The convergence of traditional printer and copier markets has created a new playing field where print veterans like Hewlett-Packard and copier companies like Sharp often go head-to-head. The business buyer looking for a departmental multifunction machine to do multiple document imaging tasks doesn’t
necessarily care whether the technology is print or copy based. The goal for the business buyer is to select a product that will get the job done as inexpensively and efficiently as possible, which results in copier and printer vendors competing for the same customer.
In the business multifunction market (which doesn’t include fax-based or SOHO products), Canon and Xerox—both traditional copier vendors—are the dominant players. Xerox tends to concentrate on higher end products, which deliver 31 pages per minute (ppm) and higher, marketing primarily to medium and large companies. Vendors such as Ricoh, Toshiba, Sharp, HP and Lexmark have product mixes more suited to small and medium businesses. Distribution is typically via dealers, agents, VARs, system integrators, or vendor direct. Shipments of business multifunction units experienced a seasonal decline of 19 per cent in Q1 with 8,859 units shipped compared to 10, 671 units shipped in the preceding quarter.
Not all document imaging needs require a multifunction solution. Single function copiers, which only make photocopies, still have a market presence. However, analog machines, which once formed the bulk of this market, have given way to more versatile digital units, many of which can be upgraded to have multifunction capabilities. A number of copier vendors have discontinued their analog product lines entirely. Analog machines currently account for only one in five single function copiers sold in Canada, and this proportion is declining.
SOHO (Small Office Home Office) multifunction products are another area where printer and copier companies compete for the same customer. These products are typically priced under $1,500 and are often sold retail. Hewlett-Packard dominates this market with its printer-based offerings, but copier companies such as Canon and Sharp are also key players. The SOHO multifunction market is enjoying strong growth in Canada, and shipments have risen 12 per cent per quarter for the last two quarters with 9,555 units shipped. Moving forward, the outlook for the SOHO multifunction arena is steady, continued growth.
The fax-based laser MFP market, which includes both business and SOHO products, is growing at upwards of 10 per cent per quarter. On a per shipment basis, Brother is the long-time leader in this market and its impressive share is aided by a product mix that favours the lower end of the pricing spectrum. Xerox, on the other hand, directs its fax-based products primarily at higher end business applications. As a result, its per unit share is considerably lower than that of Brother. Other players in this market include Panasonic, Canon, Ricoh, Toshiba, Samsung, Minolta, and Sharp. Mass merchandisers such as Best Buy and Future Shop account for the largest portion of fax-based laser MFP distribution in Canada. The convenience and low cost of fax-based MFP machines will ensure their popularity for the foreseeable future, with strong growth expected to continue for this market.
Ivar Kangur is a senior analyst for Evans Research Corp. in Toronto.