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 user 2005-05-27 at 12:39:00 pm Views: 50
  • #9510

    Colour my world

    Once the domain of graphics professionals and specific
    vertical markets, in-house colour printing is now a possibility for general
    business users.

    Now the average Joe can produce draft documents and Internet
    pages on a colour laser machine – without fretting so much about value for

    So what happened? Speaking about recent trends, HP’s colour
    business printing manager, Irma Van Leeuwen, said growing sales indicate colour
    is becoming a business need, and a key differentiator for many companies.

    The technology was now more of a main course than an entree,
    she said.

    “There has been a growing number of people using colour,” Van
    Leeuwen said. “In the old days, it was mainly marketing and sales departments
    using the technology, but now hardware costs have come down it has spread to
    other departments – even accountants are seeing the benefits.”

    And while the barriers to in-house printing are disappearing,
    business and government departments need to get past concerns about high upfront
    hardware costs, pricey consumables and of print-happy staff.

    Despite these concerns, the colour laser printer market is
    holding its own in the overall printer space. With a rapid decline in prices,
    mightier speeds and sharper output, the market is seeing more uptake in the SMB
    segment as well as the traditional medium-to-large workgroup arena.

    In particular, SMBs may know they need to print in colour but
    are unsure about the flexibility of the product and its uses, regional sales
    manager of Fuji Xerox Printers, Paul Harman. Indeed, the colour scenario was
    becoming increasingly attractive to small businesses, in particular, GfK
    analyst, Lisa Murphy, said. These organisations could now print in high-quality
    colour as well as high-speed black and white.

    Murphy said the majority of colour lasers still printed in
    the lower speed range – 12ppm still accounted for 64 per cent of the market in
    2004 compared with 71 per cent in 2003. “The need for faster print speeds is
    also apparent as machines with colour print speeds of 18ppm plus rose by 246 per
    cent in 2004, accounting for 20 per cent of the market compared to 10 per cent
    in 2003,” she said.

    Kyocera’s product marketing manager, Mark Vella, said the
    company was seeing increased traction in two market segments: the 14 to 20ppm
    category (the midrange space), and the 21 to 30ppm segment.

    And there is no shortage of gear catering to all segments
    with the usual suspects offering improved paper handling and finishing options,
    along with added memory and the ability to install a hard-disk drive.

    Locally, the colour laser market grew by 70 per cent in 2004,
    while the value of the market increased by nine per cent, Murphy said.

    “Colour lasers accounted for 17 per cent of the total laser
    market in 2004, compared to just 10 per cent in 2003, indicating that we’re
    beginning to witness a switch from mono to colour,” Murphy said.

    In addition to a new influx of models in the lower price
    band, the growth of single-pass machines was shifting market dynamics, Murphy

    “Volumes for machines with single pass technology have
    increased by 59 per cent,” she said.

    The big colour push

    While hardware prices have plummeted, businesses are still
    worried that putting a colour device on the network could lead to indiscriminate
    use, thereby resulting in bloated consumable costs.

    But Lexmark Australia’s product marketing manager for
    enterprise, corporate and government, Stephen Bell, said there was a way to
    allay these fears.

    To help customers control usage and reduce printing costs,
    the company’s latest colour lasers use ColorCare technology to provide a variety
    of cost-saving colour management tools, Bell said.

    The newest addition, he said, was Colour Print Permissions, a
    feature allowing administrators to centrally control colour printing costs by
    identifying authorised users. “Businesses need to be cognizant of the advantages
    of colour, but ensure it’s being used appropriately,” Bell said.

    He said dealers pitch these and other software solutions to
    customers – which added ongoing value to the sale.

    In the land of colour it’s more than pushing the hardware,
    it’s about focusing on the applications a company needs to improve its overall

    “There’s a growing opportunity for resellers to take on a
    consultative approach, helping customers use and manage colour,” he said.

    And while cost was a major barrier to scooping up a colour
    laser printer, Epson Australia’s director of marketing, Mike Pleasants, said
    times were changing. Now that the cost per page of a colour laser has matched
    that of a mono, and the total cost of ownership is shifting downward, he said
    there was no good reason not to purchase a colour laser.

    For the average document, the cost per page was less than
    10c, whereas it cost 20c per page 12 months ago, Bell said. Indeed, partners
    need to help customers factor in the cost of consumables and maintenance, as
    well as price per page.

    And while selling colour was a bit trickier, Fuji’s Harman
    said partners needed to avoid the cost comparison with inkjets, and instead
    focus on delivering solutions that matched a company’s requirements.

    Ease of use and out-of-the-box network capabilities were top
    features to pitch, he said.

    “It’s an embryonic time in selling colour,” Harman said.
    “Customers need help with the purchasing because they still have low awareness.”

    For the first time, Fuji Xerox Printers is taking a stab at
    the entry-level colour laser market as part of its overall colour laser rollout.

    This meant the company was now heavily pushing the colour
    option across all ranges, Harman said.

    Kyocera’s Vella said the most frequent objection resellers
    would hear when putting colour in the office was the worry over costly

    As such, partners needed to explain the total cost of
    ownership over its lifetime, he said. They should prepare a cost projection
    based on the customer’s actual print volumes and the cost of consumables. This
    would develop an ongoing relationship with the customer and offset concerns, he

    While the purchase price of toner was steeper than an inkjet
    cartridge, the technology would deliver several thousand pages over time, a good
    investment in the long-run, Pleasants said.

    GfK’s Murphy said while cheaper prices were leading to growth
    in the low-end of the market there was a big opportunity for resellers to cater
    to the high-end. In some cases, this meant helping companies position colour
    lasers as departmental workhorses.

    “At the high-end, partners can differentiate by pitching
    printing solutions and educating users on the total cost of ownership,” Murphy

    In this space, long-term profit comes via peddling
    toners/consumables and offering ongoing service and support.

    Hybrid machines, which printed in colour and mono, were also
    good for organisations with limited space and on a tight budget, Pleasants said.

    Essentially, resellers needed to train a customer on the
    benefits of colour since there was still confusion about its benefits and uses,
    he said.

    And while the market is opening doors to the general business
    space, the bread and butter remains key verticals.

    Health and retail featured high on the Lexmark list, along
    with the traditional finance/banking arena, Bell said.

    On the health front, colour lasers are ideal for printing
    x-rays on medical imaging film, as well as printing patient identification

    “There’s a value opportunity here for resellers,” Bell said.
    “We’re in the process of taking this message out to the channel partners.”

    Vendors square off in colour ring

    HP’s Van Leeuwen said the company was hoping its instant-on
    technology along with inline printing functionality would further entice
    customers towards purchasing a colour laser.

    “The instant-on technology is vital for lasers in the smaller
    usage category,” she said. “With this, the toner doesn’t have to be heated up to
    start, which means the printer is always on. The first page output is much

    Inline printing, meanwhile, gave the colour laser machine
    enhanced speed, making it comparable to a mono printer, she said.

    Epson is pitching its wrap transfer technology as an
    incentive to make a purchase.

    “We’re hanging our hat on the technology,” he said. “It
    offers more accurate toner placement in the way the paper and the drum are
    brought together.”

    For its part, Lexmark was pitching colour saver technology,
    which allowed users to adjust toner density on graphics, while still maintaining
    the integrity of the text, said Bell.

    So as vendors posture to get on the colour laser wave, expect
    to see a host of special promotions and training sessions (particularly at the
    low-end) hit the market.

    And this is just the beginning.