The Printing Industry: A Multifunctional and Colored World

Printing analysts say that more and more printing vendors are getting the memo that businesses want multifunctional color printers instead of just those that are single function and monochrome.

With the amount of information increasing everyday, the printing industry has become important for businesses that have an array of printing needs.

"Information is importantly internally and externally for most businesses as the amount of information increases everyday," Susan Lyon, Research Director of the Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Hardcopy Peripherals and Document solutions, told eWEEK.

When talking about printers in the business world, there are many different categories that a printer can fall into such as inkjet, laser, color laser, single function printer and multifunctional peripherals (MFPs), which is a single device that serves several functions including printing, scanning, faxing and copying. Two important trends in the printing industry today concern color printers and MFPs, as both combine to replace single function printers.

According to IDCs "Worldwide Hardcopy Peripheral Tracker Quarterly", single function printers between the years 2005-2010 will decline about 3.7 percent per year due to being replaced by MFPs.

Two printer companies that are taking advantage of the MFP trend are Hewlett-Packard and Xerox Corporation, both of which launched MFP rollouts within the past year.

IDCs "Worldwide Hardcopy Peripheral Tracker Quarterly" included Xerox in its top five MFP providers, along with Canon Inc., Ricoh Co., Ltd and Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc.

"Today, the MFP is a sophisticated device with all the power and capabilities of a server, including hard drives, operating systems, and network and Internet support," David Bates, vice president of product marketing for the Stamford, Conn.-based Xerox, told eWEEK.

This past February, Xerox released two color multifunction devices, the Xerox Phaser 8560 and Phaser 6115MFP, which enables business users to print up to 55 pages per minute (ppm) and also gives them copying, scanning and faxing functionalities.

"The complexity of everyday work is driving customers to replace their local printers with MFPs because with the added functionality, end users now have the ability to make a quick copy, scan or fax without having to walk down the hall, increasing productivity," Bates said.

HP, not included as a top five MFP provider believes that they are right on the cusp of being a top MFP provider because they see the value that it brings to business professionals.

"MFPs are a great value for businesses because they combine multiple capabilities in a single device and can also be used to improve workflow within a business," Tom Codd, Director of Outbound Marketing for LaserJet Business for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, told eWEEK.

This past October, HP rolled out LaserJet MFPs designed to help businesses improve their "business agility, effectiveness and costs related to the imaging and printing ecosystem," Codd said.

The MFPs that were launched by HP in October, the HP LaserJet M3035 MFP, M4345 MFP and M5035 MFP, enable business users to print up to 35 pages per minute while also offering advanced digital sending with paper handling and finishing capabilities.

"HP will continue to provide new, MFP solutions and services that optimize printing infrastructure and enable better management, as well as HP MFP solutions that help SMBs and enterprises transform their printing and imaging business processes and improve workflow so that customers can concentrate on profitably running and growing their business," Codd said.

Konica Minoltas, one of the top five MFP providers according to IDC, bizhub leads their MFP offerings and provides business professionals with the usual MFP capabilities but also adds security features such as hard disk drive overwrite and job erase, which enables users to overwrite a hard disk drive after each job while also featuring user authentication option that allows a user to enable or disable a users access to the device based on function whether it is copy, scan, print or fax.

"Implementing the Konica Minolta bizhub solution not only saves IT support staff time, it streamlines document workflow and eliminates the need for redundancies, as Konica Minoltas MFP products and software solutions deliver digital connectivity and improved workflow capabilities," Kevin Kern, vice president of product planning and development for the Ramsey, NJ-based Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. Inc., told eWEEK.

For the future, Konica Minolta hopes to keep adding to its MFP product line while also developing new MFP technologies that will allow their company to stay in the market.

For example, Konica Minolta developed Printgroove, to be released in the Spring of 2007, printing software that allows business users to manage their print queues, monitor device status as well as the ability to preview jobs before they are printed.

"Looking forward, Konica Minolta expects its MFPs to continue to grow in market share as these technologies continue to be exposed to in the market," Kern said.

According to the report done by IDC, another noted trend in the printing industry is the increased use of color in both laser printers and color laser MFPs. The report points out that the color laser MFP industry alone will be a 5.7 billion dollar industry by 2010, growing in unit at 17 percent in value and 10 percent per year.

"Prices are falling and customers are appreciating the value of having color," Lyon said.

Peter Grant, Managing VP of Printing Markets Research for the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, Inc. agrees with Lyon that color is important in the printing industry as he said that "Color is here to stay and vendors need to provide the right value for it."

Leading the way in the color print market is HP, who is also joined by Canon, Epson Corp., Lexmark International Inc. and Dell Inc.

"Color is applied to everything in the workplace from presentations to marketing collateral and more color documents are being created from spreadsheets to e-mails to flyers," Codd said.

IDCs report also shows that color laser printers will grow at 17 percent and that growth will come from everywhere as even home users want color printing capabilities.

This past October, HP also launched new color print platforms, HP LaserJet CM1015 MFP, HP ColorSphere Toner, HP LaserJet P3005 series and the HP Color LaserJet CP4005, all aimed at giving businesses a better way to manage their color printing needs.

"Color is increasing in capability and value and everything on the Web is in color as customers want to print articles and information that is important to them," Codd added on the value of color to the printing industry.

For Konica Minolta, the users need for color quality has driven the company to produce more color printing products.

"During the last few years, Konica Minolta has focused on offering high productivity color products – from the desktop to the print shop – to meet diverse needs of its customers," Kern said.

The companys Simitri HD Toner strengthens the bond of color pigment particles and also reduces the effect of chemical change while also having the ability to withstand exposure to UV light. This enables Konica Minolta to offer users a wider range of colors.

"By introducing breakthrough innovation and bringing down the cost of color, Konica Minolta has offered users a product line that meets a users color needs," Kern said.

In the near future, Konica Minolta will be introducing seven new color MFPs and the company feels this will help keep them in the color market.

"Color – and technologies associated with providing the best images available on the market – have been important to Konica Minolta and will continue to play a pivotal role in it being a leader in the color market," Kern said.

Printer vendors are also trying to branch out by developing new technologies and integrating them into their printer platforms, giving business users increased capabilities.

"Lots of changes are happening in the industry, especially with regards to speeds and prices which offers opportunities for some vendors and threats for others and drives the development of new technologies," Grant said.

"There are many innovative things going on in the printer industry as printers now have the ability to print barcodes, consumer goods, calendars, t-shirts while also developing new printer applications," Lyon said.

HP joined the innovative section of the printer industry by developing a universal print driver (UPD), which provides user with a single print driver for all HP printing devices. HPs UPD uses simple network management protocol (SNMP) to talk to the printer and then creates a driver and user interface that can adapt to the features installed on the device, helping to provide the user with a common interface for all printers as well as the ability to access features installed on the device.

"A universal print driver allows a business user to consolidate and simplify print driver management and what HP has done with their UPD is extend their competitive advantage and has created a barrier for others to get in," Grant said.

"HP sees a tremendous imaging and printing growth opportunity in SMB (small and medium-sized businesses) and enterprise markets as youll continue to see innovative products, services and solutions for in-house market as well as enterprise solutions and services focused on particular business problems," Codd said.

Grant also pointed out that Xerox is trying to get into the UPD market because "Xerox has the resources and desire to solve support issues via a UPD."

Konica Minolta recently made available its Printgroove software, which provides businesses, central reproduction departments (CRD) and small- to mid-size print shops with software that can manage, monitor and set-up the companys various bizhub multifunction printer (MFPs) platforms, as well as an all-in-one device that has printing, scanning, copying and fax capabilities as well as various management capabilities.

"Printgrooves modular design allows for an exact configuration to target a specific need with the right platform, including the ability to handle any traffic volume and accommodate as many printing steps and stations as business processes demand," Kern said.

All in all, the printing industry is one that continues to develop and is one that businesses will continue to rely on.

"The proportion that gets printed each day may decline over time but because there is just so much information, printing is constantly increasing," Lyon said.