The fax software market appears to be heating up, with some of the traditional players reinventing themselves as messaging software vendors and approaching the channel with renewed vigour.
Geoff Johnson, research director for IT market analysts Gartner, has witnessed what he describes as "important trends" towards unified messaging in the fax software market place. However, at this stage he warns that the market remains quite small.
"To survive, fax software vendors have emerged as messaging software vendors," Johnson said. "However they will also have to extend into the mobile world. A number of tactile standards are already being integrated into the software. These are mostly subsets of XML which allow information to be displayed via mobile phone and other handheld displays," Johnson said.
Gone are the days of the simple PC to fax machine interface. The software has become multi-talented in a bid to survive in a world where messaging, not faxing, is the flavour of the month. Major vendors, such as Esker Software and AVT, are bringing their offerings to the channel with a whole range of new ideas about managing the messaging market.
Despite his initial decision to deal directly with end users, Esker Asia-Pacific managing director James Elkington said the company is now prepared to focus on moving its messaging products through the channel.
"When we first started up in Australia we had a certain amount of capital, and a sales target to hit," Elkington said. "Now that we have hit that target through direct sales, I have some breathing space to dedicate to channel sales."
Elkington believes the early gains made through the direct approach will assist further growth through channel sales.
"Now that we have signed up some big names such as Optus and Boral, resellers and integrators will have an easier time selling our products because the proof of the capacity is already there," Elkington said. "The fax software market these days requires high-end integrators to implement solutions according to end-user requirements."
Later this year Esker will release its Intelligent Information Delivery (IID) software, Pulse, on the Australian market.
As with many of the latest generation of fax products, Pulse transforms text files and print-stream data into a range of document messaging formats, including HTML, XML, fax, e-mail, PDF, print or SMS messaging.
"Essentially faxing software has become a high-end solution which needs skilled integrators, with a services-based approach." Elkington said.
However Esker is not the only messaging software vendor courting the channel. AVT is also targeting Aussie resellers through its local distributor aXient.
Terry Kelly, aXient sales director, believes the new interconnectivity features of the latest generation of fax software provides resellers with a return on investment sales pitch for all levels of business.
"Messaging software needs to be considered a small part of an overall solution. It can significantly increase the savings on resources for the end user," Kelly said.
AVT's latest release, RightFAX 7.2, has been enhanced to take advantage of e-commerce environments, offering compatibility with XML and Java. The release also includes an updated version of the company's Filter for Production tool to drive the integration of production into next-generation networks as well as legacy applications.
Photograph: Esker Asia Pacific's James Elkington.