallagher says this market is growing at 25 to 30 per cent per year.
He says the key to Tektronix's success is it makes only colour printers and it makes them across all technologies.
The company has two sorts of reseller training. The first is its normal product training, held in regular three-hour sessions as well as daylong sessions twice a year.
"It's important for resellers to really understand our products and see what they can do," Gallagher said.
The company's main training tool, however, is the Tektronix Road Train which visits seven capital cities around the country. Gallagher says that's more locations than any other vendor. Every reseller from each city is invited to the Road Train.
This year Tektronix plans three Road Trains instead of the usual two. The additional one will be in July, and it will be an industry briefing session.
Tel (02) 9888 0100
Fax (02) 9888 0125
Innovative printer vendor QMS has just introduced the Magicolor 2 colour laser printer Ñ the company's first product to print duplex pages.
Greg Newham, QMS Australia general manager, says that with a $5995 (ex tax) price tag, it's the cheapest, fastest, highest-quality printer in its class. It prints at between four and eight pages per minute in colour, or 16ppm in mono.
This year, QMS is also introducing a new desk laser range, starting from $495 ex tax. Newham said the range has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and higher quality than its competitors. Two printers from that range will be launched at the end of the month.
QMS is currently waiting on approval for a multi-function device that will turn a printer into a copier, fax and more. Newham says this device could effectively turn the Magicolor 2 into a colour copier.
QMS printers use Crown technology, which allows printers to do multiple processes at the same time, and at top speed. It goes beyond multiport network printing to provide true multi-task printing.
Riding on the back of this new technology is QMS Australia's aim to "increase its sales 300 per cent", Newham said.
Tel 9901 3235
Fax 9901 3273
At the end of the month, Epson will introduce three new colour inkjets to the market.
In other news, Epson is currently looking at ways to add value to its reseller education programs.
Marketing services manager Koula Mamalikos said Epson's current program involves two large product launches each year with an overview of the company's product and emerging technology. With 2500 resellers on its books, it's a large ask.
Epson's strategy very much revolves around customer feedback.
Each new reseller receives the Epson Support Program Kit, which contains information about new products, brochures and pricing updates, as well as details of current promotions. There's a CD-ROM included which has a price list database and PDF file, screensaver, Epson contacts, and a "what's new" section.
The pack also includes an evaluation form for resellers to complete.
Epson resellers receive a quarterly news-letter which keeps them up to date with the latest news.
Resellers can download product infor-mation sheets from the Internet and view available merchandise.
Tel (02) 9903 9000
Fax (02) 9903 9177
Keeping up with the growth of multimedia, Canon has announced a desktop printer that incorporates full colour scanning capabilities.
The BJC-4300 printer delivers photo realistic output, high-speed black text printing and continuous sheet banner printing. The Image Scanner Cartridge (optional at $149) is substituted for the ink cartridge, converting the printer to a scanner with a maximum resolution of 360dpi.
The printer uses Canon's PhotoRealism technology to produce realistic photo- graphic output with a large colour range. A complete kit for colour and photo printing is bundled with the printer. It includes a four-colour ink cartridge, photo ink cartridge and five sheets of Canon's new photo paper, worth $179.
The printer also uses Canon's Image Optimisation technology for enhancing Internet images. Built into the printer driver, it enhances low-resolution screen images and prints them at the maximum resolution supported by the printer. The BJC-4300 handles a wide selection of paper, including plain paper and coated papers, envelopes, transparencies, back lit display film, glossy photo paper, high-gloss film, t-shirt transfers and fabric sheets.
Tel (02) 9805 2570
Fax (02) 9887 1312
Fuji Xerox recently released two new network laser printers that it says provide significant advances in performance, productivity and price for users.
The Xerox DocuPrint N32 and N24 network printers print at 32 and 24ppm respectively, and cost less than $5000 each.
Forest McGregor, national channels manager for office networked products, said the printers are the fastest, lowest-priced and most advanced models of their kind in the world.
"The improved print quality, advanced paper management and low price provide a significant breakthrough for the office printing market," McGregor said.
Standard models of the printers can collate and staple double-sided sets of documents.
The printers utilise Fuji Xerox's WorkSet technology, which streamlines document processing and minimises network traffic.
"WorkSet supports multiple set printing and other advanced capabilities by offering unique Send Once, RIP Once, Collate and Print Many technology which minimises network traffic," McGregor said.
"Send Once prevents bottlenecks; RIP Once processes print jobs only once instead of once for each number of print requests; and Collate and Print Many sort documents with efficient output, whether users are printing from the standard table-top or the fully assembled finisher configuration."
McGregor says Fuji Xerox is still aiming for the corporate and smaller business desktop laser market. Fuji Xerox provides a full training program for all new printers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. There's also product information available on the Internet in addition to hard copy, and soon there will be pricing details for Fuji Xerox's partners.
McGregor believes there will be no surprises in the inkjet market this year, due to a continuation of trends in the Soho market.
In laser printers, he says Fuji Xerox is banking on the N32 to help the colour market take hold, with lower cost per printed page. McGregor also believes the convergence of sorting and stapling tools with the laser printer should happen this year.
He says Fuji Xerox will be placing very strong emphasis on retaining margins for resellers in 1998.
Tel (02) 9390 5800
Fax (02) 9390 5803
Represented in Australia by IPL Datron, Oki is about to make its move into the high-end printer market, having been a dominant player in the mid-range for some time. According to IPL managing director Stead Denton, Oki's dominance in the mid-range started when HP moved out of the sub-8ppm market. Oki also dominates impact printers, where it shares some 90 per cent of the market with Epson. Oki does not offer an ink-jet printer.
Oki's charge to the high end is led by the Okipage 20 series, a fully networkable 20ppm printer retailing for $2395. Denton expects to be able to offer a 30ppm model in the foreseeable future. Denton said this was Oki's "first serious workgroup printer".
In a slightly lower range, the Okipage 10 series is designed for workgroups with somewhat smaller throughput requirements. Sharing a philosophy with HP, Oki has built a quick-start engine into the 10 series which allows it to print the first page in under 12 seconds, and subsequent pages at 10ppm. Both the 10 series and the 20 series use an LED technology which, according to Oki's marketing, "produces a cleaner, crisper image".
Denton told ARN that "Oki has always been at the forefront of channel support", with roadshows, seminars and "dealer launches", in which the company invites dealers to bring their customers to see new products and discuss advantages and issues.
Tel (02) 9698 8211
Fax (02) 9698 4043
HP has just announced the latest version of its photo-quality inkjet pro- cess, PhotoREt 11. This technology involves placing multiple small drops of ink on each dot in order to increase the tonal range of the product. Other printers from Epson or Canon use higher dot resolutions or extra ink to achieve the same effect. Where Canon, for instance, uses seven different coloured inks to achieve photo-quality, HP's PhotoREt 11 uses a combination of up to 16 dots of ink to vary the shade of each colour. HP's market development manager (deskjets), Peter Leihn, told ARN that PhotoREt produces a wider tonal range on any type of paper at higher speeds.
There are three products which use the PhotoREt technology. All produce exactly the same print quality, but are differentiated according to other features such as speed and paper size. At the bottom of the price range, the 720c is a "sleek" design, meaning it shares processing with a PC. On a network it has to be run off a print server and speed varies depending on the speed of the server. Its RRP is $599. The next step up is the 890, which has its own dedicated processor and can therefore be connected directly to a network and operates more quickly. It comes in at $849. At the top of the range is the 1120c model, which is essentially the same as the 890, but can print on A3 paper. All PhotoREt 11 printers come with Windows NT 4 drivers.
Leihn said: "over the last three to four years, the inkjet printer market has been very successful selling into homes and small businesses, but noone has had a product that could be taken seriously in a corporate environment." He says while the quality has improved dramatically, the requirement of special paper has been a barrier. He also says the quality of the PhotoREt printers, even on plain paper, is equivalent to low-end colour laser printing, and improvements in speed, networkability and quality, added to the inclusion of of NT drivers, should change the way corporate customers think about colour printing.
HP regularly (about every six months) holds seminars where it invites resellers and retailers to come and see new products and talk to HP representatives about issues involved in selling them. In addition, HP has representatives who travel to regional areas to address the concerns of retailers who cannot come to the seminars.
Tel 13 1347
Fax (03) 9898 7831
Inkjet your way into the future
Peter O'Meara, Lexmark Australia's managing director, predicts 1998 will be a year of change for the printer market. He sees big things for colour inkjets and the introduction of an affordable colour laser printer. 1998 will also see Lexmark increase its focus on the channel in order to become the number one printer vendor in AustraliaIDG: Where are you placed in the market?
O'Meara: We actually have offerings across the board. We are set up in two divisions as far as printers are concerned. One's called the business printer division, the other the consumer printer division. One is directed at business-type printing solutions and the other one is directed at consumer printing. And they're quite different divisions. They run to different drumbeats and they have different requirements.
Do you have specific education programs for the channel?
We've got a pretty aggressive growth view of what we think we can do in this country this year and therefore we want our distribution channels to do a better job for us. So to support that, we've got a range of programs that we're bringing into play. We've reorganised our structure so we have a very focused national distribution structure.
They've got sales and marketing programs that we're working with our distributors on.
How do you think you will improve your performance in the Australian market?
That all starts with product. That's our whole objective given that we are the only fully integrated printer company in the world. So when we talk about how we're going to improve our numbers in the market, it starts with product. And that's a pretty critical thing.
The second thing is there's a whole array of product packaging and solutions that have to be put into the marketing and promotions of this thing. The third critical ingredient here is the channel, and we think we can do a better job with the channel. And that's what we're doing this year.
We've put a leading product together with strong channel support and some good support programs that will improve our position.
What sort of support will you have in place for the channel?
It'll be enhancements of many of the things we're doing already. We regularly survey our channels to find out what they think about us and how we compare with our competition, and we get pretty good grades in there. They give us a clue as to what we have to do to improve and we respond to that. We think we can provide better support by introducing a national support structure instead of doing it in different branch locations. We have a strong group of our own representatives who do pre-sale demand generation and they work with our distribution partners. We have restructured so we can provide more training, more brochures, new product release data and product announcements.
Where is the printer market headed this year?
There are many companies in this country whose next laser printer will probably be their fourth generation. They're no longer just a product that prints. The truth of the matter is the printer is now starting to be seen, and we are promoting this through our solutions as very much a business tool that with some minor process re-engineering, can turn into a very powerful tool. There are lots of things that our users are now doing; electronic forms work, barcodes and things that would just blow you away when you compare it with the way they used to do it a year ago.
For roughly the same amount of money for an entry level laser you can buy a colour inkjet printer. If I can print faster than an entry level laser on an inkjet, and I can print so sharply that you can't distinguish the difference Ñ even if you blow it up 50 times, and if it's totally waterproof, why wouldn't you buy an inkjet printer? This is now starting to find its way into corporate land. So as we move into corporate land, another trend that is starting to emerge is people saying "I think the inkjet printer technology has got to the point where it's pretty good and I like colour, but I want to put this thing on a network and do all those things that lasers can do". So there will be a new type of inkjet emerging this year.
One thing we do have that's really important is a publicly available cartridge recycling program. And that's partly a technology statement, partly because we feel strongly about the subject.
Tel (02) 9930 3500
Fax (02) 9930 3550
1998 is peachy for Apple
Geoff Winder, senior product marketing manager, Apple Australia, spoke to ARN's Justine ParkerApple has in the past offered a complete range of laser and inkjet printers to cover the entire spectrum of the market, from entry level printers right through to professional printers.
Apple can no longer do everything and do it well, so what we've decided to do is focus on the areas where we specifically add value. So we're no longer, for example, doing entry level inkjet printers. We're concentrating on our mid- and high-end laser printers.
The two products we've got there are the Laser Writer 12640 and the Laser Writer 8500. The 8500 is an A3 20ppm product priced at $3795. The 12640 is more of a general purpose work group product. It's an A4 printer, 600dpi, with great expansion capabilities for duplexing, and so on.
Below that we have some inkjet printers, including the Custom Style Writer printers that we're running through. Other than that there's not a great deal on the horizon that we're planning.
We're finding that there's a hell of a lot of competition between Canon and HP in that area; really those companies have got the market sewn up and we'll be withdrawing from the entry level inkjet market. So mid-range inkjet printers Ñ we're still offering some value there.
I think in the inkjet market it's characterised by price. The low-end product market is basically becoming pretty brutal. There's a lot of cost-cutting, discounting and so on -- it's getting to the stage where the only way for us to make money is in consumables. The printers themselves are basically being sold at cost or very close to it.
Tel (02) 9452 8000
Fax (02) 9452 8160