Xerox Declares The End of Paper (Again)

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Xerox Declares The End of Paper (Again)

 user admin 2014-11-11 at 11:29:08 am Views: 203
  • #41437

    Xerox Declares The End of Paper (Again)
    By Scott M. Fulton, III
    The electronic document company's latest system for acquiring and sharing documents depends on users' willingness to convert them all by means of a printer driver. This time, it's backing up its claim with the introduction of a tool it calls Digital Alternatives

    The first time Xerox announced the extinction of paper to the world was 1984. What it had to back up its claim was a concept of graphical computing; an idea of representing the documents office use every day visually so that what you see is what you get. At that time, the company invited me to its exhibit of "The Paperless Office."

    But in my published story that fall, I noted that Xerox was beaten to market by as much as a few years. Maybe Xerox had the idea, but Apple had already capitalized on it. I credited the STAR Workstation with advancing the cause of Ethernet in office networking using easy to manage cables that look more like telephone cords. I was gently told by my hosts that I missed the point–my reader doesn't care about CAT 5 cable, and never will.

    Yet I loved the irony that the message was delivered to me on paper by the U.S. Postal Service.

    Last week, Xerox declared the impending end of paper as a tool in the office. This time, it's backing up its claim with the introduction of a tool it calls Digital Alternatives. As the company described it in its press release last Thursday, "We bridge the digital and paper worlds to help enterprises better understand, protect and use information more intelligently."

    In 1984, Xerox carefully avoided the term "mouse" probably because someone else was successfully capitalizing on it even though the man who coined the metaphor was a Xerox engineer at that time. This year's declaration very obviously omits the word "cloud," even though no one would fault Xerox for not having invented that.

    What is Digital Alternatives? From what the company's videos manage to show, it's a system for storing and distributing documents in a new format–not ODF, not PDF and not OOXML. The purpose of this, as Xerox describes it, is to enable a common data store of all documents that automatically synchronizes across all devices used by the owners of documents and the people permitted to access them. In this format, documents can be annotated by drawing on them directly and signed by stamping the image of a signature on them.

    To move these documents into a place where this can happen, the company demonstrates (at least with Windows) the user "printing" the documents to Digital Alternatives using a printer driver. If you remember the early days of PDF–before Office had an export function–to render a Word document or Excel spreadsheet as a PDF, you rendered it to a printer driver supplied by Adobe. With Xerox, it's very similar; once you render the document to Xerox, it exists in a space (there should be a word for this) where it can be marked up, signed, annotated and archived. There's also a space for users to send and exchange documents as attachments to messages of a sort (there should be a word for this too).

    The closest we have to a categorical explanation of what this is comes from a Xerox spokesperson in a note to FierceEnterpriseCommunications: "Essentially it's a combo of annotation tools, enterprise content management, a mobile reader and more–all designed to increase employee productivity and collaboration within the workplace."

    The platform, such as it is, depends upon a unified format for sharing documents–one that actually requires people using Adobe Reader for PDF (ostensibly a unified format for sharing documents) to re-render the documents. At issue today is the same issue that faced Xerox 30 years ago, although the term I'd like to have used then had not yet been coined: Where's the value-add?