The Coming of Age of the Digital Copier: "The Push" Becomes "The Pull"17 Feb, 2002 By: Jeff Smith imageSource
The Coming of Age of the Digital Copier: "The Push" Becomes "The Pull"
was a “coming of age” year for the digital copier market. As expected, the
production of analog copiers ground to a halt for virtually all the
manufacturers. A full digital product line covering Segments 1 through 5 was,
for the first time, available under every brand name. Not coincidentally
perhaps, our clients began to willingly embrace the concept of installing
multifunctionality across-the-board in their organizations. This was the first
year in which we felt the digital copier “push” by the sellers transform
into the “pull” by the buyers.
Catches Up To Promise
What caused the buyers to change their minds? One critical advance since the
first several generations of digital copiers has been the continued refinement
of the basic concept of multifunctionality, making this new generation of output
device much more usable in higher-volume, multi-user environments than before.
specific examples will illustrate why we think that the industry, by and large,
has made significant improvements in the synergy between the various output
It used to be that walk-up users were out of luck if the device was being used
for any other function, but a feature known as “job reserve,” now a
commonplace feature in all segments except Segment 1, enables the user to store
the job for automated processing when the engine becomes available.
2. Confidentiality of printed documents in a multi-user environment is assured
with a feature commonly referred to as “confidential print,” enabling a
password to be entered on the device when the user is ready for printing.
today’s breed of multifunctional device is, to some degree, still having to
overcome the stigma of early digital model offerings, from both printer and
copier manufacturers, models which were sometimes less-than-impressive when
multi-tasking; we believe much progress has been made.
The primary advances this past year in the copying industry involve not so much
the hardware but what are commonly referred to as “software solutions.”
These solutions include network scanning, scanning to email, bar code job
scanning and recall, fax to email and e-forms printing.
utilities introduced in the past year, which are making life easier for buyers,
involve setup and administrative network functionality. For example, a major
software-based advancement is the utilization of a common print driver across
most product lines. No longer do buyers have to install a different driver for
each output device on each user’s workstation.
clear product trend that became apparent in 2001 was the incorporation of print
controlling functions inside today’s generation of digital copier. These
so-called “embedded” controllers have effectively replaced external
controllers due to their sharply lower costs and seamless integration with the
network and the marking engine.
features, even among mid-volume copier/printers, include on-line saddle
stitching and hole punching. These are in fact some of the major advances that
digital copiers offer over their analog predecessors. However, there is an
inherent danger in these powerful feature enhancements, and that is their
potential negative impact on the organization’s central reproductions
department (CRD). Saddle-stitched booklets can, in some cases, obviate the need
for thermal-bound booklets created on a DocuTech in the print shop. Forms
storage on a digital copier/printer can negatively impact the need for
centralized printing as well. For these reasons, dealers must be cautious not to
alienate the CRD manager when placing state-of-the-art connected digital copiers
with advanced finishing functionality on a decentralized basis throughout the
Changing Print Paradigm
In part due to the advanced finishing features just discussed, the line between
office and production equipment continues to become less and less distinct.
Indeed, “distribute-then-print” is rapidly replacing the traditional
“print-then-distribute” for most applications inside many of our client
organizations. One of the primary causes of this fundamental shift in print
distribution is the coming of age of the digital office copier, which, along
with faster network printers, have provided the effective means by which to
print electronically distributed documents. Whereas in the days of analog
copiers, there was a large gap between “workgroup copiers” and “production
duplicators,” today the differences between the two classes are much harder to
digital high-speed office and production copiers, are providing advanced
capabilities to high-volume decentralized locations and in-plant shops at a
fraction of the cost of previous analog workhorse models. The number of industry
players capable of producing such equipment has increased dramatically in that
time span. The mid-1990s, Xerox domination of Segment 5 and 6 placements has
been supplanted by a number of products manufactured by companies such as Canon,
Heidelberg, Ricoh, Toshiba, and Konica. Whereas just two years ago, only two
companies offered 100+ page-per-minute production-class equipment, that number
has now more than doubled, providing office and CRD managers with options that
were never before available.
Much emphasis early on by the copier manufacturers in product digital gear was
in Segment 4. We believe this was done to compete more effectively with the
printer manufacturers, which by-and-large didn’t offer Segment 4 products at
the time. Segments 1, 2 and 3 were in fact the last areas of refinement for most
copier manufacturers, but much progress was made in the past year, especially in
the area of multitasking, as we pointed out earlier.
would doubt the credo that today’s digital copiers are more reliable than
previous analog generations. The good news (or the bad news, depending on your
perspective) is that, despite the advancements in product reliability, digital
copiers absolutely require professional service support, and so the differences
between servicing organizations remain of crucial importance to the buyer.
To Look For In 2002
As competition continues to heat up in all segments, look for lower servicing
costs for digital copier/printers to begin filtering down to the end-user.
“Solutions” such as scanning will begin to be incorporated into controller
functionality at product launch. The distinction between color and
black-and-white models will continue to become hazier as the price premium for
color continues to decline steeply.
a major emphasis will be placed on reducing dealer field servicing time in
future product generations, copier manufacturers will stop short of promoting
the concept of end-user serviceability. HP and Lexmark, two long-time advocates
of end-user servicing, will make major plays to begin penetrating Segment 4 with
50+-ppm models. The momentum of these and other printer suppliers into
higher-speed segments will be hard to stop due to their name-brand entrenchment
in the mind of the corporate IT buyer.