*NEWS*EDITORIAL FROM AN IBM DEALER
*NEWS*EDITORIAL FROM AN IBM DEALER
2007-07-09 at 10:58:00 am #18302
IBM / Ricoh joint venture.
has been a dangerous competitor simply because they are so smart. They
have taken huge leaps to relieve themselves of divisions and
technologies that are not in its core vision of strengths. Their
intense focus over the past dozen years has created some interesting
and important changes with lasting effects on the broader IT industry.
printer division, located in Lexington KY was one of the casualties,
when IBM “hatched” Lexmark in the early 1990’s. [They have since sold
off other manufacturing and engineering divisions such as Hard Drives
(Hitachi), Communications (Cisco), PC’s (Lenovo), etc.] One would have
assumed that IBM’s next generation of printers would be an IBM branded
machine made by Lexmark. (Made an ass of me) So, just as we all were
getting our arms around the idea of this new company, “Lexmark”, we
were surprised by IBM’s next move. They chose, oddly enough, to use
Fuji-Xerox as their manufacturer for their own next-generation
IBM-branded printers. It seemed strange that IBM would spin off its
venerable engineering and manufacturing infrastructure, only to go with
another vendor. (Did IBM and Lexmark have a tiff and decide to not see
each other anymore? Or did IBM walk because they couldn’t get a “deal”
from their offspring? ).
It was not without bumps, but the
dealer community embraced IBM’s moves while continuing to support
Lexmark’s products in competition. There were new product families
which were not evolutions of intellectual capital and improvement, but
were instead all different from IBM’s continuity developed in their
Lexington plant. We dealt with new documentation, technical
publications, error resolution, design and manufacturing execution,
etc. It was rough, but I enjoyed the challenge of the broader
offerings. We settled in for the long-run, and then…
next move? In the late 1990’s IBM unveiled its newest generation of
printers. And they were back to their Lexington roots. IBM, like many
others (Unisys, Decision Data, Genicom, etc.) were buying their
printers from Lexmark, but putting their own name on them. IBM and the
other manufacturers loved the idea that Lexmark’s technology made the
on-going supplies revenue proprietary. That is, you couldn’t use a
Lexmark toner in an IBM machine, even though both were the same engine.
IBM could sell printers, guarantee their supplies revenue, and not need
production, engineering, parts, or inventory. Good deal!
seems to have come around again, but this time, IBM is actually exiting
the printer market, at least directly. IBM has sold off the entire
printer division, forming this Ricoh/IBM joint venture called Infoprint
Solutions Company. I see the overall move as an excellent decision;
combining IBM’s vast technical support and maintenance assets, with
Ricoh’s engineering, manufacturing and printer-focused future. Clearly
there will be a learning curve but I expect it will be rather benign.
older Fuji-Xerox gear is still chugging along out there even seven
years later, so there is no reason to doubt that IBM’s newer
Lexmark-based printers will be running for a long time to come. So,
users will have to choose a path based on the questions: “Should we
continue with the technology pedigree of printer engines designed and
manufactured by Lexmark”, or “Should we move into the expanded Ricoh
Clearly, Ricoh has a strong incentive to turn over the
installed base of older equipment into their robust product line. Ricoh
has a very long and hard-earned history of success in the world market.
The relationship between IBM and Ricoh goes back quite a long way.
Ricoh has had a strong market penetration in the copier and fax markets
for many years, but had little “in” with the IT community. IBM employed
Ricoh’s engines and technology in their mid-range laser printers, and
probably negotiated to keep Ricoh from competing in the lower end
market. (Why is Canon Corporation not selling hard into the laser
printer market? Because that’s who makes HP’s lasers). But now Ricoh is
in control, and I would be amazed (no assumptions this time) if they
didn’t use their own technology and engines for the lower end of the
market in lieu of the Lexmark stuff today.
There is a strong
case to be made for uniformity in infrastructure including printers.
The installed base can be easily migrated to newer versions made and
supported by Lexmark. As I see it, there is more to gain in keeping
consistent with the existing installed base than from a lateral move
over to Ricoh’s gear, at least marginally. Ricoh’s products have
typically sold at higher price points because their sales model favors
lower supplies costs, which is certainly in the interests of long-term
users. But a flick of the pen and Lexmark’s toner supplies could easily
undercut that advantage.
So what to do now? Since Ricoh hasn’t
even announced any new products, keep buying Lexmark or IBM printers.
Once Ricoh’s products become available, wait it out a bit and see how
it performs. Not until problems arise can one adequately determine the
responsiveness and supportability of the new lines. I would think that
the users really don’t care all that much, as long as their gear is
My philosophy is as it has always been: properly
maintained, the installed base should last for many years, and
uniformity over the long run is the least expensive and problematic
paradigm. Either way things pan out, we’ll be there to support you.
you heard it here first. Intel has a major problem. They cannot make
their processors smaller (faster), so they are instead making them
multicore. That’s wonderful, but show me the plethora of software
applications, present or past, that can truly take advantage of
multithreading. The dual and quad core processors are still clocking at
less than 3Ghz. Watch out for the PowerPC. Interesting, don’t you
think, that Apple moved their Macintosh gear to Intel (away from
PowerPC) just as we reached this point? Also note, if the older
Macintosh gear ran natively on the last generation of PowerPC, then we
may consider that it will also run on the latest PowerPC. The latest
PowerPC will run iSeries frames. Do IBM and Apple have a venture to
replace PC’s with Mac’s for the enterprise? Let’s see: the Mac OS is a
UNIX variant. Linux is like UNIX. Linux runs on iSeries (and zSeries).
Macintosh on IBM?