Chasing HP in the printer market

This could be just an anomaly, but CDN staff have written many, many articles about printer companies this year. I can’t remember a time when the printer market has changed so much.

For example, two issue ago we features stories on Lexmark targeting the SMB market with its new line and Canon’s

new printer branding campaign. We also had a small story about Lexmark’s CEO.

Early this year we ran a close up on Stewart Krentzmann, the CEO of Oki Data about his plan, which is based on colour and loyalty, to challenge HP for top spot.

Chasing the Golden Fleece

And that is what it is all about. Hewlett-Packard is the recognized worldwide leader in the overall printer category. A category in which analysts Darrel Ryce of NPD Intellect and Bill Fournier of Evans Research say is at best flat. Mind you in that flat market photo printers and multi-function printers, those that scan, copy and print are in high demand.

These companies and I will also include Xerox, Epson, Brother, Kyocera Mita, Konica/Minolta and Rioch have been chasing HP it seems for more than two decades for the leadership of this market.

If the printer market were the sports arena then HP would be the Yankees, the Canadians, the Celtics, the 49ners, or Juventus – synonymous for winning.

A better analogy would be HP are the Harlem Globetrotters and the other printer companies are the Washington Generals.

Other markets

In other product segments various vendors flip-flop for first place, but in the printer business it is HP at No. 1 all the time and the others flip-flop for second, third, fourth etc. So why are these also ran companies still fighting the good fight?

Well, the fact of the matter is they all have a chance now that the market has become broader. Today, you have the option of purchasing inkjets, lasers, dye-sublimation, photo, and multi-function type of printers.

Can HP maintain their lead in all? The answer to that is no. Case in point, Evans Research published a report last month stating Canon was the top vendor of multi-function printers in the second quarter. The business multifunction market dropped eight per cent in Q2, from 11,609 units to 10,728 units, but not since last November has HP ever been knocked out of top spot.

It has given all these companies hope. What looked to be an impossible dream, come now be on the horizon for these companies.

Resellers again will be the key. In the past, resellers have positioned Epson, Canon, Oki Data, Xerox and the rest as alternatives to HP. Customers continued to ignore the rest and but HP. Since price levels have remained competitive making price a non-issue, why wouldn’t customers stick to best of breed – namely HP products.

Now it is a matter of who provides a quality colour-based solutions. They all do and that has hurt HP who continue to off mono-laser and mono-inkjet products along with Lexmark. Customers are moving away from mono for the most part and these printer companies are now focused on speed to market, which has meant more new product stories from printer vendors.

All four document imaging markets weathered declines in second quarter shipments. This is a seasonal phenomenon stemming from the fact that many of the large Japan-based vendors, including Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Toshiba, have fiscal years ending in March. In order to boost their year-end numbers, these vendors stuffed the channel in Q1, resulting in Q2 shipments being bottlenecked.

The business multifunction market dropped eight per cent in Q2, from 11,609 units to 10,728 units. Canon retained its lead over Xerox and Konica

Minolta remained in third place.

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