If desktop printers are low-cost, low-margin items these days, is there still a money-making opportunity for dealers in high-performance and networked printers? They certainly account for an ever-bigger slice of the printer market. In 1992 more than half of all the laser printers sold in the US were installed in Lans, either as personal printers or as shared network printers. This figure is expected to reach 70 per cent by 1998.
It is a development which printer vendors have got taped. Martin Taylor is marketing manager for Xerox Engineering Systems, a division that sells exclusively into the engineering sector. He says: 'Everything we do is for wide-form paper.' The Xerox division sells into 25,000 sites on a regular basis, and a separate division deals with its desktop laser products.
Kyocera used to specialise only in the professional office printer, but realised it could sell 4ppm products into the same market. 'We sell a lot of our SS400 4ppm printers into the corporates, but not on their own,' explains Kyocera product manager Tracey Rawlings-Church. 'Corporates will buy 10 page per minute to 18 page per minute products for A4 and A5 letter printing as workgroup products, and then SS400 will go into the boss' office as something to hang on the network.'
There are some obvious issues in network printing, like the high demands made on the printer and the cost per page. But this development raises some issues - issues like print management controls and standards. Even a medium-sized company could have a Lan with half a dozen printers from different vendors using different printing technologies, laser or inkjet for instance, hanging off it. Although printer language standards are well established and defined, the way printers react to and communicate with the user and network administrator can vary greatly. This can result in lost time and productivity and higher training and support costs.
No manufacturer on its own can hope to meet the printer needs of corporate users. Each PC, operating system, application software, modem, and printer uses different installation and configuration procedures, different status messages and responds to different commands.
A group of personal computing and networking companies, which includes Digital, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Novell, have formed the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) with the aim of developing a way to manage workstations and their components. Desktop Management Interface (DMI) is central to the taskforce's efforts. This is a set of APIs and related code, independent of operating systems, components and peripherals.
And then there is Management Information Database (MIB), an objective of the Printer Working Group, which works with the DMTF. The Printer Working Group, which consists of Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, QMS, Tektronix and other printer manufacturers, got together in 1993 to form a standard printer MIB, a database of commands and status information about a device which is managed on a network using SNMP.
Alongside this is the printer Management Information File (MIF), a database of status and command objects particular to a class of products such as fax cards, printers, or network adaptors. With the unification of MIB and MIF users can see a consistent set of functions for any printer which supports these standards, whether a personal inkjet or or network laser.
According to Hewlett Packard this means that 'users and network administrators can manage network and desktop printers together with a common base set of management functionality from all printers supporting these standards'. It also means that printer and management software vendors should be able to update and innovate without having to go back to basics.
Last November Hewlett Packard released the Laserjet 5Si MX, the first Laserjet to comply with MIB. It is the company's most ambitious departmental offering yet, with an engine speed of 24ppm, print quality of 600 x 600dpi and three paper trays. Hewlett Packard network printer marketing manager Peter Urey hailed it as a dream machine for customers looking to do serious network printing.
All of this adds up to dealers being the key players in making a sale. Rawlings-Church says that although Kyocera uses five distributors, the most important relationship for the company is the one with the dealer, which takes the sales leads. 'We have a handful of resellers who specialise in selling into the IBM environment and would pass all the relevant business on to them.' Hewlett Packard seconds this notion, choosing to use its distributors as fulfilment houses. 'We have our core competencies,' says Hewlett Packard corporate printing programme manager Darren Wall, 'and distribution is not one of them. We just don't have the logistics.' Hewlett Packard uses the broadline distributors as well as printer specialists.
Resellers which can add value get a big chunk of high-end printer sales. Taylor says the mid-range, large format print systems almost always go through the Var channel because customers will look to dealers for all-round solutions rather than just components.
High-end printer technology needs to keep moving forward. Pages will need to be printed and delivered more quickly as entry-level expectations creep up. Hewlett Packard's belief, says Wall, is that the functions will increase. Hewlett Packard has a word for this: Topaz (Transmit Once, Print A Zillion). Wall sees the corporate market evolving so that devices will collate multiple copies and staple output together, 'and generally do the types of things that you would expect from a copy centre'.
The creation and collation of multiple copies is a particular hobby-horse for Hewlett Packard, and one which will impinge on the photocopier market. Given increasing speeds and the ability to make multiple copies quickly, this would appear to be the next logical step.
Outsourcer says the size of the operation should be considered before criticising the error that affected 43,000 women
Vendor says a range of its products will be made SD-WAN compatible, with traditional networking 'completely under disruption'
With just a day to go until the 25th annual Channel Awards, we catch up with the SMB Reseller of the Year category sponsor Exertis, to find out why the sector is such a vital part of its business strategy
Analyst predicts spending on Robotic Process Automation will rise XX per cent next year, driven by price decreases