Printer makers square off on strategy

With new products either launched or on the verge of release, two of the document industry’s biggest names are taking very different approaches to serving the network-office market.

Lexmark Canada Inc., which on Monday unveiled a new lineup of monochrome laser printers and multifunction devices, stressed the importance of integration in the office environment.

Included in the stable of 10 new products are five X series multifunction devices that include printing, copying faxing, copying and scanning capabilities in their base configurations. Lexmark also launched four laser printers and a wide-format printer that are upgradable to incorporate scanning, faxing and copying devices.

“The product is like Lego,” said Andrew Kiss, Lexmark Canada’s business division product manager. “You add the devices you want.”

But Xerox Canada, planning an imminent release of new products, feels that the dedicated device is still where it’s at for offices.

“People who purchase printers are looking for the best printer. People who purchase copiers are looking for the best copier,” said Chris Iburg, Xerox Canada’s director of channel marketing. “In many cases, the people who make those decisions are different. IT people in large companies are very much involved in anything that’s put on the network. Copiers come through the operations group or the facilities group.”

The two document runners-up (Hewlett-Packard is the undisputed market leader) are also taking different approaches to the reseller channel. To coincide with its new releases, Lexmark Canada for a limited time is offering resellers its T522 monochrome laser printer for $400 less than the regular distributor price. Resellers will get also get a free Z33 colour Jetprinter with each purchase of a T522, which has a street price of $1,499.

Xerox counters with channel alliance programs and an offer of free black ink for life for its colour laser printers. Xerox’s solid ink technology has replaced ink cartridges with solid ink blocks, and is giving away the black ones to differentiate itself from the competition.

“Resellers are always looking at ‘What’s my unique advantage? What can I offer that nobody else can match,” said Iburg. “(Free black ink) is a unique proposition that our resellers can offer and HP and Lexmark can’t match. It’s an effort to help the market adopt colour sooner.”

Colour is one place where the two companies converge in their thinking. Though only one of Lexmark’s 10 new devices (the X720) is a colour machine, Kiss said Lexmark realizes colour is the fastest growing segment of the market and is also interested in pushing even faster colour adoption.

“We need to change the question from ‘How much is it costing me to have colour?’ to ‘How much is it costing me not to have colour?'” Kiss said.

Iburg said colour is a value proposition for both businesses, who can use colour bring costly off-site jobs in house, and resellers.

“Resellers will also capture service revenue and consumables revenue,” he said. “Every printer you sell, you’ll get an annuity stream of service and consumables for years to come.”

Both Lexmark and Xerox are also big on providing document management solutions. Kiss said Lexmark’s customers place high value on document management and suggested many companies aren’t asking for document management services because they are unaware such services exist.

“Organizations have document issues but they don’t necessarily know what can be done and so they don’t ask,” Kiss said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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