Blog

Oct 15
Lumejet Book Their First Sale: Digital Photo Imaging Discovers A Lost Niche!

​It was good to hear Lumejet announce the first sale of their S200 photo based digital printing system to their beta site customer, Altaimage yesterday.
Our impressions of the S200 have always been positive, and our expectations were high, once the system settled down. We also agree with Lumejet that there is nothing inherently wrong with photo processing these days, and that there is a lot of “mis-information” in the market.
Also interesting was that the application for the Lumejet output is “pitch-books” for Architects and Designers. This group of customers led the market into the first analog based, color copy applications using photo based technology in the mid 1080’s, before Canon digitally transformed this market with their Laser based copier, leaving silver halide to declining photographic niches.
But silver halide has always had the ability to meet and exceed anything ink jet or electro-photographic processes could achieve, in terms of sharpness and resolution. However, color gamut has always a problem area when placing digitized information onto silver halide media. This is Lumejets strength; their 288 LED’s leverage the maximum reproducible colour gamut from the photo media.
We do not expect that Lumejet will replace the numerous digital presses appearing in every emerging niche of the print market but, it is good to see that there are still some markets where only a genuine photo media is good enough. The Lumejet S200 should be on the review list of any Print Service Provider looking for the highest quality, photo realistic, digital output.
Congratulation, go out to the team in Coventry, UK on achieving this significant milestone so soon into the beta phase of the project.

Oct 04
HP leads an attack on the mobile printing standards issue: Founds Mopria Alliance with Canon, Samsung, and Xerox

​On October 1st 2013, HP announced several secured mobile print solutions that make it easier for business customers to print whenever and wherever they need. They also announced several new single-function printers, multifunction printers (MFPs), scanners and solutions that streamline customers’ digital and paper processes and increase business productivity.
HP discussed the proliferation of data created by a growing mobile workforce that is driving organizations to rethink how they conduct business and manage their information. HP says it is addressing this challenge with a “New Style of IT.” This includes delivering business printing technologies that accelerate productivity in a hybrid paper-and-digital world.
So far, so good. The problems associated with mobile printing are well documented. Finding a device, climbing security walls to log on, figuring out where the print button is, and deleting the file afterwards are just some of the challenges potential mobile users face.
These announcements have the potential to enable wireless direct and near field communication (NFC) touch-to-print capabilities(2) from smartphones, tablets and notebook PCs for a new and existing installed base of 40 million HP LaserJet and Officejet customers. If installed.
What caught our eye though was the announcement of the formation of the Mopria Alliance which HP has founded. Joining HP in the alliance are Canon, Samsung, and Xerox and they are targeting Phone/tablet manufacturers, Printer, AIO, MFP, MFD manufacturers, App developers, OS Providers, Laptop manufacturers and Mobile cell service carriers to join the common interest of providing simple wireless printing from smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
There is work to be done. The alliance wants to market and deploy a mobile print specification under the Mopria mark. But HP are the right company to drive the industry towards this goal. They have the experience from bringing ink jet printing to laser print quality levels, and beyond, with Colorlok. Less well known is the important work HP drove through the paper industry to develop de-inking processes for paper pulp recycling enabling a better quality of recycled paper.
Lightwords applauds the initiative and hopes it does not take too long to achieve and roll-out. We will be watching the results from their first Open House Conference in Korea, on October 17th and 18th, 2013 with interest.

Jul 24
Welcome to our Blog!

As we attend events and briefings, we'll be posting our comments and insights here.

If I agree, or disagree, then please let us know....

Oct 30
HP: Working on Workflow

September 2012 was a busy month for Analyst briefings and LightWords Imaging was privileged to meet 1:1 with Robert Dinkelaker, EMEA Category manager LJ and Enterprise Solutions to discuss HP new FY 12 through FY 14 Strategic Framework.

It's not new to listen to an OEM focusing on their Document Ecosystem and HP are back to reinforce their position with a strategic move to enable content to flow into and out of the digital domain.

HP are introducing several Enterprise class multi-functional printers (mfp's) with a focus on best scanning improvements at the ADF, keyboards to permit data entry and 8" color touch screens to make it easy to view, zoom, edit and reorder pages. The range introductions included entry level A3 color printing with the HP LaserJet Enterprise Color M775 through to the lowly but, slightly faster than predecessors, LaserJet Professional Color M251.

Scanning software is overhauled with on-board Optical Character Recognition (OCR), advanced image processing, scan to MS SharePoint, e-mail, fax and network folder. There is also HP's Smart Document Suite for cloud based storage, search and retrieval.

Again, much like other OEM's, we see HP focusing on software. This time employing a SaaS-based (Software as a service) DMS (Document Management System). Hosted in the cloud, HP is offering a low cost of entry system to track and store electronically documents and, images of paper documents. The system is scalable, easy to access via a browser or mobile device and, comes with regular upgrades.

Also interesting was that HP's Flow CM (Content Management) Professional, a product based on Worksite, Autonomy's proven CM platform, is to be available to SMB's as a cloud solution.  This is a very capable product with the usual capture, store, index, search, retrieve and version controls, prices at €19.95 per user, per month.

HP claim have the broadest and youngest MFP suite in the industry having introduced more than 20 new print and MFP devices in the last year. There are only a few gaps now in their portfolio and software fast becoming their next added-value differentiator.

Providing access into and out of, Microsoft SharePoint or any other library based document archive requires first class storage/retrieval, search versioning, metadata/indexing and security. HP seems to see these attributes as key differentiators for the future.

I think I need to urgently visit my local library for a reference point and education on search and return.

Oct 11
HP Graphics Experience Centre

Graphic Arts Experience Centre

We recently made a visit to HP’s Customer Experience Center north of Atlanta, Georgia in the US. The center has been described akin to a visit to the ‘Disneyland’ for digital printing’. It is a first class demonstration facility where HP hosts educational events, customer testing and showcases HP’s commercial printing solutions for North America.

Growing Page Volumes over Time

HP’s Mr. Yishai Ivar, VP of Sales and Marketing for North America Indigo and High Speed Web press, started the meetings with a presentation concerning HP’s growth and leadership position in the industry for digital color production class printing devices. His main emphasis was on partners, and partnering with commercial printers to grow their page volumes moving forward. All people involved with selling and supporting HP’s GSB product portfolio are incented on one common goal and that is to grow your page volumes over time. Mr. Ivar emphatically stated that Solutions architects, Business Development Specialist, and Sales people throughout HP’s GSB are compensated on page volumes. “This clear intersection of goals to grow your volume and not services but page growth means that a printer’s success equals HP’s success.” Page volume growth is important for both HP and their customer base. (See Figure 1).


HP_Graphic_Arts_Experience_Centre

Figure 1

Meeting overview

For the first time during a customer focused event, HP invited a few industry analysts to join in for an in depth tour and to attend the customer roundtable discussions with owners and prospective buyers of Indigo and T-series high speed ink jet presses. These are small breakout sessions where HP invites current customers to discuss their experience using HP digital printing systems in a production environment. Clients share their views openly with potential buyers who are evaluating new HP digital printing purchases. It’s a truly unique and candid event where clients and prospects can ask each other open questions and provide real and unscripted answers.

Facility

HP hosted the event at their impressive 68,000 square foot custom designed digital printing facility in Alpharetta GA. It’s the only such facility in North America that houses a complete array of all HP’s printing systems under one roof.

HP uses its own signage throughout including Scitex printed round floor maps to guide people through the large and sectioned facility as seen in the image below. (See Figure 2)


Figure 2

Focus on Applications

Each distinct area such as book publishing, photo book production, commercial printing applications including direct mail and catalogs, or packaging is a mini production center with HP systems. Application segments include publishing, labels, packaging, indoor and outdoor signage, industrial printing, vinyl banners, flooring, veneers, and backlit displays. Below is an example of backlit signage displays used for indoor and outdoor signage used in advertising. (See Figure 3)


Floor_Maps

Figure 3

One of the larger areas showcased the HP T230 high speed ink jet web press which is the tallest piece of equipment that can fit under the ceiling height of the facility as shown below. (See Figure 4) The new T230 is an upgrade from the T200 series device and is capable of printing at 400 feet per minute (122 meters per minute) in color and monochrome using pigmented inks. The device uses thermal ink jet print technology on a scalable web of up to 22 inches wide with a print width of up to 20.54 inches (520 cm) for direct mail, publishing and transaction printing applications.


HP_T230

Figure 4

Direct from DRUPA, HP shows it first HP Branded solution from their specialty printing systems group. The HP C800 print head modules are now capable of adding 600dpi 4/Color printing onto an existing offset printing line. (See Figure 5)


HP_Print_Module_Solutions

Figure 5

Upon entering the facility is a dedicated area for HP’s well known Design Jet wide format printer line-up. The complete series of Design-Jet wide format printers are organized by application mix including CAD/technical oversized drawings, aqueous for signage and posters.

About one third of the facility is now dedicated to HPs extensive wide and grand format print devices which range in ink types to include aqueous dyes, and pigments, latex, and UV curable inks which can print on everything from ‘building wraps to postage stamps”. (See Figure 6)


Building_Wraps

Figure 6

The center highlights several of HP’s Indigo printers in both sheet fed and roll fed formats. For packaging they have a number of roll fed Indigo models such as the popular WS6000 digital print system complete with off line laminators and converting equipment showing full end to end workflow. (See Figure 7)


WS600_Digital_Print_System

Figure 7

HP promotes its customer experience center describing their ability to demonstrate “graphic arts solutions and ideas to drive profitable growth for printers and print service providers.” HP showed us it is a place to see the graphic arts industry's leading portfolio of end-to-end solutions.

It is a customer focused facility, exemplified by HP’s owned mantra: “Your center, your success - a world-class experience that's all about you.” Learn more here:

http://budurl.com/HPExperienceCenter


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=717_QHgvX88

Tom Baratz. Independent Consultant and Market Analyst for LightWords Imaging

Oct 10
Photizo Host Large MPS Conference in London, UK.

Photizo held its Transform Europe 2012 Conference at Twickenham Rugby Stadium in London, on October 10th, 2012. There were over 335 registered delegates from over 25 countries and I suspect most, if not all, and more were in the hall to hear Sir Clive Woodward set an inspirational tone for the event.

Drawing on his experiences within his sporting career and, most recently, with the London Olympics, Sir Clive inspired a broad swath of movers and shakers from the document production industries, channel and partners, with a presentation full of substance appreciated by the audience.

The rugby pitch and International rugby stars wearing their missing teeth and cauliflower ear battle scars were a fitting a backdrop to a conference for delegates who are equally battling an industry steeped in change. Ability, Attitude, Obsession, Pressure, Talent and then Champion, were all words Sir Clive drilled into. No football padding from across the pond here. Just pure British meat and two veg.

Sir Clive made many good points. The one that struck a chord here was the "aggregation of marginal gains". Simply that doing 100 things 1% better can produce winners when there is little differentiation. In a race, this strategy brings forth winners. We are seeing this strategy played out in the document hardware market now. 

In this industry there are thousands of businesses reinventing themselves to cope with the many new ways of producing and managing documents. Ed Crowley did a great job of demonstrating just where we are on the Photizo map of the journey from a product-centric to services led industry. He presented the Photizo Customer Adoption Model adding an additional stage which identifies customer expectations changing.  

As we attended presentations, participated in roundtable sessions and engaged with dealers, distributers and IT VAR's over lunch and dinner, it was apparent that, 1% at a time, this industry is re-inventing itself. But there is a long way to go.

In LightWords view, industry OEM's have a difficult job to do to balance the constant need to reinvent and differentiate products and services, while requiring ever faster change and Transformation from the channel, in a market that will not wait for either side to catch-up. This was a great forum to discuss and understand the challenges facing the channel as they manage industry change. We recommended it.

Sep 26
UKCRA Open Meeting at Static Control: Small but mighty

September 26th, 2012. Reading, UK is not particularly on our way to anywhere. When travelling we try to maximize the miles and hold many business meetings as possible. But it was not to be on this occasion. So, attending the United Kingdom Cartridge Remanufacturers Association was a "special" for us.

We have been kindly invited to attend and speak at UKCRA events before and when asked by David Connett to speak again, we could not refuse. The UKCRA group is a focused, professional organization and changes in the organization leadership meant a new format to the meeting. Theatre style now with the Association's exec's on the top table, which worked well.

Listening to the updates from Laura Heywood regarding the EPEAT legislation you can see just how important a contribution UKCRA and ETIRA are making to the industry. Their contribution is, in our view, founded in a desire to create a balanced and "working" imaging supplies market in the UK, and across Europe.

What does the EPEAT legislation mean in practical terms? Heywood speculated that we may start to see governments and institutions encouraged to purchase products which meet this voluntary standard. LightWords Imaging expects that it may not be to long before this occurs, especially in these challenging economic times.

Static Control Components, the aftermarket's largest provider of imaging materials components, hosted the UKCRA event. In a site tour, it was fascinating to learn just how 24/7 and truly international the Static Control business has become. The hospitality and facilities provided by Anne-Marie Bailey, Ken Lalley and the team at Static Control Components were first class. Thank you. 

Sep 24
Canon Announce New A3 imageRunner Advance MFD’s With a Focus on Software Benefits and Market Insight.

September 24th, 2012 saw us at Canon Europe in Uxbridge, UK for the launch of six new scalable A3 imageRunner Advance MFD's which marked the arrival of the second generation of this highly successful Canon platform. The products feature incremental improvements designed to enhance workflow and increase productivity. Just what you would expect in a very competitive market where hardware is almost a commodity.

Canon's new imageRunner range will, we are sure, produce excellent results for customers, the channel and the OEM while using a minimal amount of energy and resources from the planet.

Accompanying the hardware announcements was the new suite of standard and optional software designed to deliver improved access control, personalization and service efficiency, as well as mobile and cloud connectivity.

Canon has made several previously optional software features standard including the searchable scan, file formats and secure hard disk erase. There is also a server-less log-in through their Universal Login Manager which is available on all imageRunner Advance devices. With the Login Manager you get user-level personalization, access control and user tracking.

In today's market, you would expect new products to feature mobile printing capabilities. Canon brought along its mobile printing application, their Mobile Print & Scan and the announcement that they are Google Cloud Print – Ready. That includes the ability to print and scan from a Google Drive using Canon's Cloud Connect. You can even scan, convert and send to a cloud service like SalesForce.com.

All in all, we expected no less from Canon and we were not disappointed.

This was not a standard, seasonal launch of new hardware and software, from an OEM of high repute. At this event, the software was the star of the product demo's, the hardware hardly got a mention.

However, it was the barrage of statistics and facts from Matt Wrighton, OIP Product Management & Strategy for Canon Europe, which caught our attention. In a video clip provided to the press and analysts at the event, Wrighton cited the early insights from a primary research study commissioned by Canon Europe, and to be published in 2013.

We noted some of the points from the survey respondents:

  • Electronic and printed documents are critical to their everyday work
  • 83% of respondents print every single day
  • 1 in 3 say they would not be able to work without printers, scanners or copiers
  • The value placed on documents is greater than ever in terms of producing, sharing and using
  • 20% need to bring their smart phone into the office

In the briefing presentation we noted some more bullets:

  • 74% were making an effort to reduce printing
  • 83% use print as much now or will print more in the future
  • 55% say they are printing less, but what they are printing is more important
  • 44% scan every day

And there were many more stats from what is sure to be an interesting study, when it is finally released.

The fact that Canon wanted to state these points publicly was what caught our eye. The press and analysts were probably not the intended recipients; rather the dealers and distributors who would be following in our wake were the target audience. Probably to ensure they were aware of the rapid changes happening in the industry and market.  

In this commoditized hardware market, OEM's are struggling to differentiate products from their competitors offerings. One 30 ppm laser mfp is much like any other, they all do what they say on the tin. And if one does not, then there are three other brands waiting to dock at the plug and /or Ethernet socket.

Differentiation through software functionality is "flavor du jour" but Lightwords believes it will only last so long. Eventually every device will be connected, personalized, managed and be able to know when it's your birthday.

Ultimately, someone has to stitch it together and train the user, in order for both channel and customer to gain the functionality benefits. It is going to be a "people and service" business, as we move forward.

On the horizon are the signs. Dealer, reseller and IT VAR are starting to collide in the battle for the document and its workflow. They will all need support and will look toward their OEM partners for guidance through their own business Transformation.

Transformation, yes, that T word again. Our partners Photizo have a lot to add on this subject.

But, Transformation is also the reason why we probably did not clearly remember the hardware announced at this launch event as we wrote this blog. That is because the launch message lay behind the survey. Transform to Survive. Just like this humble product launch has had to do.

Sep 20
Photokina Day 1. Kodak Connect, Create, Inspire

​​As the first day of Photokina ended, Kodak hosted an informal press reception in its booth. This presentation was made during that event.

Darren Johhson, Kodak Regional Director and Vice President Personal Imaging Business EAMER, spoke about Connect, Create, Inspire : Personal Imaging by Kodak. “We are living through an age of radical change in photography and photo products,” he stated, “Can you imagine messages without images, facebook without pictures? If someone checks in on facebook it’s not really a status update at all unless there is a picture with it. Pictures are your digital fingerprint.”
In Europe, more than 220 million smartphones will be operating by the end of 2012: equivalent to ownership by more than half of the entire population. In some counties smartphones are already ubiquitous, with personal penetration rates predicted to reach 74% by the end of 2012 in the UK and approaching 50% in Germany, al¬though the latter are quickly catching up. Data speeds are increasing by a factor of 10 as 3G evolves into 4G, and these ‘phones’ have become “our personal portals to a connected world.
Worldwide, Kodak has 105,000 photo kiosks located in more than 65 retail chains, and estimates that it has 50% of all kiosk printing. By the end of 2012 Kodak will have over 9,000 kiosks at retail outlets across Europe connected to Facebook, enabling consumers to download not only their own facebook pictures to print, but also access whichever friends pictures they have been shared. However, looking forward he noted that not all stand alone kiosks will be connected. Like smartphones, kiosks will become another portal to the connected world.
How does this no cost information sharing manifest itself to consumers – what changes in lifestyles will it bring?
According to Retail Economics, in the UK during the build up to Christmas 2011 nearly 6 million adults used a shopping app to purchase goods or services – more than 25% of the smartphone. Over the half the adult population used the Internet to buy products and services between October and December (excluding Christmas sale shopping).
Consumer space is no longer bricks and mortar, it is every smartphone, every tablet, every smart TV, every laptop, every desktop, every one of those personal portals to the wonderful world where you can buy anything from anywhere. The movement to omni channel shopping is only one of the dynamics we are seeing at retail. There are 4 key trends which will change retail over the horizon.
Omni channel: Shopping will be everywhere. Consumers will no longer just visit their local store. They will access and order what they want when they want it
Speed: People don’t like to wait, they want things quickly. Waiting days for delivery will become a 20th century concept. Why wait?
Personalization: Throughout retail you can see a movement in its infancy towards more personalized products. The growth of computing power and the advent of no cost information sharing has fostered a continuing growth of these products in all areas. Easily variable data is becoming easily variable output.
Experience: With so many options on offer, a retail outlet needs to redefine its purpose. Prices will be transparent – consumers need a compelling reason to visit retail stores.
From the onset of the explosion of instant printing in Europe during 2004 to the launch of Kodak Apex dry lab in 2008, Kodak has led both of those markets. Nearly one in every 2 instant prints made in Europe is on a Kodak printer, with over 40,000 touchpoints across the region. [At the end of this event, Kodak gave a special trophy to Matthias Hübener of Tetenal in recognition for having sold 400 Apex systems in Europe]
2012 is a watershed year for the photographic printing industry. It’s the year that Kodak gives consumers high quality Kodak photobooks (6x8-inch brag books) and photo greeting cards in minutes at over a thousand retail outlets in Germany with its range of modular self service systems and printers.
At Photokina Kodak launched apps that will allow consumers to create photo products on their android phone and iOS devices, and then either order them for fast production and collection at retail or go into a store and connect to the onsite printing services through a wifi app. The Kodak Moments app enables interaction with Facebook. Together with create-at-home desktop software, this advance turns tens of thousands of Kodak touchpoints in Europe into a potential of millions of consumer touchpoints. And the connectivity that Kodak is bringing to market in 2012 enables consumers to order photo products from their home PC or from the Kodak kiosk and have it fulfilled on Kodak Nexpress digital presses.
In a reversal of its former philosophy, Kodak is opening its API (Application Programming Interface) to developers so that app developers will be to provide content and interfaces across consumer space which can print to the Kodak infrastructure at retail. For retailers it will drive additional volume and customers to their stores. This is the start of Personal Imaging.
During 2012, Kodak will be introducing a new order terminal at retail, the Kodak G4XL, featuring a multi-touch 22inch 16x9 format screen and D-4000 printers. Along with the new hardware will come a brand new software platform, the result of significant development, testing and consumer research – running on a of outstanding quality.
Connect, Create, Inspire.. Put all of this together and you have a winning proposition. The way we interact with technology may be changing, but fundamentally we have the same needs as we ever had. The need to connect with people, the need to share moments with others. How many of us are tired of getting the same things every Christmas. Another pair of socks, perhaps a bottle of wine - maybe a gift voucher? This year, why not make it personal. Why not share some of your life with your friends, family and relatives.
Don Franz. Photofinishing News International Group

Sep 20
Photokina (Day 1)

September 20th, 2012. With day one done, it was a busy first day. No numbers yet but, based on a visual recollection to previous shows, we do not expect the first day results to disappoint.

The show floor reflects the changing Imaging landscape, what seems like fewer halls and Kodak confined to rather conservative booth and hall location. The camera vendor halls are their usual buzz and I'm sure many other OEM booths have been repurposed from a previous Photokina.

For Graphic Applications, we note the proliferation of vendors targeting the Fine Art display market. There can be no doubt that the Decorative Graphics market is in the spotlight at this show and Fine Art is a lead player. The fine art market truly now spans the gamut from consumer photo-books through to premium display applications. Differentiation between product ranges from Canson, Hahnmuelle, Ilford and, paper mills with historic pedigrees spanning to times before photography's birth, is becoming harder to discern. SKU proliferation is becoming another challenge, causing fine art vendors to look carefully at where and how they go to market.

Photokina has found its focus again as a true Photo show. Photography takes centre stage, as it should, and the challenges of social media and mobile communication have caused the show to become a showcase for innovation. The new Samsung Galaxy Camera is an impressive example of the OEM's commitment to the Visual Communications marketplace bringing Professional functionality to the consumer. I left the Samsung showcase with the view that this OEM is working hard to deliver on a clear, customer-led strategy.

Talking of the consumer, we must note the innovation coming from CeWe. Here is an example of a company embracing the opportunities presented by technology. An example is the way CeWe has combined the rapidly expanding photo-book market with the QR code to enable video replay on a smart phone or Ipad. CeWe are also encouraging its customers to use their images, stored on CeWe servers, to develop a wide range of innovative gifts of impressive quality.

A briefing with Canon's European image PROGRAF management revealed incremental improvements to the product range including, larger ink reservoir tanks, hard drives and supplies consumption information for the owner. What was interesting was the recognition and acknowledgment by the OEM of the "dumbing-down" of the wide format printer to allow relatively unskilled operation in a wide range of applications.

And yet, these are devices that permit the advanced and most critical photographer to produce monochrome images with control of black ink founded in the history of the D(log E) curve! Who remembers darkrooms, dodgers and shading to achieve the same results? Probably, today's generation-y students learning about photography in the orange glow of the safelight while posting images of the experience on Facebook.

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