Ask a reseller about the art of selling the MFP (the all-in-one copier, printer and scanner) and he'll tell you it's a tough nut to crack. But recent advancements, and downward price shifts, are bringing new meaning - and a new lease on life - to the jack-of-all trade category.
The multi-function printer or device (MFP or MFD) is currently growing in popularity in the small office environment. The colour laser all-in-one (AIO), in particular, which showed up on the market last year, is one to watch in the MFP space, according to industry experts.
Melbourne-based AIM Digital Imaging is cranking up the heat on the MFP market in the lead up to Christmas. The reseller peddles home cinema and digital imaging products as well as printers and scanners.
Its product manager, Russell Martyn, said partners needed to get the message out about the downward pricing, and the latest software advancements.
"It's a tough market because every man and his dog sells these things," Martyn said. "This sounds like bleak news, but there are some areas of opportunity."
The home and SMB space were likely fits, and the rollout of easy photo print software was a top selling point in both markets, he said.
IDC peripheral associate analyst, Katarzyna Czubak, said the small offi ce and SOHO markets were becoming interested in the colour laser AIO category given the sharp price decline, which hit the sub-$1000 level this month.
IDC findings reveal the local laser MFD market captured nice gains in Q2, growing by 20.7 per cent sequentially and increasing by 14.7 per cent from the same period in 2005.
Czubak said the printer and copier based markets were converging, and competing for the same opportunities but offering different solutions.
"End-users are aware of these differences and the benefits they bring," Czubak said. "From a vendor's viewpoint competition is much tougher. This is causing a reduction in average selling prices and requiring additional effort from vendors in terms of adding value and augmented product."
She said the printer-based MFDs continued to gain share in the overall market and by Q2 2006 accounted for 51.8 per cent of all MFD units shipped, with copier-based MFDs holding 40.3 per cent share and fax-based MFDs 7.9 per cent.
COPY THISIT dealers can capture good business with printer-based MFDs, as opposed to the copier based MFD world, since the latter are a trickier sale that includes contract service and maintenance.
HP market development manager, business colour printers, imaging and printing group, Irma van Leeuwen, said slashed prices along with new and improved features were changing the colour laser MFP landscape.
"We've cracked the sub-$1000 price barrier with the rollout of the colour in-line MFP model, the CM1015," van Leeuwen said. "It's a growing category and we expect to capture significant growth in the SMB arena." HP launched the first colour laser AIO in May 2005 with a sub-$2000 price tag.
"We have quickly gone from being a category that didn't exist to over 500 units a month, and this was due to pent up demand," she said. Colour laser AIOs have come to a price point that's attractive for SMBs to switch. Up until now it was too expensive.
For resellers, the big talking point is engine advancements. "The latest models are quieter, faster in colour, have a more reliable engine and there are less moving parts," van Leeuwen said.
The technology requires only four consumables, making it easy to use and maintain. The toner included in-box has enhanced melting and fusing features, which allows for better toner release and flow onto the page for more consistent colour, she said.
"There are fewer replaceable parts. The only one is the toner, which is the core consumable," van Leeuwen said.
"This is important for resellers. In the past, they had to look for fuser kits, waste toner collector and image drums - there were about six to seven parts on top of the toner that needed to be replaced. The simplified design will mean less cranky customers and resellers."