New York – Printer vendor Oki Data believes the colour segment of the market will provide them with an opportunity to better compete with rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark International.

According to Stewart Krentzman, Oki Data’s new president and CEO, the market is being reshuffled

by colour. “”It’s a big new market and it is up for grabs. The winner will be the one who builds customer loyalty.””

Oki Data took an aggressive first step in challenging for colour market supremacy by releasing seven next generation digital colour and monochrome printers and a new suite of support services.

The company’s strategy, through its Command Performance initiative, will be based on building customer loyalty more than creating new customers.

Krentzman also said the company will be doubling its end user sales force in an attempt to anticipate customer needs and maintain customer loyalty.

In Canada, the market is poised for more growth. Evans Research reported the overall printer market was very strong in not only the fourth quarter but also across 2003.

Vendors shipped 924,610 units in the quarter, which was 21 per cent greater than in the third quarter and 15 per cent higher than in the same period of 2002. For the year, the final tally was 2,704,000 units — up an incredible 19 per cent over total shipments of 2,266,136 units in 2002.

Evans’ printer analyst guru Bill Fournier said consumers and businesses began to purchase printing devices for applications other than “general purpose” printing. He believes key business and consumer applications will spark more demand for printers going forward.

Gus Piccin, Oki Data Canada general manager, also believes there will be a new market dynamic because of colour and will enable them to better compete with HP and Lexmark.

“”It is up for grabs,”” Piccin said. “”In Canada now there is not a clear decision on what the customer wants. When a customer is looking for a colour printing solution they are gathering information trying to find out what is out on the market today and what I get for what I spend. Rather than in the past whether it was dot matrix or mono it would be the same vendor that would roll off the mouth. With colour, everyone is looking and seeing what is coming out. We are going with small, medium and high market with single pass colour technology, while our competitors still have four pass with laser.””

As for the doubling of Oki Data’s sales force, Piccin said, they will be working with resellers. “”We do not sell direct. It is our policy and we’ll bring in these people only to help the resellers,”” Piccin added.

Another key element to the Command Performance initiative is the Managed Services Program. Currently, this program is only available for U.S.-based resellers, but Puccin said it was only a matter of time before it becomes available in Canada.

He said that Oki Data wants to test the program in the U.S. so that it can transition it better into other regions.

The program is designed to help customers reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of its printer fleet, while providing resellers an opportunity to upgrade customer solutions and further the company’s strategy to maintain and build customer loyalty.

Steve Boyd, vice president, business alliances, consumables and customer services for Oki Data, said customers today do not know the cost of their printer fleet. “”They would want to know how much more then can be efficient,”” he said.

The Managed Services program is in three phases: identify, improve and manage. These three phases include physical audits done by resellers and Oki Data, upgrade or redeployment consulting, and a full-lifecycle asset management and remote monitoring software, which identifies printer status and usage to help with consumables replacement.

Boyd said there is a small cost to the reseller. He added that Oki Data is not interested in trying to make money here, but in the sale of printers.

With that, Oki Data released the C5200n and C5400 series of digital colour printers along with the B4100, B4250, B4350 Series, B6200 Series and B6300n monochrome printers.

The company also brought out a new Microline 186 9-pin impact printer line.

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