Print 2011: margins and opportunities

Print 2011: margins and opportunities

Printers are not on the way out. It's as simple as that. MATTHEW SAINSBURY looks at how the sector will shape up in 2011 - and where the opportunities lie.

“We have an operation within our business called Optimised Print Services, which is a traditional MPS structure. We’ve only recently entered the market with this form of MPS, but its providing everything from the most elementary level of it, all the way up to a full-featured fleet management reporting, invoice consolidation and consumable ordering.”

An increasing interest in the mobile print space and cloud computing is also helping to give the reseller a new carrot to dangle to the customer. Previously a tricky proposition, a number of vendors are offering the ability to print directly from smart phone devices.

There’s an explosion of smart phones in the Australian and New Zealand landscape, according to HP vice-president and general manager, imaging and printing group, south pacific region, Richard Bailey.

“Most of those phones have email services and they want to be able to print off those documents they receive but on a mobile basis,” he said.

“ePrint is simply the capacity for a printer to have an email address, and people can email a document to that email address, the document will go to the cloud and turned into a printable file, and it can be printed very easily without the need for a driver.”

HP has also extended this functionality into the large corporate environment with an application for Blackberry phones allowing users within the firewall to print to any printer in the network with mobile printing enabled.

And it seems to be that application play that the partner community can get most excited about, simply because it enables a host of service opportunities. Take Upstream for example – the managed print provider is banking on the applications proving the best solutions into the future.

“Smart phones are an integral part of business now and it’s the apps that are the great thing behind those phones,” Upstream Solutions general manager, Theo Popescu, said.

“The big thing for us is things like ‘follow me printing’ – swipe card solutions integrated into existing proximity cards, building passes and the like that allow dor departmentalised billing, carbon footprint analysis and the like.

“Other things can be like barcode recognition, document recognition for verticals such as logistics and manufacturing that integrate into archival systems, and document management systems.

“The success from Upstream’s POV is moreso from a device agnostic perspective – not so much on the hardware, it’s finding a holistic approach and finding the right device for the right job.”

Where the margin’s at

And those resellers that embrace that services approach do find very healthy end margins, according to Lexmark.

“I think more and more, solutions are a very generic and broad sort of term, but at the end of the fundamentally a good solution drives some sort of value and people are still prepared to pay for that,” Lexmark channel and SMB manager, Stephen Bell, said.

“If you bring it down to a commoditised transaction where someone is just looking for a box at the cheapest price, then obviously the margin opportunities at that end of the scale are significantly less.”

So 2011 should be a good year for printers, both from an end user, who will have a whole new range of products and applications to choose from, and vendors and their partners, who will have a whole range of new topics of discussion to have with those end customers. It might be almost to the point of loss-leading in terms of hardware, but resellers need not hang up those boots just yet.

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