Before we bid adieu to 2015 it’s that time again when we reflect on the top stories within the document imaging industry for the year. These are the stories that have either impacted or will impact the dealer and reseller channels in the future and encompass events, initiatives, and trends related to the OEMs and the services, solutions, and supplies vendors.
There’s always room for debate with any list like this as far as what’s on it and what’s not. This list of 12 was compiled in October and as a result any major event that happened after we went to press is not included. With that in mind let’s review the top stories of the year starting in chronological order.
Epson Introduces the Replaceable Ink Pack System (RIPS) – On January 20 Epson made this announcement, describing it as “an entirely new way for workgroups and SMBs to approach color printing.” The first products with this technology were the WorkForce Pro WF-R8590 and WF-R5690 MFPs and WF-R5190 printer, each producing up to 75,000 printed pages in black and color before the ink needs to be replaced. According to Charles Brewer, founder of the market research firm Actionable Intelligence, “This sets the stage for a showdown between Epson and HP. HP is going to talk about speed and the ability of their machines compared to a laser device and Epson is going to talk about total cost of ownership not only against laser devices, but also inkjet machines and the convenience of being able to place a machine and then just forget about it. These are two totally different value propositions with emerging technologies and both of them are going to fuel interest in inkjet.”
HP Introduces Jetintelligence Color Printers and MFPs – On March 10 HP unveiled a new lineup of LaserJets with the JetIntelligence imaging system, which enable the HP LaserJets to use up to 53 percent less energy, take up to 40 percent less space and wake up, print and duplex in a fraction of the time of other printers. Meanwhile, the cartridges yield 33 percent more pages. The initial devices are entry level models, but this technology has already begun moving upstream as seen with the LaserJet 400 Series aimed at SMBs and introduced on September 10. “The technology gives HP a leg up on all the competition,” states Actionable Intelligence’s Brewer. “The way they’ve been able to reduce the form factor is a big deal. [And] the technology in those cartridges is going to give the reman industry fits.”
Lexmark Acquires Kofax – On March 24 Lexmark announced plans to acquire enterprise software manufacturer Kofax for $1 billion, representing the document imaging industry’s biggest acquisition this year. The sale closed on May 21. The acquisition bolstered Lexmark’s already formidable software portfolio and positioned it as an even more relevant player in the solutions arena. There was probably some hope too that a strong software portfolio would have a positive impact on its hardware portfolio as well, although the news coming out of Lexington at the end of October about a potential sale looming in the future seems to negate that.
Samsung Launches the MultiXpress MX 7 Series A3 MFPs – More than a few industry analysts are enamored with the new Samsung A3 MFPs which began shipping to select U.S. dealers on June 14. The most compelling feature of the new MFPs and the one garnering all the attention is Samsung’s Android-based Smart user interface. The new models also have dual-scan with anti-paper-jam technology, and mobile connectivity which enables them to connect to virtually any mobile device. Three monochrome configurations are available, a 40-ppm model, a 50-ppm model, and a 60-ppm model. Samsung’s document imaging dealer channel is still in its formative stages and while these devices may not be lighting it up in all markets, they represent the wave of the future in terms of the user interface and mobile connectivity. “The A3 models from Samsung are significant because they are the first new models in that category from a non-established vendor in a couple decades,” observes Brian Bissett, editor and publisher of The MFP Report. “Moreover, Samsung is one of the world’s largest and most successful electronics companies, so what they do bears watching – even if one is skeptical that they will succeed.”
Xerox’s Services Business Stumbles – On July 24 Xerox reported profits for the current quarter were $12 million compared to $266 million during the same period last year. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that’s not good. Meanwhile, the portion of revenue linked to the company’s services business, which accounts for a little more than half of total revenue, was $2.6 billion, down 3 percent from a year ago. The document-technology segment collected $1.9 billion in revenue, down 12 percent. As reported in the business press, for the past few quarters, Xerox reported declining installs and revenue in document technology while touting strong profits in the segment, resulting from ongoing improvements in operational areas. Meanwhile, the company remains focused on expansion, including services sector acquisitions. The question remains, however, is this a bump in the road, or will it continue to be a downward slide? The MFP Report’s Brian Bissett weighs in, “Xerox’s travails in services are important because Xerox is Xerox and is always watched as a bellwether. There is also a cautionary tale in there about the challenges and pitfalls of diversification from hardcopy into services.”
Sharp’s Financial Struggles Continue as it Exits TV Business, but Office Technology Business Remains Strong – It’s getting to be an old story; you know, Sharp Corporation’s financial performance. However, the story line changed on July 31 when the company announced it was exiting the TV business, jettisoning what had become an unprofitable business segment. Something had to go and TVs, as wonderful as some of us thought they were, took the hit. Even though Sharp Corporation has continued to take a financial licking its office technology business keeps on ticking, remains profitable, and better yet, it doesn’t have the TV group dragging it down anymore. This turn of events could change the dynamic at Sharp with U.S. executives no longer having to be on the defensive as they have been with the dismal news coming out of Japan the past few years.
LMI Solutions Acquires Parts Now – On September 29, LMI Solutions, the provider of remanufactured print cartridges, remanufactured printers, and MPS infrastructure announced a strategic investment in Parts Now, a supplier of printer parts and related accessories as well as printer service training. eHarmony couldn’t have come up with a more perfect match with LMI’s investment enhancing the capacity of both companies. You have to love LMI President’s Gary Willert’s quote regarding the acquisition, “We are continuing to make the investments in people, technology and businesses like Parts Now to give LMI Reseller partners an unfair advantage over their competition. Parts Now has been a powerhouse in the industry for many years and we are very excited about the opportunity to leverage our synergies and expand our capabilities for existing and new customers of both organizations.” This news follows last year’s acquisitions of the printer remanufacturers Printers Direct LLC and Global Printer Services LLC, positioning LMI as the largest printer remanufacturer in the world, at least according to LMI.
HP Splits into Two Independent Companies – The news broke late last year and was discussed in the press for months afterward, but it wasn’t officially approved by HP’s Board of Directors until October 5 with the split completed on November 1. As of that date the company is now two entities, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co. and HP Inc. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co. will be responsible for technology solutions, including Software and Financial Services, Enterprise Group, and Enterprise Services while HP Inc. will focus on printers and personal systems businesses. As a result of the split, 30,000 jobs will be cut or about 10 percent of its workforce. According to HP CEO Meg Whitman, the separation will open larger opportunities for both companies. “As two independent, industry-leading companies, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. can drive more focused business strategies, innovation roadmaps, and go-to-market models,” she said. The reason for the split is the ongoing decline of its PC sales with the split better aligning its products and services according to customer demand. As far as reactions in the financial and technology analyst communities to the split, let’s just say it’s a split decision as to whether it’s a good move or a not so good move.
Wells Fargo Acquires GE Capital’s Commercial Lending Business – On April 10 General Electric announced that it was selling the majority of its GE Capital banking business in an attempt to simplify the company and concentrate on its best-performing segments. On October 13, that portion of GE’s business was acquired by Wells Fargo in what the Wall Street Journal described as “the largest divestiture yet in GE’s rapid dismantlement of its GE Capital lending unit that once contributed roughly half the parent company’s annual profits and just last year had assets that would make it the country’s seventh-largest bank.” As the document imaging industry loses a long-time major player, it gains an even larger leasing entity with the combination of the two companies’ leasing portfolios. What’s unsettled at press time is what will happen to some of the familiar faces within GE Capital who were front and center in the industry and the dealer community now that the acquisition is pretty much a done deal.
Dell Acquires EMC – This story, which hit the press on October 12 can’t be ignored, especially when the New York Times describes it as “the biggest-ever takeover in the technology industry.” This $65-billion deal is designed to keep Dell on the leading edge of the technology industry, enabling it to become more of an enterprise services company by giving them a solid alternative to their core business—personal computers. This acquisition creates a single technology powerhouse in direct contrast to HP’s split into two separate entities. EMC specializes in data storage, networking, and content management, three segments that remain poised for growth even as the price for storage has declined. The combined entities will operate under a more private structure and to quote Michael Dell from the Times story, “This creates a world-leading company. The private structure gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility.”
Buyers Laboratory, Inc. (BLI) Acquires InfoTrends –This acquisition announced on October 13 was a complete surprise to many in the document imaging industry, but if you think about it long enough, you can see it makes a ton of sense. The end result is a nice mix of two complementary organizations. And from what we hear from our sources in both organizations, it is indeed a very good thing.
Lexmark May Be the Victim of a “Strategic Alternative” – The news out of Lexington on October 23 was anything but positive with the announcement and subsequent media coverage that the Board of Directors of Lexmark is looking into strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company as a result of declining share prices. With revenues down the company also announced that 500 jobs will be eliminated. After the excitement surrounding the Kofax acquisition earlier this year, it’s like who invited Debbie Downer to the Lexmark party? Some of the potential buyers bandied about in the press include private equity firms, Kyocera, and Xerox although with the revelations of Xerox’s financial woes hitting in late October that would seem unlikely.
Marco, Inc. Acquired by Private Equity Firm – In what could be a harbinger of things to come for the independent dealer channel and the document imaging industry as a whole, Marco, Inc., a $200+ million dealership in St. Cloud, MN, was acquired by Norwest Equity Partners of Minneapolis for an undisclosed sum. The deal was announced in a press release on October 30. This deal could go down as a game changer for the industry in that a dealership was acquired by a private equity firm as opposed to another dealer or one of the OEMs. It’s not like private equity companies will now be looking into buying every dealer in sight. They’re not interested in traditional copier dealers that are simply moving boxes the old-fashioned way, but dealerships like Marco with a proven track record selling a broad range of technologies and services.