The Centre of the World is Shifting – News from On Demand Russia

Ralf Schlozer
 Oct 30, 2009

InfoTrend’s just successfully completed the second On Demand Russia conference, with the exhibition still running until Tuesday. On Demand Russia was co-located this year with PolygraphInter — the biggest Graphic Arts exhibition in Russia, which is taking place every two years in Moscow.

So far no attendance figures have been published, as the show is still ongoing, but observers voiced that this is one of the busiest trade shows in 2009. It certainly did beat Print09 on the number of visitor per isle. Also conference attendance for On Demand Russia was slightly up and better than expected. Emerging countries in general seem to form the brightest spots for the second half of 2009 for industry suppliers.

Of course it is not the case that Russia did not have any problems recently: PolygraphInter was initially planned to comprise four halls, but since in the running up to the show some companies scaled down their exhibits or pulled out altogether the exhibition comprised only two halls. Industry experts also reckon that printing industry revenues for the first half of 2009 are down by 30% compared to their peak.

Still the number of visitors and first feedback from vendors confirm a much more upbeat outlook now. Russian printers are looking into investments again. This also confirms how volatile the Russian market is: Russia had one of the highest GDP growth rates among the industrialised countries in 2007 and still a good year in 2008, while the GDP is expected to decline by -7% in 2009, one of the highest declines among the industrialised countries. The roller coaster ride is expected to continue with a return to decent growth predicted for 2010.

There remain some noticeable differences to Western markets though — and these are not limited to conference attendees arriving quite late and having snow in October. While most markets already realised the importance of software and solutions, there is still little awareness and interest for software in the Russian market. Some reservations might be based on the lack of Russian language versions. However there is still a very strong focus on hardware in the market. Efficiency and cost saving potentials of software and solutions are much harder to convey and have not sunk in into the mind of Russian printers. There is definitely more market education required and InfoTrends plans to contribute to this with its On Demand Russia 2010.

Tales from the Road – A Week in India

Jeff Hayes
 Oct 29, 2009

I just returned from a week in India as part of the HP InfoTrends conference on production digital printing and packaging series we have been doing throughout the Asia Pacific region. The 2-day conference was front-ending the IPEX South Asia tradeshow held in Mumbai, India.

Like the previous HP InfoTrends conferences held in Singapore and Beijing, this event attracted a large audience of print service providers, marketing services providers, distributors, and HP partners. There were over 200 attendees and 20 speakers covering 10 sessions.

HP InfoTrends India


 

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If you think you know Kofax – think again

Anne Valaitis
 Oct 27, 2009

Kofax recently wrapped up their annual conference – Transform 2009 in San Diego, California. With over 425 in attendance, this audience was a mixture of partners, vendors and end-users. Kofax, founded in 1985, has undergone nothing short of a complete overhaul in the last 18 months. Most changes are thanks to CEO, Reynolds Bish. Bish, former founder of Captiva, spent his first few months with the company identifying many areas in need of serious modification and then went about implementing this revolution of strategic business change.

One of the first major initiatives was to change the name — formerly DICOM group plc, to Kofax. Meant to eliminate confusion with the brands, and quite frankly bring about global synergy among the disparate business units (which according to Bish was sorely lacking), hence the Kofax name was adopted in February 2008.

Next, Bish set out to renovate the management team, making several changes to business unit heads and senior sales staff. The majority of these changes, according to Bish, were to bring experience and leadership to a company that was operating quite separate.

One of the most interesting announcements from Kofax came in September with the acquisition of 170 Systems. A leading provider of financial process automation software, the Markview suite of products provides invoice processing and workflow functionality.  This acquisition could provide a turnkey A/P solution from a single provider, Kofax.

It became clear that Kofax has been busy…Transform was an appropriate event theme this year. Companies that can demonstrate agility and flexibility will ultimately survive and prosper. Arguably an enormous task, not without consequence and fallout, Kofax has seemingly positioned themselves to address the market, and customer needs with product and services.

Kofax Corporate Mission – To be the leading provider of
document driven business process automation solutions

Moving HP’s Print 2.0 Vision Forward

Other Posts
 Oct 26, 2009

We’ve discussed HP’s Print 2.0 vision on the InfoBlog in the past, and two recent announcements signify that the company continues to forge new partnerships that enable print in interesting ways. These announcements include a partnership between HP’s MagCloud service and online wiki community site Wikia, as well as HP’s partnership with University of Michigan on BookPrep, a platform for printing rare, out-of-print books.

MagCloud/Wikia Partnership

MagCloud is one of HP’s services we’ve talked about in the past that continues to evolve and gain wider exposure. The service provides a platform for virtually anyone to publish their own magazines to the Web, and gives users the option to have one or many copies printed and shipped to them. These magazines are printed on HP Indigo devices, although it’s not quite clear (at least to me) if HP is printing items in-house or funneling them to print service provider partners.

In any case, HP recently announced a partnership between MagCloud and Wikia, an online service available for people to create wikis on any topic, similar to how Ning can be used to create social networks on any topic. Wikia was founded by Jimmy Wales, creator of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and currently has wiki databases on a wide variety of topics. Some of the largest Wikia communities include a wiki on music lyrics, a recipe wiki with over 40,000 entries, and a genealogy wiki called Familypedia. The MagCloud/Wikia partnership is largely in the form of technology, with the two groups collaborating on building a Magazine Creator tool within Wikia. The Magazine Creator allows users to collect articles within a Wikia community that they want to publish, design a cover based on templates or with uploaded images, and publish the magazine through MagCloud. MagCloud handles the formatting of wiki pages into print-appropriate layouts, and published works can be ordered through the MagCloud site. An appropriate and funny example used to demonstrate this technology comes from MuppetWiki, which created a 32-page magazine filled about Muppets character Grover and the different types of jobs he’s had. Read more »

The Book Is the Web Site, and Vice Versa

Jim Hamilton
 Oct 22, 2009

As the print-on-demand book concept gains increasing acceptance, it strikes me that its popularity should solidify another interesting possibility: a book as a web site. What I mean by this is that a book should be available on the web in its entirety, not necessarily for free, perhaps sponsored by advertising or password protected for access only by a subscriber, but the source file for the book should be a web site. When new information is added or errors corrected, they should be immediately reflected in the book. The web site would be easily browsable and searchable while the book would represent the physical record, to be consumed at leisure without the need for an energy-consuming computer, mobile device, or e-reader. It would be readable in fifty, a hundred, or five hundred years. The web site would display its content dynamically to suit the real estate of the computer or mobile device screen while the book would benefit from typical book features such as headers, footers, page numbers, a table of contents, and an index. The printed book (or e-book) would be generated automatically only when an order was taken. The book’s content would reflect the latest version as reflected on the web site. The two would be one, and yet different.

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Can I borrow that eBook? (Yes, if you give it back.)

Other Posts
 Oct 21, 2009

Bookseller and publisher Barnes and Noble entered the digital reader market recently, introducing their Nook eBook reader. It has a nifty little 3.5″ navigation screen in addition to the larger eBook panel, but you can read all of that by Googling (or Binging, if that’s your preference) some product reviews. What caught my eye was the following piece of the ecosystem B&N was building:

With our new LendMeâ„¢ technology, you can now share from nook to nook. But it doesn’t stop there. Starting Nov. 30th, you can lend to and from any device with the Barnes & Noble eReader app, including PC, Mac OS®, BlackBerry®, iPhoneâ„¢ and iPod® touch. All you need to know is your friend’s email address. You can lend many of your eBooks one time for a maximum of 14 days. When you use our LendMeâ„¢ technology, you will not be able to read your eBook while it is on loan, but you always get it back.

The model sounds promising — B&N allows customers to lend books to each other for 14 days, knowing full well it takes most of us longer to start and finish the average novel.

This model is also an important departure for book lending culture. On the one hand, the book industry has a long history of discouraging lending. As early as the 1930’s, the industry turned to famed PR-man Edward Bernays to “look for a pejorative word for the book borrower, the wretch who raised hell with book sales and deprived authors of earned royalties.” These so-called “book sneaks” and the “pass-along book trade” continue to be hot-buttons for authors, publishers, and the industry at-large today (Striphas, The Late Age of Print). Read more »

Label Expo 2009: High-speed Color Inkjet ramps up

Bob Leahey
 

I just got back from some travel to support our upcoming Label & Packaging study and one of the events I went to a very encouraging LabelExpo in Brussels (September 23-26). LabelExpo was a big and busy show, with stats to indicate that despite the current economy, the industry may have turned a corner. I just posted a complete analysis of the event and it is posted on Xaar’s website (www.xaar.co.uk), but I thought I’d mention a few things of particular interest about LabelExpo here too from a Jetting technologies perspective.

One thing that is pretty clear about attending LabelExpo is that there are many different digital printing vendors that are targeting the label printing market. Those that I got to learn about include: Agfa, ALS Engineering GmbH, Atlantic Zeiser, CSAT, Delta Industrial, Domino Printing Sciences, Durst, EFI Jetrion, Epson, HP Indigo, Nilpeter A/S, Omet Srl, Stork Prints, Xaar plc, and Xeikon. Among these vendors there is a mix of toner-based and inkjet equipment suppliers, which itself is beginning to become a more interesting positioning. The toner-based equipment manufacturers, including the market-leading HP-Indigo and Xeikon, have been in digital labels for many years, so they have large installed bases and their systems produce outstanding results. Many of the inkjet suppliers have only been in the label business for a few years, or are just entering the market, but have products and technologies that have the potential to substantially grow inkjet’s share of the label printing market based on lower running costs and the ability onto print onto uncoated substrates using UV-curable inkjet inks. Inkjet is a little different than those toner-based systems because while there are standalone inkjet presses, inkjet is also applied as a module to flexo presses to provide the variable data element and there were at least 4 such configurations at LabelExpo.

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A bad day for print

Ralf Schlozer
 

Today it was confirmed that Quelle, the biggest German mail order company and once the biggest in Europe, will close its doors. This also means the end to one of Germany’s largest publishers. Quelle published twice a year a catalogue with up to 1,500 pages in a run of 9 million copies. This equates into 27 billion print pages per year or as a comparison: two and a half times all digital colour pages printed in Germany in one year. Including shipping the catalogue did cost about 15 Euro — still a bargain considering the number of pages printed.

The catalogue was not only ubiquitous, it also was also famed for being a cultural icon illustrating the state of society and commercial culture over more than 70 years. However the catalogue was also a big limiter of rejuvenating the business model. For half a year all products and prices were fixed as a consequence of the printed catalogue. In early years this was a great reassurance for customers to be able to have a complete overview of products at guaranteed prices and the catalogue stayed around for that time period. Now, as products have much shorter life cycles, promotions are rife and the internet offers an alternative remote order channel, the catalogue usually ended up in the waste paper collection bin just after a few weeks. Not that Quelle did not try to move the catalogue to the internet, but the majority of customers still preferred to order from a printed catalogue.

Would a more targeted approach have helped? Still the gap between what personalised print (including all preparation processes) can do is worlds apart from what replacing a 9 million run and product catalogue of 70.000 articles would have required. But it can be assumed that many smaller, more specialised mail order companies are picking up (at least some) of the pieces. Hopefully they can draw some conclusions on how to keep the printed catalogue alive and attractive for the customer. More personalisation, more frequent updates and multimedia integration would certainly help.

A Production Color Inkjet Report from JGAS

Jim Hamilton
 Oct 19, 2009

InfoTrends Tokyo-based senior analyst Masato Atoda has forwarded me some of his impressions of the Japanese graphic arts trade show JGAS (Tokyo, October 6-10). A couple of items stand out in regard to high-speed color inkjet developments:

  • Miyakoshi showed a new continuous-feed color inkjet printer called the MJP20F that runs at 200 meter-per-minute (approximately 650 feet per minute) at 600 by 600 dot-per-inch resolution. In a duplex 4/4 configuration with a 541 millimeter (about 21.3 inches) maximum print width the price is about 300 million yen (approximately $3.3 million). It is available now worldwide.
  • FujiFilm showed the sheet-fed, B2-format JetPress 720 that it had demonstrated at drupa 2008. It did not hand out print samples, but it does appear that print quality has improved since drupa. FujiFilm reported that the JetPress 720 will ship in the spring of 2010.
  • Screen showed the TruePress Jet SX that it demonstrated at drupa 2008. The device now has duplex print capability, which Screen says will be a standard feature. Screen did not distribute print samples, but it appears that the quality has improved since drupa. Screen said that beta testing will begin this year and first customer shipments will begin in the spring or summer of 2010.

This week InfoTrends will be publishing an analysis for its consulting service clients that will include more on the production digital color developments from JGAS.

Merger, no merger, merger, no merger,… manroland and Heidelberg call merger off

Ralf Schlozer
 

One of the perennial rumours in the Graphic Arts industry is on mergers between the large German offset printing press manufacturers, especially between Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and manroland (former MAN Roland). Not that the rumours have been totally unfounded, as there have been quite some talks about mergers or cooperation in the past. However these talks never came into fruition. It is kind of ironic, as apparently in previous years the economic situation was not bad enough for both companies to get together, in what can be assumed would be a quite painful process. Now the times are too bad – as proven by the dismal financial outlook of Heidelberger.
In a shrinking market it would make sense to consolidate and it would take immense optimism to see offset press manufacturing coming back to old strength. The product portfolio of both companies would complement each other, despite some overlap in sheetfed offset. Heidelberg latest venture in large format sheetfed presses increased the overlap, but manroland covers even larger formats and especially the full range of web offset presses.

It has been speculated that the prerequisite of a merger would be the divestment of the sheetfed business of manroland. However this could also be the biggest danger for a future merged company. The most profitable part of an offset press manufacturers’ business is servicing the presses, but as presses grow more productive and the offset volume is declining fewer presses are needed. That means the established service and support network has fewer devices to take care of if the existing coverage is kept up. More presses in a given area could drive up profitability as utilisation of assets increases. Combining the installed base from Heidelberg and manroland would give a combined service organisation that boost. If the sheetfed business is sold off there would be no synergies in this critical area.

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