Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New High-Volume Copier Guide

Better Buys for Business has released its High-Volume Copier & Multifunctional Guide. This guide, which covers black-and-white copiers over 50 pages per minute, includes a range of high-powered office and light production multifunctionals. The guide contains reviews and specifications for over 100 models from 15 companies from Canon to Xerox. The top models in each category have been given 2009 Editor’s Choice Awards.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Toshiba adds new high-end color copiers

Toshiba, which once trailed the pack in terms of innovative high-end color, is now capable of compete ting with the best. The new e-STUDIO5520c, 6520c and 6520c expand on the power of the -STUDIO5500c, Toshiba’s first made-in-house stab at high-speed color and light production. Unlike the 5500c, however, these models come with printing and scanning standard, not an option.

The e-STUDIO5520c, which runs at 55ppm in both color and black-and-white, has a list price of $24,999. The 6520c (65ppm in color and black) comes in at $30,999. The 6230c is priced at $32,999. These prices are all significantly lower than that of the 5500c.

These machines have a maximum of 3,400 sheets of input, and can handle paper up to 140lb. index in weight. There’s a choice between a simple finisher and a booklet maker. Other features are state of the art. Dual-line faxing is an option. Toshiba has taken a great step with these new speedy and flexible models.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ricoh introduced new production color printer

Ricoh recently announced the Ricoh Pro C900, a new entry in the high-end color production printing market. Note that this machine is definitely intended for high-volume production and would be found either in a centralized in-plant printing department or in a corporation or in a commercial print-for-pay shop. The Pro C900 shares some basic features with Ricoh’s black-and-white Pro C905EX copier-multifunctionals, especially in terms of the paper supply and output features/ The VC900 can hold thick stock up to 110lb. cover (165lb. index), with dimensions up to 13" x 19.2" in size. An EFI Fiery Print Controller is standard,

The Pro C900 can hold up to 11,000 pages in its input trays. On the output side, there are a 10,000-shet stacker, several finishers, a booklet maker, a ring binder, and GBC punch unit.

Built on proven technology, this looks like a promising addition to the growing roll of production-oriented color printers on the market.

Monday, September 15, 2008

2008 Scan-to-File Guide

Better Buys for Business has just published its 2008 Scan-to-File Guide. This volume includes reviews and specifications for current document scanners ranging from 20ppm to 129ppm. Products from 15 vendors are covered, ranging from Avision to Xerox. It also contains a glossary, a buyer's guide, and a discussion of the requiremenets needed for document scanning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check your lease payments

A recent case in North Carolina might make you want to recheck your equipment leases. According to the story reported by WRAL, a Raleigh TV station, a local copier dealer has been arrested for using fake copier leases to defraud its clients.

The fraud came out when one customer (a restaurant franchisee) found that it was being billed for a lease on a copier it did not own. Subsequent investigation has turned up at least two more victims of the ploy, and there may be more than a dozen. As the head of the defrauded company said, “"We had not heard of any lease. Our owner's signature and my signature had been put on this document, (and they were) not our signatures.” The police have been tracking down stored (unused) copiers and forged documents.

We doubt that this kind of fraud is common, but it’s not hard to see how it works. The parts of most companies that handle the bills are rarely in close communication with the department that manages office equipment like printers and copiers. In addition, leasing agreements are often so complicated that they get less careful scrutiny than other expenditures. Few end user companies have even a centralized list of what they own and what they lease.

So this might be a good time to do an equipment inventory, re-check your leases, and evaluate exactly how much you are paying for printing and copying. You probably won’t find out-and-out fraud, but you may find confusion, underuse, and a reason to work with the dealer to renegotiate.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Epson moving fast into business-class ink jets

Up until now, Epson ink jet printers and all-in-ones were, like most of their competitors, of limited use to businesses. Once you looked past the rated draft speed to a “normal” resolution (around 600dpi) speed, the speed fell off disappointingly, often to under 5ppm. In addition, color ink has been expensive, often far more than laser toner. These printers, well suited to occasional printing and well equipped for printing digital photos, just weren’t suitable for a real business.

But Epson is rapidly changing that perception. It has come out with two new series of ink jet printers and MFPs that offer from good to excellent speed, more moderate printing costs, and (in some cases) more than minimal hardware features.

The WorkForce series contains two printers, the Workforce 30 ($70) and 40 ($130). These low-cost machines offer decent speeds averaging well over 10ppm at normal resolution. The WorkForce 40 also includes both Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking. Both machines have good photo printing features as well.

Two all-in-one multifunctionals are also included in the WorkForce series. The WorkForce 500 ($180) and 600 ($200) can print, copy, scan, and fax, and have a 30-sheet document feeder in addition to a platen. The printing speeds are over 20ppm in normal resolution.

Even more robust are the printers in the B series, made up of the single-user t B-300 ($329) and the network-ready B-500Dn ($529). These machines print at over 30ppm in normal mode. They have fairly solid paper handling for ink jet printers with 650 sheets of input. They also do not come with extensive photo printing tools bundled in, indicating where Epson is headed with this series.

But most exciting is the cost per page. Epson is claiming a cost per-blsck page cost for the 500DN of under one cent, and a color cost around 3.5 cents. The B-300 costs are a bit higher, but still remarkable for a low-cost printer.

We have yet to get our hands on any of these machines, so we’ll be a little skeptical for now. And speed figures on ink jet printers are notoriously variable, based on ink coverage for each page, unlike laser printers, which have much more predictable speeds. But if the speeds and costs are anything near on the mark, Epson is going to make a big inroad into the growing market for low-cost color laser printers. Like HP and Ricoh (and others to follow), Epson is on the way to making ink jet technology a real contended in the office.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Citigroup: Cut the Color Copies

In what may be a dismaying sign for the industry we cover here, Citigroup recently announced that its employees must cut back on color copying and printing.

The world’s largest bank, suffering billions in losses from the real estate market, has been doing some furious cost cutting. They’ve laid off a host of employees, tightened up expense accounts, taken away Blackberries, and (shudder) demanded that employees use only black-and-white for internal reports and presentations. In addition, duplex copying and printing will be enforced.

The memo sent out from the company includes the following item: “The use of color copying and printing dramatically increases our copying and printing costs. Color presentations are unnecessary for internal purposes; therefore going forward color copying and printing should only be used for client presentations. Also whenever possible, presentations should be printed double sided to reduce unnecessary paper usage. Over time, we will be removing color copiers and printers from the locations where they are not essential for purposes of preparing client presentations.”

The big copier and printer companies have to be concerned. Color pages are now the mainstay of these companies, and a slowdown (or even a reversal) of growth in this area is going to hit hard.

Every survey has shown that most of the growth in the industry has been in color, and the vendors have been eagerly pushing the importance of color in getting the message across. And everyone knows that once color gets established, it tends to get used for everything, from memos to spreadsheets. But with color pages costing between four to eight times more than equivalent black-and-white in most cases, corporations like Citigroup are starting to perceive that while a little color is a great thing, a lot of color is an expensive luxury.

We suspect that the big companies in our industry are going to have rethink their marketing approach or their pricing schemes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ricoh to buy IKON

Ricoh, the Japanese copier company (on of the top three in the world) announced it would buy US office-machine dealer IKON Office Solutions. The deal is for $1.6 billion. IKON is the largest U.S. independent dealer (400 locations) and is currently a major reseller of Ricoh’s copiers and printers (it sells over 20% of them). IKON is also a major reseller for Ricoh rivals Canon, Hewlett-Packard, and Océ.

The buyout is the third in a series of purchases, where major copier companies have bought out independent US dealer chains. In April 2007 , Xerox announced the purchase of Global Imaging ($1.5 billion). In April 2008, Konica Minolta announced it would buy Danka Office Imaging ($240 million). If the IKON deal goes through, there will be no more major dealer chains, though there are still plenty of smaller dealers.

The structure of the copier/office equipment industry has been much like that of the auto industry, where only the largest customers bought directly from the manufacturers, That has changed in the copier industry over the years, as corporate sales divisions compete more and more with local dealers, especially at national accounts, the cream of the business. The IKON move is an emphatic acceleration of that process.

The interesting question is what Canon will do? IKON sells around 40% of Canon copiers currently. Canon seems to have lost a game of musical chairs, and it will be forced to build even more its own internal national sales efforts in the US. The squeeze is on for small and mid-size dealers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Low-Volume Copier Guide

,p>The 2008 Better Buys for Business Low-Volume Copier and Multifunctional Guide has now been published. This guide covers monochrome machines up to 22ppm in speed, from such manufacturers as Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox. This guide includes charts, reviws, a glossary, and an industry briefing. You can order it here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Greener office equipment

A group called the Green Electronics Council recently released a report on progress in making equipment, mostly PCs and monitors, less harmful to the environment. The report measures the sale of products rated highly by a system called EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool).

EPEAT was developed by the EPA. This system rates a growing number of products as gold, silver, and bronze in terms of their recyclability, reduced use of toxic materials, and lowered power use. All US Federal computer buys now must be of EPEAT-certified products.

EPEAT-certified PCs and laptops make up 22% of all computers worldwide. Since its inception in 2006, there has been a 150% growth in sales of certified computers. Prospects are good that the numbers will keep going up as companies and individuals become more aware of the environmental costs of disposing old office machines.

Among the benefits of using EPEAT products are:
* Reducing use of primary materials by 75.5 million metric tons
* Reducing use of toxic materials (especially lead) by 3,220 metric tons
* Making significant reductions in mercury use
* Reducing disposal of hazardous waste by 124,000 metric tons
* Saving over 42 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 Better Buys High-Volume Printer and Digital Duplicator Guide released

This guide, which covers black-and-white production printers with speeds from 50ppm to 150ppm as well as the very specialized category of digital duplicators is now available. More information is available here.

OKI upgrades its color printer line

Over the past month, OKI Printing Solutions has revamped its A4 (letter/legal size)color laser printer line from top to bottom, offering a set of models that combine lower prices with enhanced performance.

The new models are:
* The C3600n, which prints at 16ppm in color and 20ppm in monochrome, with a street price of $399.
* The C5650 family, which prints at 22ppm in color and 26ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $499.
* The C6050 family, which prints at 22ppm in color and 26ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $499, Unlike the C3650n, it comes with PostScript.
* The C6150 family, which prints at 26ppm in color and 30ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $699.
* The C710 family, which runs at 30ppm in color, 32ppm in monochrome, with prices starting at $1,099.

All of models come are Ethernet-ready, many have duplexing, and all come with OKI’s enhanced HD color toners and color management.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Xerox’s mobile print driver

Xerox recently released a free piece of software for Windows laptops. Call the Mobile Express Driver, it allows mobile workers to find and use available PostScript printers at their current location. These printers include both Xerox and non-Xerox models. After the user plugs into a network (wired or wireless), using the print command causes a pop-up menu with all available printers from which the user can choose. This avoids the need to configure profiles for each new printer. The driver is available here.

Xerox now also offers a similar piece of software, the Global Print Driver, which allows Windows IT managers to quickly set up printer profiles for any users and supports both Xerox and non-Xerox printers, This could be a big time savings for It administrators, as it should cut down tedious and repetitious setup tasks every time a new printer of user is added to the network. It is available here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Xerox offers new library-oriented models

Xerox recently replaced its library-oriented 20ppm Digital Bookmark copier/printer with a set of four new machines, namely, the WorkCentre Bookmark 40 Copier and Copier/Printer and the WorkCentre Bookmark 55 Copier and Copier/Printer. Not only are these machines faster (at 40ppm and 55ppm), they also have new high-end features in common with Xerox’s latest WorkCentre machines.

There are several features that make these library-oriented. First, the platen has a beveled edge, designed to protect book spines, as you scan one page at a time without having to crush an open book on the platen to get a good copy. Second, the unit has also been designed to be wheelchair-accessible and easy to operate by novice users. In addition, there is an optional coin and bill vending unit and an ID-card reader.

The machines hold 1,200 sheets of ledger paper standard. You can add on a two-tray device that holds 3,600 letter pages. Single-position and multiposition finishers are available. So is a fax option.

The Copier/Printers include PCL and PostScript, a powerful processor, and a hard drive. They also support (optionally) scanning, including Xerox’s SmartSend scan workflow software. The Copier/Printer supports Xerox’ EIP (Extensible Interface Platform).

This specialized unit is aimed at a very specific market segment, primarily libraries. It’s a powerful machine with a good array of options.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Paperless or at least less paper

BusinessWeek recently reported (“The New Push to Get Rid of Paper,” 5/30/08) on a renewed effort to approach the long-wished for “paperless office,” noting that the term is now 33 years old.

Of course offices are anything but paperless. As the article notes:“According to RISI, a research firm that tracks forest products, in 1975 the average U.S. office worker used 62 pounds of paper a year. By 1999, that figure peaked at 143 pounds, but in 2006 it was still at 127 pounds.”.

But things may be changing, thanks to a public that is getting more used to receiving and viewing things on the screen. The article cites PNC Bank, 15% of whose customers now get PDF files rather than paper for account statements, up from 0% a few years ago. 80% of company internal reports are now published electronically, not on paper.

Among the interesting points cited in the report:
* One analyst “estimates that companies will spend about $8 billion this year on paper alone.”
* One company thought it “had 150 fax machines, but a detailed search turned up 1,000, many of which were rarely used.”
* “Researchers at Xerox found that about half of the documents printed in a typical office are thrown away within 24 hours.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Vista Angst

I have Vista on a notebook with 2 gigabytes of memory and a decent-size processor, and with Vista on there, it just doesn't work. It takes over 10 minutes just to open a Word document.” That’s a quote from a computer analyst in a current USA Today story about the continuing backlash of both corporate and home users (“Vista struggles to bust out as business customers snub it,” 4/29/08).

Another IT administrator, with over 14,000 computers under his supervision says “I wouldn't put on Vista if it was free.…In the past, there's always been an important reason to upgrade, but XP (the previous version of Windows) is perfectly acceptable.” Analysts have ranged from calling the release of Vista “a disaster” or “the biggest blunder ever” and “equivalent to the New Coke fiasco.” Apple has made Vista the butt of some very effective advertising.

The story reports that users across the country are reveling against adopting Vista, due to its slowness, balkiness, training and help-desk burden, and minimal payoff. In fact sales at Microsoft of Windows operating systems are down by 24% in the last quarter. Even the release of a service pack bug fix has been a big disappointment.

With Vista getting hammered from all sides, many customers are just sitting on their hands, waiting for the next version of Windows. Microsoft has announced that Windows XP will no longer be available after June 30. But there is major blowback from some of Microsoft’s biggest clients, and it’s hard to imagine that deadline will be tolerated by the IT community, which is already organizing petition drives.

For hardware and software vendors in the printer and copier business, the problem is that they now have to support both versions of the operating system in full. That involves not only upgrading and testing software to work with a wide variety of programs and new drivers, but also training dealers and having help-desk support available for hard-to-diagnose problems, in addition to offering solutions for Microsoft’s (as yet little used) XPS image workflow. Needless to say, none of this puts money in the pockets of these companies, and introduces as whole new set of headaches, headaches that may continue for years until Microsoft’s next version of Windows is due for release (and perhaps a whole new set of problems will arrive then.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Turning it off

HP's UK branch has released a short online publication called “The HP Guide for Greener Printing” available here online.

Most of the advice is pretty obvious, with encouragement to print in duplex, send more documents electronically, and recycle paper.

On interesting point is made, however, about the effect of letting printers and copiers run when not in use. “All office equipment uses energy when switched on or in stand-by mode. In the UK alone, equipment left on standby is responsible for generating over 3 million tonnes of CO2 each year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Of course, many copiers and some printers have sleep modes that are automatically triggered if left idle for a preset period (generally somewhere between five and 60 minutes) , or can be set to go off ready automatically during non-working hours. That’s part of the new EnergyStar criteria for newer machines, and many companies are complying. But many older desktop machines in particular do not offer any sleep feature. Having employees shut down desktop printers and MFPs at the end of the day may be a smart idea.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New HP color ledger MFPs

Hewlett Packard recently introduced a new color laser printer-based multifunctionals group handling ledger-size paper. The LaserJet CM6030 models print at 30ppm in both color and black-and-white, while the CM6040 models print at 40ppm in color black-and-white. Street prices for these models range from $6,999 to $8,999.

These MFPs have a maximum capacity of 2,100 sheets. They also come with a 40 page document feeder. Automatic duplex and Ethernet connectivity are standard.. On the output side, these machines offer500 sheets of standard output, but they also have several optional finishers, a multiposition stapler unit and a five-tray finisher with saddle-stitching and booklet-making.

Scanning to email is standard, and faxing is standard on some versions, optional on others. Consumables are under one cent per page in black, under eight cents in color.

These new MFPs from HP look and act a lot like copier MFPs. The prices are lower than comparable-speed color copiers, but some of the options (including paper feed capacity) are not at the same level. Nevertheless, the CM6030 and CM6040 models a good solution for someone who needs the functionality of a fast color laser MFP, but does not need all the added bells and whistles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Xerox Green Survey

In time for Earth Day, a recent survey by Xerox asked US office workers about the "non-green” practices in their offices. According to Xerox, the biggest gripes about companies’ lack of environmental awareness were::

* mindless printing resulting in abandoned pages at the printer (40 percent)
* leaving lights on in unused offices (37 percent)
* lack of recycling bins (33 percent)
* excessive air conditioning or heating (29 percent)
* wasteful use of paper products, such as plates and cups (27 percent)
* co-workers who don't recycle (27 percent)
* co-workers who print single-sided instead of double-sided documents (24 percent).

The survey also noted that environmental awareness is often a function of age, where younger employees tend to be more green-oriented. It also noted that women tend to be more eco-conscious than men.

It’s interesting that many of these issues have to do with printing, an area where users themselves have some control over the waste.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Ricoh refreshes top-of-the-line color copier-MFPs

Ricoh recently released two new color copiers that are among the speediest in the industry. The Aficio MP C6000 ($29,800) outputs at 55ppm in color and 60ppm in black, while the C7500 3($37,8000) operates at 70ppm in color and 75ppm in black In almost all respects the machines are identical.

These color copiers expand Ricoh’s presence at a level of the market that has few competitors. They replace a pair of slightly slower models, and add a few new enhancements.

The range of paper-handling accessories is also a strong point. You can have up to 7,400 sheets of input total. There is also a choice of three stapler-finishers, as well as an option Z-folder device and a cover inserter.

PostScript printing is standard, Strong scan-to capabilities are standard as well, and (unusual at this speed) a fax board is an option.

Color copiers are getting faster and ore productive with every passing year. Ricoh’s new models set a new standard that others will have to catch up to.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Konica Minolta buys Danka

Konica Minolta announced it would buy copier dealer chain Danka Office Imaging by one of its suppliers,. The US company is a division of UK-based Danka Business Systems PLC, which is planning to dissolve. The deal was for $240 million.

Danka (which is 31 years old) was once a major power in the copier industry, with a wide network in North America and Europe. In 2006, it sold off its European operations to Ricoh for $210 million. Last year, the remainder of the business lost almost $30 million.

For Konica Minolta, the deal is part of a campaign for it to move up into the first tier of U/S? copier companies, to join rivals Canon, Ricoh, and Xerox. The move was also a reaction to Xerox's buyout of copier retail chain Global Imaging last year, as more and more the copier manufacturers swallow up the most profitable part of dealer layer that stands between them and the customer.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Study: Small businesses risk losing key documents

A study commissioned by Epson Canada found that many small businesses are not storing documents vital to them and customers electronically. While most companies have hard copy versions of critical documents in file cabinets, the idea of systematically saving documents electronically (and with proper backup) has still not caught on.

According to the study as described in a CNW News Group release, “90 percent of those who do not store any documents in soft copy say they have not adopted an electronic system to store their important business documents because they believe it is not necessary to do so (50 percent) or they never thought about it (25 percent) or they think it's too expensive (15 percent). The remaining 10 percent admitted they didn't understand the importance of making soft copies of important business documents like contracts or invoices and storing them electronically.”

In addition, only 10 percent of those surveyed said that they store hard copies in a fireproof file cabinet onsite, and even fewer, 2 percent, saved hard copies offsite. All this is in spite of the fact that even small enterprises are more and more dependent on a growing number of critical documents.

This is in spite of the relative ease and low cost of storing files electronically and backing them up offsite. While most midsize companies with a real IT plan have made recoverable electronic document storage a priority, apparently the smallest companies have no recovery plan for a catastrophic incident like a fire or robbery.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Canon production-oriented scanner

The Canon imageFORMULA DR-X10C is a high-end color scanner that runs at 128ppm in black-and-white and color. The top of the impressive Canon scanner line, it is priced at $17,995. The scan speed is 128ppm in simplex and 256ipm n duplex, in both black-and-white and color. Canon rates this machine for a 60,000 scans-per-day duty cycle. The scanner includes some innovative features, including three ultrasonic double-feed sensors, a double feed back-out and retry function, new dust prevention features than promise clearer scans, and the ability to scan documents up to 22" x 34". These are on top of the strong Canon scanning features.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Kyocera black-and-white printer

Kyocera Mita America earlier this month announced a new and fast desktop laser printer, the FS-1300D. This compact monochrome machine is a single-user model with a USB connection standard, and an optional Ethernet interface.

The FS-1300D comes with a 50-sheet bypass tray and a 250 sheet of input tray standard. You can add up to two optional 250-sheet add-on trays. The exit tray holds 250 sheets. First-page-out time is 6 seconds, very good in its class. Automatic duplexing is standard. Versions of PCL and PostScript are also standard.

Innovations on this model include a color LED status panel and a status monitor that sends info to the user’s desktop,

The list price for the unit is $530. That’s not cheap, but Kyocera is not in the business of competing with the low-end. This model offers superior speed and paper capacity, plus a rugged 25,000 pages per month duty cycle.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A few industry trends

Talking with Toshiba dealers at their conference last week, I heard the following:
▪ Color units represent between 50-70 percent of units installed. That is even more remarkable when you consider that Toshiba does not sell lo=end color single-function printers and that, as we have noted before, has not had, up until now, a full range of Toshiba-manufactured color copiers (The ones above 55ppm were relabeled Ricoh models.)
▪ Most buyers of color systems are upgrading from current black-and-white systems. Moreover, color devices are being placed through the whole range of customer types.
▪ While buyers are very insistent on demanding access controls and accounting software to regulate color use and cut down on unnecessary color printing, the truth is that, once the systems are installed, most customers don’t use these tools.
▪ Customers are getting more and more used to using copier-multifunctionals as fax machines.
▪ Dealers are well aware of the need to become “solutions providers,” that is, to accompany the sales of hardware with extensive software supports in such areas as document management, accounting, and workflow. Most have allocated technical staff and sales support to that end. But all report that it’s a tough sell, with long lead time and sometimes disappointing results. It’s one thing to get a single exec to sign off on a copier; it’s quite another to get a group of managers to agree on how and when documents will be stored digitally, how they will be protected and accessed. The sales cycle stretches out as the customers starts to redesign the way business is conducted. Yes, if carried out right, it can make you ever more indispensable to our customers, but it does involve a big investment in staffing and training with a long-term payback.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Toshiba rolls out new color copier/MFPs

Toshiba announced last week a number of new models to be released over the next few quarters. At the top of the list is a set of new high-end color copier/MFPs. These models, which range from 55ppm in color and black-and-white to 65ppm in color and 75ppm in black-and-white, bring Toshiba into parity with key rivals.

The new models will replace Toshiba’s current high-end color line, which are relabeled Ricoh machines. Dealers for Toshiba were happy to get Toshiba-made products in this growing market segment, as they were reportedly losing sales to Ricoh, Lanier, and Savin dealers who could claim more expertise with their own machines.

At the same time, Toshiba announced a set of new mid-volume color copier/MFPs. These range from 23ppm to 45ppm in both color and black-and-white, and are upgrades from current Toshiba models.

The complete list of new color models:
▪ e-STUDIO 2330c (23ppm color, 28ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 2830c (28ppm color, 35ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 3530c (35ppm color, 45ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 4520c (45ppm color, 45ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 5520c (55ppm color, 55ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 6520c (65ppm color, 65ppm black-and-white)
▪ e-STUDIO 6530c (65ppm color, 75ppm black-and-white)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Kodak unveils a new desktop scanner

This time, Kodak is releasing the ScanMate i1120, a multipurpose desktop scanner with strong document-scanning features. It has a list price of $495 and scans at 20ppm in both color and black-and-white.

The i1120 allows you to send a scanned file directly to email or to file. Kodak boasts of its easy-to-program and preconfigure scanning destinations with a one-touch interface Kodak calls “smart touch”. For example, you can program one key for sending expense reports as searchable grayscale PDF files to a specific server folder, or send a shipping order as a multipage color TIFF as an email attachment to the shipping department or to a client.

The ScanMate i1120 also has solid scan features, including blank page removal, image rotation, and dual stream scanning (for example, making a color TIFF for an email and a monochrome PDF for filing).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The longest document ever scanned!

That’s a feat that scanner maker Böwe Bell & Howell is planning to undertake, one for the Guinness Book of Records. BBH, we are informed, will attempt to scan a document half a mile long using the Truper 3600 document scanner. The document will be the equivalent of around 2,800 letter-size sheets laid end-to-end.

It’s a fun stunt to publicize the existence of a “long document mode” on the BBH scanner. The feat will be performed at a healthcare IT industry convention. That’s the proper place, as long scans are usually from instrument readouts from devices like EKGs (though it must be said that half a mile is one hell of a stress test).

Oh well, it beats the usual flogging of speeds, feeds, and megahertz. Apparently, the Guinness people will be there to make sure no cheating is involved.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Canon releases high-speed color scanner

Canon announced the release of its imageFORMULA DR-X10C Color Production Scanner. This high-end machine scans at a speed up to 128 pages per minute or (in duplex) 256 images per minute. It has a duty cycle of 60,000 pages.

This new machine builds in many of the hardware and software enhancements already developed for Canon scanners. These include such features as staple detection, page size detection, auto color detection, retry feeding, and strong ultrasonic double-feed detection. A new feature prevents dust from reducing the sharpness of the scans. It can scan documents up to 22" x 34" in size.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canon releases new color copier

Canon has just released a new color copier-multifunctional aimed at small-to-midsize workgroups. The Color imageRUNNER C2550 prints and copies in color at 23ppm and in black-and-white at 25 ppm.

The controller hosts an impressive 1.5GB of RAM and 80GB hard disk drive. The basic machine supports Canon’s UFR II host-based printing, but can be upgraded to PostScript and/or PCL. A multiposition internal finisher is available as well as a two-tray job separator. A 50-sheet two-sided document feeder (DADF) is also an option.

The list price for this compact new model is $8,000.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cutting back on printing

A recent InformationWeek article (“Biltmore Hotels Save Paper, Printing Costs Through Digitized Docs,” 2/12/08) reports on the attempt of the CIO of a hotel chain to cut back on steadily rising print costs. As the article points out “it's difficult to reduce paper and ink consumption when the effort flies in the face of people's office habits.”

The Biltmore chain has over 500 employees in its Florida headquarters. It had 41 printers and the number has been growing. So he:
▪ Reduced the printers to 9, while adding a few more copier-multifunctionals.
▪ Actively pushed two-sided printing and copying.
▪ Showed employees how to work with digital documents (PDFs) instead of printing everything out.
▪ Set up copiers so users had to swipe ID cards to use them and starting billing print costs back to departments.
▪ Limited use of color to certain employees with real need to use color.

The result is that the CIO “has cut what used to be a $3,400 budget for paper and ink cartridges by 75%.” He has also focused on getting departments to be far more digital in the way they handle documents. The HR department, for example, has now placed all records online, for example, and gotten rid of all of its filing cabinets.

None of this is any surprise, but it is a good indication that a strong push can transform old habits and save money and that such an effort can pay off.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Samsung releases new color printer

Samsung, which has released a slew of new products over the past few months, has come out with yet another printer. The CLP-660ND is aimed at small-to-medium-workgroups prints in color and black-and-white at 25ppm. As its name implies, automatic duplexing and Ethernet connectivity are standard. Memory can be expanded to 260MB.

The cost is a moderate $700 and Samsung claims (though we can’t yet confirm) a low cost per page in its category.

Samsung has been active at getting new products on the market and seems to be gaining growing market share, as it extends its product line from desktop machines to more powerful machines.

Monday, February 11, 2008

OKI updates ledger-size color printer line

OKI Printing Solutions just released the OKI Printing Solutions C9650 color LED printer family. These ledger-size printers, which print at 36ppm in color and 45ppm in black-and-white, replace the C9600 family, adding more power, more memory, and more finishing options. Street prices are in the $3,400–$4,100 range.

The OKI printers handle heavy stock, support the printing of banner pages, and offer booklet making. Costs per page are moderate, both in black and color. The speed is outstanding.

OKI has produced a solid stream of color printers, especially for large-workgroup and departmental use. These models look like another strong addition to the lineup.

Friday, February 8, 2008

HP makes (somewhat) greener ink jet cartridges

HP announced that it would use recycled plastics to make its ink jet cartridges. Using a new technology called “closed loop plastic recycling,” the company will use plastics from sources of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics, such as old ink cartridges and water bottles. The process, which involves shredding, is reported to use over 70% recycled materials in making the new cartridges.

HP already has a worldwide effort to take back used ink cartridges for its customers. The new process closes the circle, according to HP sources. It also says that over 200 million cartridges have been manufactured already using this process. The company is working on doing the same thing with laser cartridges.

This is a welcome step, a chance to reduce toxic industrial waste sent to landfills by a little. But HP could do even better: they could come up with an authorized way of refilling cartridges so they don’t have to be constantly remanufactured. They could also supply much larger ink reservoirs so that the cartridges don’t need to be constantly replaced.

These steps are unlikely; HP and other ink jet manufacturers have no desire to kill the cash cow that allows companies to charge $6,000 a gallon or more for ink, doled out a thimbleful at a time. The recycling is a laudable baby step in terms of green technology, but HP could do more.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ricoh extends black-and-white copier line

Ricoh this week introduced two new copier and copier/multifunctional families, the Aficio MP 4000 and MP 5000. These new models replace the year-old MP 3500 and MP 4500. In addition to boosting the speed by 5ppm, the new models families add a number of new or enhanced features.

Among those upgrades are more paper capacity, support for heavier weight paper, a big color touchscreen control panel, a larger document feeder, more memory, and improved first-page out time. The new models also include more advanced security features. List prices match those of the earlier models.

Ricoh is consciously upgrading its product line and adding new features. The issue is that their copiers and copier/multifunctionals are already good enough for most users. But the need to refresh its lineup and keep in step with key competitors means making what is already very good even a little bit better.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vista: Gradually gaining traction

Microsoft’s Window Vista application and its 2007 Office Productivity suite are slowly migrating into the office, according to a survey by CDW. Last February, only 12% of companies had plans in place to switch over to the new version of Windows, as users opted instead for the older, but faster and more reliable XP version. This February, according to the survey, around 35% of the companies surveyed had Vista migration efforts ongoing. Out of that 35% segment, only 13% had completed the move.

Similar numbers were making the move to the application software in Windows Productivity Suite 2007. Last February, only 7% of offices had upgraded. The survey indicates that 24% have now upgraded.

While there is still lots of controversy on the Internet and questions about Vista speed, feature bloat, and the change in user interface, many IT decision makers are starting to feel that the Microsoft products are stable enough and usable enough to give them the green light. Microsoft is, according to rumors, also working on a streamlined “Windows 7” version that will fix some of the objections to Vista – Microsoft is keeping mum, however.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Embedded Equitrac

It’s no longer just the copier companies that are embedding 3rd party software solutions on their control panels. Hewlett-Packard and Equitrac announced that Equitrac’s job tracking and cost management software has now been embedded on a wide variety of HP’s high-en multifunctionals, from the 24ppm Color LaserJet 9500mfp to the 50ppm LaserJet 9050mfp.

The Equitrac software is integrated into the HP control panel, so that users can, for example, enter in a security code before sending or retrieving a job. It comes in two forms, an Express version and a high-end Office version (aimed at larger businesses). The software allows for user authentication and access control, job tracking, cost assignment, reporting, and enforcement of corporate print policies.

Of course, there are Equitrac versions integrated into most of the major copier lines now. What is interesting is how HP’s top MFPs are offering the same kind of enterprise solutions that were once a major differentiator between the copier-based multifunctionals and the printer-based ones. The line between copiers and printers gets narrower all the time.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 Office Laser Printer Guide

Better Buys for Business has published its 2008 Office Laser Printer Guide, which covers monochrome (black-and-white) office laser printers to up to 55ppm. While monochrome printers are far less sexy than color machines, they are still the mainstay of most offices. Speeds keep increasing (now have several office machines at 55ppm) as sticker prices go down. At the same time, costs per page for the least expensive models continue to climb.

The 114-page guide covers vendors from Brother to Xerox, with product reviews, specifications, an industry briefing, and buyers’ tips. You can order it here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kodak on the mend?

Eastman Kodak declared today that its net income showed a major upswing in the most recent quarter, thanks to increased digital sales. Kodak has long been on the decline, thanks to the rapid implosion of the analog photography business. Since 2004, it has shed over 27,000 jobs. But signs are good that the radical corporate restructuring is over and the digital strategies (including ink jet printers and color production printers) is starting to pay off.

Indeed, digital sales at Kodak surged 15%, even as analog sales mostly film) dropped 15%. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the company hopes to sell half a million ink jet printers in 2008. Other strong areas are in digital cameras sales and digital photo printing kiosks.

This is good news for Kodak, where digital now accounts for over three-quarters of revenue. But margins are still thin and the competition on all fronts (ink jets, cameras, high-end printing) is getting tougher all the time, as companies like HP, Canon, Sony, and Xerox are all on the move.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New heavy-duty Kodak production scanner

Kodak recently introduced the i780 Scanner. This 120ppm machine scans in color, grayscale, and black-and-white and has a list price of $39,995. Among the excellent features on the i780 are ultrasonic double-feed detection, auto-color detection, autoimatic image orientation, auto cropping, and multistreaming output. The i780 is a speedy extension to Kodak’s comprehensive series of scanners.

The i780 holds up to 500 sheets in an elevator-type feeder. It is rated for a staggering 130,000 pages per day. Interface with a PC is through FireWire (IEEE 1394). It comes with Kodak’s Perfect Page imaging software.

Friday, January 25, 2008

HP gears up for variable data printing

Hewlett-Packard this week announced the purchase of US-based company Exstream Software. Exstream makes software that streamlines the use of variable data printing. The price for buying the privately-held company was not announced.

Exstream was founded in 1998 and currently has some 300 employees. Its software allows companies to create personalized marketing documents and billing notices. Its key products are called Dialogue, Dialogue Live, and AFP Studio. These Web-based products would be part of HP’s Print 2.0 initiative.

While the products can be used with some of HP’s higher-end LaserJet color printers and MFPs as well as its Indigo printer line, the suspicion is that HP is working on a high-speed digital press product, where it will compete against Canon, Xerox, and Kodak. HP has already made it clear that it sees its greatest source of future growth in chipping away at the vast majority of printed pages that are still done on analog, conventional printing presses.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Toshiba refreshes black-and-white copier line

Toshiba announced over the last few weeks a nearly total upgrade of its black-and-white copier/multifunctional line, from 20pppm to 86ppm. The upgraded models, all similar to current models, are signified with a “3” at the end of the model number. The new models are the e-STUDIO 203L, 223, 283, 353, 453, 523, 523T, 603, 803T, 723, 723T, and 853. Speeds correspond to the first two digits.

The major changes in the upgrades involve compatibility with Windows Vista XPS printing, enhanced security, and (in some cases) added memory capability. This is a baby step, enhancing slightly what is already a very good copier product line. The prices remain the same as those of their predecessors.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

OKI survey on printing

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are paying a price for unmanaged printing costs. That’s according to a survey just released by OKI Data Americas. The company surveyed 700 IT professionals from SMBs across the U.S. and found very little in the way of serious cost controls in place. Such companies are far less in control of printing costs than larger companies, and the headache is growing. (Small businesses are defined as those with 1-99 employees, while medium businesses have 100-999 employees.)

The survey found that:
• Over half of SMBs expect to print either the same amount or more in the future as they do currently
• Seventy-seven percent of SMBs still prefer to review just about everything on paper rather than onscreen. Meaning they print out almost everything.
• SMBs report that fifteen percent of jobs printed are non-work related (as opposed to seven percent at large companies).

In general, few companies had any real control of how much was being printed, who was printing, on what devices, and at what cost. OKI proposes a printing needs assessment, extended use of administrative tools, and the education of users to avoid paper and toner waste.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Xerox branding

Xerox, which five years ago was close to the brink, has made an amazing recovery, thanks to an impressive stream of fine new products and a streamlined business model. But Xerox’s logo and branding have remained essentially unchanged for decades.

Now Xerox announced a new logo and with it a new brand strategy. As Richard Wergan, director of worldwide brand at Xerox, has said: "The new logo is meant to disrupt the mental model of Xerox as just a copier company."

The new logo has a more rounded, softer font, along with a graphic icon that, it appears, signifies Xerox’s global reach. Brand is an important part of the mix, and Xerox’s had stagnated, in spite of its record of innovation. As a BusinessWeek article (“Xerox Gets a Brand Makeover”, 1/7/08) notes:

Xerox, despite the ubiquity of its brand, operates at a brand-building disadvantage to rivals like Canon, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and Toshiba in that those brands have strong consumer franchises to buttress their business-to-business images. "The research shows that this gives our competitors an advantage in communicating innovation and modernity," says Wergan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Lexmark Color MFP

Lexmark has added to its extensive color laser MFP line with a fast new networked machine that costs under $1,000. The Lexmark X560n prints at 31ppm in black-and-white and at 20ppm in color. It also supports copying, scanning, and fax. This machine handles up to 1,600 sheets of letter-sized input. It also has a 50-sheet ADF and supports PCL and PostScript.

Sub-$1,000 fully-featured color MFPs suitable for workgroups are yet another sign of how quickly the industry is evolving. A few years ago, there were few single-function printers that could print at 20ppm or faster in color, and the few that did exist could cost twice as much.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ricoh adds new viscous ink MFPs

Ricoh keeps coming out with new color printers and multifunctionals based on its GelSprinter technology. As Ricoh works on the technology, the printing speed keeps going up as costs stay reasonable. These look like good choices for small workgroups and home offices.

The GX3000S ($549 list), GX3000SF ($600 list) and the GX3050SFN ($849 list) offer printing, copying, scanning, and (except in the base model) faxing. They are aimed at desktop or small-workgroup use.

All there models print at 29ppm in color and black. Ethernet connectivity is optional on the GX3000S and GX3000SF and standard on the GX3050SFN. The printers are host-based, with the GX3050SFN also supporting PCL. There is a 20-sheet document feeder on all models. Scan-to-email, not always available on competitive models, is standard with networking.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Matsushita changes name to Panasonic

Japanese conglomerate Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Japan’s second-largest technology company, has announced that it will change the company name to that of its most important commercial brand, Panasonic. The company manufactures copiers, printers, and scanners (along with product ranging from TVs to washing machines to vending machines) under the Panasonic name.

According to the company, the move stresses Matsushita’s current reality as an international company, not a narrowly Japanese one. According to an article on (“Matsushita rebrands as Panasonic, its best-known product brand”, 1/10/08): [Matsushita president] "Ohtsubo made it clear that the switch was related to perceptions of the company's brands. ‘Our brand value has unfortunately not developed as we hoped in recent years.’"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Toshiba SmartCard

The move to access control for security and accounting in the copier industry keeps growing. Today, Toshiba’s business products division announced the availability of a new product called e-BRIDGE SmartCard for its e-STUDIO line of copiers. The product controls access to the copier through use of an identity card, including current commonly-used building access cards. The standard formats it supports are HID iClass and MIFARE Classic.

The product consists of a contactless card reader that attaches to a USB port on the copier console, along with Web-based software. The software can be customized for various levels of security, so that users can be limited to certain kinds of access to MFP features. It can be installed on an existing e-STUDIO product by a Toshiba dealer technician.