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Traditional Copier Companies Continue To Expand Printer Lines

18 Jul, 2001 By: Buyers Laboratory, Inc. imageSource

Traditional Copier Companies Continue To Expand Printer Lines

As recently as four years ago, major copier vendors such as Minolta, Konica, and Kyocera Mita announced they were entering the stand-alone printer market. Mita debuted its first printer, the 6-ppm monochrome DP-560, to complement its low-volume multifunctional line. Konica unveiled the Force 50 Network Printing System, which was based on the company’s successful 7050 digital copier/printer. Only a couple of months prior, Sharp had introduced its first and only networked printer, the 40-ppm AO-4100P, before the company’s quick departure from the printer market. Although Sharp recently re-entered the printer market with two new desktop ink-jets (the AJ-1800 and AJ-2000), the company’s prior introductions were the JX-9680 and the JX-9685 in August 1997.

SOHO, Workgroup And Production

Today, many traditional copier companies continue efforts to compete against traditional printer companies for a share of the pages produced by printers. Most copier manufacturers competing in this arena provide printers as part of a product line that offers complete document production solutions, as opposed to targeting areas of the printer market dominated by traditional printer manufacturers (such as Hewlett-Packard dominates the small office/home office (SOHO) market). By focusing on print solutions a step above SOHO in the workgroup market, these copier companies hope to offer a wider range of products to better meet their customers’ needs. For example, if a company requires only a 10-ppm printer in a workspace, it should not have to spend more on a copier/printer.

“If someone has a need for a multifunctional, he or she doesn’t look at printers,” says A. J. Rogers, vice president of strategic marketing for Xerox Office Printing Business (OPB) and a former executive of Tektronix (which Xerox acquired in 1999). “If he or she doesn’t need a multifunctional, printers are cheaper. Therefore, we offer ‘one-stop shopping.’ Large companies, in particular, are under pressure to streamline purchasing, and in order to better accommodate them, Xerox features extensive offerings and solutions in its product lines.”

Like Xerox’s acquisition of Tektronix, Minolta acquired QMS in 1999 in a strategic move to position itself better in the printer market. Minolta has since allowed the QMS division to manufacture nearly its entire line of printers. Bjorn Johannesson, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for Minolta-QMS says, “Minolta-QMS printers provide excellent value, performance and print quality versus copier-based MFP products.”

Ron Morita, a product manager for Kyocera Mita, shares that sentiment. Morita says the company takes pride in the fact that it manufactures its own print engines, with the exception of the CI-1100. “The heart and soul of Kyocera Mita printers is ECOSYS, our economy and ecology system. The benefit of ECOSYS is a low cost of ownership. That’s the main focus of our printer line.” (ECOSYS refers to Mita’s “durable, refillable imaging system, which is in contrast to the disposable print cartridge of most other units).

When looking at different environments within the printer market, copier companies “pick and choose” their battles. Xerox and Océ, for example, maintain a stronghold on the production printer market with full lines of production printers that print up to 1,062 impressions per minute (the Océ PageStream 1060 Plus) and 300 feet per minute (the Xerox DocuPrint 1300). Xerox’s Rogers claims that the company maintains about 60 percent of the market share for high-end printers; the only other copier company to even offer printing at over 100 impressions per minute is Canon, which offers its own version of the Heidelberg DigiMaster 9110 (Canon’s imageRUNNER 110), printing at up to 110 impressions per minute. The rest of the traditional copier manufacturers have focused entirely on the workgroup printing market, in which color continues to gain ground in the small to medium workgroup. These units mostly range in speed from 12 to 30 ppm in monochrome and 2 to 12 ppm in color.

The Future Of Color

“One thing we see happening is that speed has been a barrier to color,” says Xerox’s Rogers. “When you get to the office desktop area, the typical color device is 16 ppm in monochrome and 4 ppm in color. We see a trend in the near-distant future that products will produce color in a single pass at nearly the same speed as monochrome. Four-pass is going to be passé.”

Indeed, Xerox announced the introduction of the single-pass, color, LED-based Phaser 2135 shortly after our interview with Rogers; at 21 ppm in color and 26 ppm in monochrome, the 2135 could be called revolutionary when considering its speed and price point. At $5,999, it’s by far the lowest-priced full-color printer to produce color output at more than 20 ppm.

Ricoh is apparently heading in the same direction, according to Peter Richardson, a product manager for the company. He told us that Ricoh is focusing on moving corporate America up- market in color with higher volumes and higher speeds. That goal was recently evidenced by Ricoh’s introduction of the Ricoh Aficio 6513 copier/printer, offering copy speeds of up to 51 ppm in monochrome and 13 ppm in color. Although Ricoh has not announced a printer-only version of the 6513, the company’s recent strategy has been to share engines between its printers and multifunctional products.

Until now, excluding Toshiba’s FC25P ($19,999), Xerox’s recently introduced Phaser 2135 ($5,999) and DocuColor 12 ($18,995), the fastest desktop color printers (laser, LED and ink-jet) offered by traditional copier manufacturers have produced color at only around 6 ppm. Perhaps Canon, Gestetner, Konica, Kyocera Mita, Minolta (Minolta-QMS), Océ, Panasonic, Ricoh, Savin, Toshiba, and Xerox simply did not want to compete with a printer giant such as Hewlett-Packard. The only vendor in this group that appears to be stepping out is Xerox. Its two new printers (mentioned above) were introduced within the past month and offer color speeds of 12 ppm and 21 ppm, both units are based on engines manufactured by Oki Data.

These four traditional printer manufacturers, which have also crossed over into the multifunctional market (all except Oki Data, which maintains its niche in the LED printer market), have apparently kept one step ahead of the copier manufacturers with color printers that print at up to 12 ppm. Ink-jet units such as the HP DeskJet 970 ($399), the HP PhotoSmart P1100 ($499) and the Epson Stylus Color 900 ($399), all print at 12 ppm in monochrome and 10 ppm in color. Other units like Lexmark’s Optra S 2450 color laser printer ($2,499) and Optra Color 1200 LED printer ($3,499), print at 24 ppm in monochrome and 12 ppm in color and 12 ppm mono/color, respectively. The traditional printer companies dominate these areas of the market. HP and Epson’s ink-jet units compete directly with each other while Lexmark seemingly creates its own niche for workgroup laser and LED, although Oki Data offers competition with its line of LED printers. (A full list is available from BLI of all current printer models available from the traditional copier companies).

According to Rory Fox, Toshiba’s product manager for the FC25P, Toshiba plans to expand on the unit’s success by introducing a tandem print solution that would allow for printing color at up to 50 ppm in addition to finishing capabilities. As referred to above by Xerox’s Rogers, Toshiba’s FC25P goes where many standalone printers today do not go: Four-color, single-pass feeding. This allows color documents to print as fast as monochrome, a trend we will undoubtedly continue to see in the months ahead, perhaps from some of the traditional copier manufacturers besides Toshiba and Xerox. (It should be noted that Ricoh previewed a laser unit with output at 25 ppm in color and 30 ppm in monochrome at last year’s COMDEX. Tentatively called the AP3800, the printer incorporates a single-pass, tandem drum system.

The copier manufacturers continue to target specific areas within the printer market, primarily workgroup printing (Canon, Gestetner, Kyocera Mita, Minolta-QMS, Océ to some extent, Panasonic, Ricoh, Savin, Toshiba and, of course, Xerox). Areas like the SOHO market (of these companies, Canon targets the SOHO market more heavily than the others, as evidenced by its BubbleJet printer family) and production printing (which almost exclusively belongs to Xerox and Océ, aside from Konica’s two Force printers, Heidelberg’s DigiMaster 9110 and Canon’s version of the same, the Canon imageRUNNER 110 are also included).

Some of the copier giants recently introduced new printers at the On Demand Expo in New York and subsequently in announcements in the following weeks. These include: Xerox’s aforementioned Phaser 2135 and DocuColor 12, in addition to the DocuColor 400 DI (digital offset press) and DocuColor 500 CF (continuous-feed printer designed for publishing). Océ’s 108-image-per-minute DemandStream 4030 (and an agreement to resell Xeikon’s DCP 320 D and DCP 500 D), and Canon’s BJ-W9000, a wide-format rinter that prints media up to 43" x 144.4" at up to 92 square feet per hour. Xerox and Hewlett-Packard actually introduced new printers on the same day, March 20; Xerox unveiled the aforementioned Phaser 2135 and DocuPrint N4525, while HP announced upgrades to its LaserJet line with the LaserJet 4100 series, 3200 series, 2200 series, and 1200 series. Copier companies continue to forge ahead into the printer industry, developing new technologies and offering faster; more efficient printers to enhance their product lines and ultimately take bigger bites out of the printer market.

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