The paperless office is a myth, according to Michael Barr, a senior researcher with London, Ont.-based Ivey Business Consulting Group.

Barr produced a report on the subject — Workplace Printing Behaviour; Habits and Trends in Printing at the Office — which he says provides proof of trends in

Canadian office printing to validate his point of view.

“”The digital revolution has not led to the paperless office,”” Barr says. “”The

average computer user prints about 50 pages a day . . . the Internet and e-mail are the drivers that have increased printing in the enterprise.””

The Ivey study, commissioned by printer solutions manufacturer Lexmark Canada Inc., queried 66 users and office equipment decision-makers in companies in southern Ontario. Barr says respondents were not told about Lexmark’s involvement in the study. He says the results show that almost half (40 per cent) of the respondents said they print data they receive (electronically) daily, while more than two thirds (67 per cent) of enterprise users print information they’ve personally created on a daily basis.

Faye West, director of information systems for the Alberta Research Council in Edmonton, is fully aware that office printing volumes are on the increase.

“”(Printing) certainly hasn’t gone away thanks to the e-office,”” she says. “”Demand is going up.””

This may bode well for newcomer to the printer game, Dell Canada. On the heels of a technology-sharing arrangement with Lexmark it signed last November, Dell is making its foray into the printer realm. John Tyler, product manager, software and peripherals for North York, Ont.-based Dell, says his company is confident it can significantly crack the $6 billion Canadian software and peripheral market.

“”We’re targeting all printer market segments, from consumer, small office-home office, to the enterprise,”” he says. “”The imaging component of the Canadian software and peripherals market is pegged at roughly 32 per cent, or a $2 billion market. So there’s a great opportunity.””

Simon Giggs, director of marketing for Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Lexmark, says his company isn’t concerned about competing with Dell — Lexmark recently announced the release of three monochrome enterprise multi-function printers as well as a family of monochrome workgroup laser printers. Lexmark is focused on the hapless IT manager, he says. “”We are seeing IT managers giving printers and printing solutions higher priority. Our research shows that organizations are spending between one and three per cent of their revenue on print.””

Meanwhile, Bill Fournier, a senior analyst for Toronto’s Evans Research Corp., says his firm anticipates modest growth (about 25 per cent) in the colour laser printer space for 2003. He says the push is on for vendors to increase penetration of colour multi-function products in the enterprise space, but organizations are still cool to the idea.

“”Monochrome printers outsell colour simply because the (price) between the two is too high,”” he says. “”The real issue for an IT manager isn’t the printer itself, it’s the consumables and colour is still too expensive.””

Fournier says he thinks Dell’s entry into the printer market is “”a silly”” move. He expects Dell to capture a small percentage of the market at a minor expense to Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard, but he’s unclear why the company would bother venturing into the printer arena.

“”They’ll do OK in the enterprise space, but it won’t be significant,”” he figures. “”They can’t beat HP on printers because (Dell) doesn’t have the best products.””

West says addressing printing-related issues takes up “”a fair amount of time””, adding the ARC is currently in the process of purchasing new networking and personal desktop printers. “”It’s never-ending,”” she says of office printer demand. “”I’d love to see the cost of consumables come down, but I suspect this is how printer vendors make their money.””

HP Canada Inc. is the current leader in the Canuck enterprise print market, followed by Lexmark and Epson, according to IDC Canada’s research manager, printer products, Frank Albanese.

“”Is Dell entering this market as a means of making a significant growth play? I don’t think so,”” Albanese says. “”If anything, Dell’s entry increases the level of competition in the printer business.””

Albanese cites how Compaq dominated the PC market before Dell crept in and ultimately ripped the carpet out from under it, by becoming the market leader.

“”I don’t see Dell changing the market at all, but I do see them becoming a thorn in the side of the market leader.””

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