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Gartner Dataquest Says Multifunction Products Are Moving Into the Mainstream in the Office

17 Dec, 2001

Gartner Dataquest Says Multifunction Products Are Moving Into the Mainstream in the Office

With the convergence of copying and printing technologies in the office, vendors must have a strong strategy to develop multifunction products (MFPs) that can handle the print, copy and fax jobs required in today's digital office, according to Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner, Inc. The trend to combine copier functionality with printing, faxing and scanning is a result of the digital revolution. Moving from three or four devices to one device that does it all can result in significant savings for the small and midsize business. The opportunity to save on maintenance costs, supplies and better quality output are enough reasons for corporate enterprises to demand multi-functionality.

"Digital output vendors must provide a family of products in different speed ranges that are capable of performing more than one function. Vendors must help sell these additional capabilities, such as print, fax and scan to file or scan to e-mail," said Peter Grant, principal analyst for Gartner Dataquest's Digital Documents and Imaging Worldwide group. "Vendors that can provide these capabilities via an outsourcing model will benefit greatly as companies experience budget restrictions through 2002."

Nearly all manufacturers of output devices for the office offer MFP capability on their digital copiers. The printer option enjoys the greatest use at about 45 percent attachment overall, the fax option at 15 to 20 percent and the scanning option at about 8 percent. These options are becoming increasingly important to corporate and enterprise users of MFPs.

As the digital revolution is completed, scanning is the next big function. The latest options leverage the automatic document feeder to scan and digitize paper-based documents. This has contributed to a plethora of scanning functions, scanning software tools and document management applications being introduced into the space. Gartner Dataquest analysts expect continued growth as vendors continue to deploy scanning on multifunction products.

"The scanning capability is the smallest niche on multifunction devices," said Don Dixon, senior analyst for Gartner Dataquest's Digital Documents and Imaging Worldwide group. "However, the potential for growth is greater than any other in the space. The popularity and integration of scan-to-e-mail applications, digitization of legacy documents and document management applications makes the scanning option attractive to the traditional corporate enterprise."

Workgroup fax machines, units with more than 250-sheet standard paper capacity, are facing more competition than ever before from printer-and copier-based MFPs and scan-to-e-mail devices. However, this challenge has led to an evolution in fax machines. The leading machines in the workgroup fax segment feature improved network connectivity, Internet fax capability and printing features that rival stand-alone printers.

Gartner Dataquest analysts forecast high-end multifunction fax machines to have strong unit sales through 2002, with unit sales growth of more than 30 percent. Driving this growth will be improved scanning and printing functions, as well as better connectivity options.

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