Thursday, November 15, 2007

Konica Minolta’s new printer strategy

The printer product line at Konica Minolta has always seemed a little confused to me. In 1999 Minolta bought controlling interest in QMS, an Alabama-based pioneer in color laser printing. At that time, the printing operation seemed to be run as a separate organization with a different audience (often low end) than that for Minolta’s copier products. From the outside, at least, there seemed to be little shared technology.

In 2003, Minolta and Konica merged, and the situation didn’t change, as the new Konica Minolta had its hands full, combining both two sets of personnel and a confusing array of copier products with little in common. Starting in 2004 and moving forward, Konica Minolta started releasing the bizhub copiers and gradually built the newly unified technologies into to one of the most comprehensive and unified product lines in the business. Just last year, Konica Minolta had built a series of very successful color production MFPs (including the now top-of-the-line bizhub PRO C6500), which are giving Xerox’s DocuColor models a run for the money.

Now it is the turn of the (somewhat) neglected printer line. Konica Minolta just announced the release of two new PagePro black-and-white printers, two new families of magicolor color lasers, and an updated magicolor MFP. These new products are based on some of the technology developed for the bizhub copiers, including the same Emperon print controller. They use the same advanced Simitri toner and they share some of the same administration and security software from the bizhub line.

The most interesting product is the magicolor 8650DN, which looks like a 35ppm, printer-only version of the high-end color MFPs. It has a generous paper supply, solid finishing capability (including a booklet maker), and works with appropriate productivity software available with the higher-end bizhubs. We don’t have any prices yet, but this elegant and versatile printer looks like it will be leader in its market, somewhere between serious office use and light production.

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