The real issue for this market is the universal copier printer (UCP) – that’s really encouraging users to embrace colour technology.
The introduction of UCPs, or colour enabled devices. There are two flavours, colour enabled for those customers that require occasional colour and then there are those that require a high percentage of colour documents so they need more of a dedicated machine. Different levels of support are required.
One of the key issues for the office market is that a number of documents are coming back in house. So if you think of some of the marketing collateral things that were outsourced to print shops before, those sort of short runs are coming back into the office because customers want more control, it’s more cost effective, so that means they’re going to require more graphics arts type professional colour as well as business colour and that’s the key issue.
It’s good enough for the everyday worker, but for marketing departments and those sorts of individuals will need professional colour as well. And the devices that can offer both of those types of colour are really going to be the issue. The strategy that Konica Minolta employs is that a device that can serve both markets.
The reason why the cost of colour is coming down is because of the technology that is being deployed. The ability to put four colour on one pass is really the key aspect. The other aspect is the use of chemical toners. – Better quality colour output. Sharper and cheaper.
There will be a very small niche, but ultimately they are on the way out. Because we’re moving to printer paradigm.
Speed vs Price
Vendors can’t differentiate on that alone now. The only way they can really differentiate is with the applications and basically speaking to customers in terms of what their business workflow is, because speed is much of a muchness. Price becomes and issue in relation to colour output, there’s a lot of talk about Ricoh’s cost per page versus Canon and Konica Minolta but that’s always difficult to compare because of colour coverage and the overall volume of customers. The industry cannot afford to get into a price war with cost per copy. We do know it’s going down, at the moment the market is around 7p per page, but you’ve got to take that with a pinch of salt – it depends on the type of customer, the application etc… One thing that’s very clear is what type of customer generates what type of output and that’s the key differentiator, it’s no longer the product itself.
If you’re comparing speed colour speed versus mono speed for different devices it’s easier to look at that to be able to categorise a type of product that are being place in companies, but that’s as far as it really goes in my opinion. Customers are increasingly wanting suppliers to provide them with a solution, something that will help them increase productivity, reduce costs, whatever it is as opposed to this machine prints colour at X speed.
Because colour is going to become an important factor, they’re going to need more support ‘how can I do this, what is the run rate of this, what is the cost of this’ they’re also going to need support for critical applications, making sure machines are not down for those. So as support becomes much more important, and you find particularly with copiers the majority of devices are under lease terms and we would expect that to continue.
Cost per print – if you think about five years ago or so the issue was related to the reliability of the device and providing appropriate finishing. From a tech point of vie w all of those issues went away about two years, because of single pass, once that was resolved the overall cost, the physical cost of the device in terms of printing colour on that device, that changed everything. The fact that customers are not penalised for producing black and white on a colour device, once that was eliminated then you can put it in an open office environment.
Single pass will become the standard, we’re still a little way from that but ultimately they will become the standard.
It’s really important that people realise that it’s not about replacing a black and white device with colour device, it’s really about resolving a business problem and that is a very different way of operating. The office market has always been very focused on the device itself, the specification and so on, but the actual device itself is now secondary to the customers uppermost thought which is “How do I get the best out of the machines that I currently have?” and not necessarily about buying a new machine. There’s always an importance of, if you’re buying machines how does that enhance what you’ve currently got. Customers are looking at balanced deployments now.