Nuance is a company with a plethora of products covering voice recognition, document capture and print management. As Nuance has largely grown through acquisition (about 50 in the past 10 years) it is probably better known by its product names, which include established brands such as PaperPort (desktop productivity), OmniPage (OCR), Dragon Dictate (voice recognition), eCopy (document capture and workflow) and Equitrac (print management) – its most recent buy.
Overall, Nuance's 2011 revenue reached $1.32bn in 2011, with 2012 sales expected to reach $1.6bn. Boosted by its eCopy and Equitrac acquisitions, its imaging division's growth has been strong, with revenue reaching $177m in 2011 and expected to exceed $200m in 2012.
At its first European analyst event in London, Nuance discussed its strategic priorities for 2012, including integration of its scan and print products, and expansion of its mobile and cloud delivery platforms.
The company's stated goal is to become the MFP software standard through delivering integrated cross-platform document capture and print management products (eCopy and Equitrac). Both products are well established, and Equitrac is already widely used to control and monitor printing and its costs in many verticals, with a particularly strong presence in the legal market.
Nuance claims that some 3,000 law firms worldwide use Equitrac. Its strong MFP and printer partner alliances mean Equitrac has long been used by major printer and copier OEMs such as HP, Ricoh and Xerox to provide enhanced multivendor print management capabilities for tracking, monitoring and reporting on scan, copy and print usage to their managed print services (MPS) customers.
This broadens the already strong OEM relationships on the eCopy side, including Canon, Konica Minolta and others.
With Equitrac, eCopy and its desktop products, Nuance has business relationships with nearly all major MFP, printer and scanner manufacturers worldwide.
Capturing the MPS opportunity
Nuance sees MPS as a key driver of its growth in the coming year and views the Equitrac and Nuance document imaging offerings as important components that will help MPS providers to succeed.
Indeed, there is rapid adoption. Our research shows that around 45 per cent of large corporates now have some form of MPS as they seek to reduce the cost and complexity of operating previously unmanaged printer fleets, typically characterised by a patchwork of devices from different manufacturers, with different consumables, paper, supplier and service requirements.
Few organisations have the tools to track and monitor usage leading to spiralling print costs – both financial and environmental. Security is also an issue as too often documents are left in output trays exposed to prying eyes.
MPS addresses these issues through three major phases: assessment, optimisation and on-going continuous management.
Nuance's Equitrac products have a part to play in all phases, helping organisations to not only reduce print wastage through tracking and reporting, but also enhance security, promote user mobility and reduce environmental impact.
Key to this is Equitrac's follow-me or pull-printing functionality, which releases documents only upon user authentication through either user PIN or smartcard authentication.
The results were, I believe, compelling. Liverpool John Moores University claimed it has saved £100,000 and reduced page volumes by 4.5 million per year using Equitrac.
Nuance is also looking to address the largely untapped opportunity for MPS in the SMB market, via the reseller channel.
Many resellers lack the resources or skills to deliver their own MPS and are looking for a low-cost approach based on third-party platforms.
Nuance intends to participate in this market, which is seeing the emergence of cloud-based MPS offerings from vendors such as HP and Xerox.
To capitalise on the emergence of cloud-based technologies and support its partners' managed services initiatives, Nuance will continue to expand its product portfolio (print management, capture and OCR) from on-premise deployments to off-premise (cloud) models.
This will provide a set of cloud-based print management, document capture and OCR technology services to partners that wish to include it in their own managed services offerings.
Quocirca believes that, with the likes of HP and Xerox already having established cloud MPS platforms, Nuance will need to get these offerings to market quickly, particularly if it wishes to target the emerging ecosystem of independent MPS providers that will be looking for multivendor supported cloud-based services.
We believe Nuance has product breadth, technical resources and channel reach to create a compelling set of enterprise cloud services around its eCopy and Equitrac products.
However, both eCopy and Equitrac platforms were gained via acquisition and Nuance still has some work to integrate them.
Talking to future printers
Given its heritage in speech recognition consumer technology, Nuance is uniquely positioned to apply this technology to enhance the printer and MFP user experience.
The printer industry is not immune from IT consumerisation, which continues to influence user expectations in the workplace. Employees have become used to the convenience, elegance and usability of tablets and smartphones, but MFPs in comparison are in danger of becoming the elephant in the room.
Most people know how to press 'print' or 'copy' – the MFP user panel often requires users to trawl through complex nested menus to access finishing options or scan features, so users often just don't bother.
It is often no different when using a print driver. Businesses may be missing opportunities to minimise paper use via features such as duplex or booklet printing.
Many businesses remain reliant on printing. Meanwhile, easy access may be provided to more complex printing needs through new touch points such as smartphones and tablets – vital in today's mobile enterprise.
However, the market for mobile print solutions is fragmented and unstandardised across manufacturers.
Nuance certainly has the technology and resources to address this issue. And it indicated it is working on plans for mobile printing solutions. In fact, Nuance holds the technology that may be the key to improving the use of MFPs – voice recognition.
It has long been a leader in this field and quietly provides back-end voice recognition functionality for Apple's Siri.
Could we in the future be telling our printers to print and staple five copies of a document, or scan a document and email it to a colleague? According to Nuance, the technology is already here.
It remains to be seen whether hardware vendors will embrace this opportunity to bring printers into the 21st century.
Louella Fernandes is associate director of research into print services and solutions at Quocirca
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