Industry Manufacturers Chart Respective A4 Journeys, Future Hardware Rollouts

The last two years have witnessed a significant emphasis on, and uptick in demand for, the A4 offerings of most industry manufacturers.

In conjunction with this month’s State of the Industry report on A4 devices, we’ve assembled a snapshot of OEM unveilings for the coming year, along with a perspective on the evolution of their respective platforms.

Brother International
Bob Burnett
Director of B2B Solutions Deployment and Planning

2021-2022 Plans: Most mid-sized and larger companies understand their workforce isn’t coming back to the office 100%, and the technology stack has to align with that reality. Brother has a Workhorse family of products already in place to help them achieve their goals and address the work-from-anywhere environment. We’ll unveil a new monochrome MFP and laser printer that’s designed for the corporate office while keeping the small business in mind.

Evolution Keys: Even with a more dispersed workplace, end-users still crave robust features on a smaller footprint device. Today’s A4 devices have the same and sometimes more capabilities when it comes to the cloud, and security levels are also on par with A3. We recently added digital signature capability through our TrueSign partnership for scan-to-sign functionality. Also, our partnership with Kofax and its ControlSuite platform provides higher levels of security for the health care space. We’ll continue to incorporate additional solutions and capabilities to the smaller footprint device.

Canon U.S.A.
Sammy Kobayashi
Vice President and General Manager

2021-2022 Plans: Canon remains as invested in print as any brand in the market. We have plans to expand and enhance our existing A4 product portfolio across both laser and business inkjet technologies. Additionally, we’re planning to focus on print-as-a-service and print-subscription-oriented business to offer outstanding value to our channel partners and our customers. Canon is planning to deploy extensive development resources through our Digital Imaging Solutions (DIS) software R&D arm in addition to building upon existing strategic partnerships, particularly to help address hybrid work needs. Organizationally, we’re increasingly focused on agility to deliver rapid solutions to help address evolving needs.

Evolution Keys: Canon’s A4 footprint has continued to rapidly expand in recent years. We now encompass an extremely wide mix of B2B-focused products under the imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX (MFD), imageCLASS (desktop laser) and MAXIFY GX (desktop business inkjet) lines. In addition, we also offer an extensive line of consumer-oriented laser and inkjet models for personal and photo use. We’ve built a lineup that’s designed to offer value at every price point and to offer amazing products for users seeking a wide variety of applications. Our technology priorities include a focus on a seamless user experience, security features, an acceleration of cloud capabilities and a product mix that leverages the strengths of both laser and continuous ink system (CISS) inkjet.

Joe Contreras
Commercial Marketing Executive

2021-2022 Plans: As businesses continue to be remote, A4 printing solutions with high-yield consumables, operating costs and maintenance are top of mind. In Q4 2021, Epson introduced the WorkForce ST-C4100 and ST-2100 Supertank Color MFPs with supersized ink tanks and up to two years of ink guaranteed. Engineered for reliability, the Supertanks offer A4 solutions that are cost-efficient and easy to manage. As the demand and market potential continues to grow, we plan to introduce additional models in the A4 business inkjet portfolio this year and are excited to deliver more options to our dealers and customers.

Evolution Keys: Epson’s business inkjet A4 lineup is based on PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology that provides distinct advantages over laser-based technology. Our broad portfolio of solutions delivers high reliability, low energy consumption and maintenance requirements, and remarkable total cost of ownership. Over the past several years, the portfolio has evolved with the introduction of Supertank printers that utilize ink bottles versus traditional cartridges to minimize the need for frequent consumable replacement and to boost productivity. In addition, our WorkForce Pro HC series has been the top-selling product among dealers looking to deliver an ultra-competitive A4 solution to their customers.

Konica Minolta
Dino Pagliarello
Senior Vice President, Product Management and Planning

2021-2022 Plans: Konica Minolta is planning to expand its A4 lineup and enhance the current lineup to best meet customer demands. We’ll focus on products that fortify the WFH/hybrid needs to address ease of use, security concerns and the ability to integrate with solutions that improve productivity and efficiencies, whether the user is in the office or working remotely.

Evolution Keys: A4 has been a critical part of our product mix for a long time, especially in markets such as health care. And its importance has certainly grown since the onset of the pandemic. We see many corporate customers that might not need to print on 11×17” very often, but still have a need for the same level of security, output quality, reliability and ability to integrate with solutions that they’ve relied on in their A3 bizhubs. For those customers, we’ve tried to make the transition seamless. So our A4 MFP models have the same 10” control panel, user interface and support for all the same software as their A3 counterparts.

Chuck Clarke
Product Manager, Corporate Marketing Group

2021-2022 Plans: We’re very excited about the year ahead, as customer needs and workflows have evolved over the past two years, and so have our product plans. We have several new products in the pipeline for A4 printers and MFPs. Collectively, they bring greater reliability and environmental sustainability to our existing product lineup. To add to that, we also have entirely new segments of products in the roadmap slated for later this year, and we can’t wait to share the models with our partners and customers. For e-commerce, we’ll continue to make strides launching products on Amazon and building a robust portfolio of manufacturer-backed products with industry-leading support available directly to new customers.

Evolution Keys: Traditionally, A4 products were limited to basic print, copy, fax and scan functions. But as our customers’ expectations have grown, Kyocera is incorporating the same robust capabilities and functionality seen on larger workgroup A3 products. Some of these enhanced features are wireless direct networking, duplexing, smart operation panels, larger storage SSDs, scan extension kits and staple/collate finishing capabilities, as well as HyPAS business applications. Kyocera is also committed to preserving the integrity of our customers’ data. For example, the data security kit on many models provides overwrite and data encryption even if the HDD is removed—there’s an additional layer of encryption that protects the data. Other features include embedded trusted platform module, standard secure boot, standard run-time integrity and standard end-of-life sanitization.

Clark Bugg
Director, North America Channel Sales

2021-2022 Plans: Despite supply chain constraints, Lexmark is working hard to bring new products and solutions to the market in 2022. Look toward the second half of the year for new Lexmark products and services that focus on cloud enablement, robust security features and channel-specific managed print services offerings. Lexmark has outpaced this industry over the same time by addressing some new market opportunities with A4 entry-level devices, and we look to continue that in 2022.

Evolution Keys: Lexmark began to offer a new segment of low-end, BSD-specific A4 product models in the spring of 2021 to meet the specific needs of our BSD channel partners. We’ll continue to grow and diversify this printer category with some offerings we plan to announce in the second half of 2022. With the continuation of the pandemic, Lexmark continues to see partners pivot from being company copier salespersons to trusted technology advisors, offering new and improved cloud and remote service offerings. Dealers can offload infrastructure while also configuring, managing and analyzing a print environment for ease of use, consistency, security and cost control, providing customers with a robust solution that can be managed remotely.

Scott Dabice
Vice President, Strategic Pricing & Channel Engagement

2021-2022 Plans: We recently launched the RICOH M C240FW compact color MFP and RICOH P C200W compact color printer. The devices are exclusively designed to meet growing demand in the work-from-home market. We’re also refreshing our small business and workgroup products later this year, with security getting an increased focus. We’re always keeping an eye on new and unmet market requirements to ensure our product set best meets customers’ needs.

Evolution Keys: Our focus goes well beyond the former days of speeds and feeds, and is now directed at what goes on outside the box—how our products interface with networks and support customers’ workflows and software, and how we best support services offerings. We integrate support for the latest security standards, which is a critical business issue, and are continually seeking to enhance and improve the out-of-box experience.

Tony Titone
Senior Manager, Product Marketing

2021-2022 Plans: As part of the ongoing Sharp goal to ensure enhanced product availability during the global chip shortage, Sharp has made strategic manufacturing changes to our A4 product line related to the wireless interface. Beginning early in Q2 2022, Sharp will be updating two A4 monochrome and two A4 color multifunction models with new chipsets used in the wireless interface. By making these changes, Sharp can ensure continued supply of these high demand A4 products.

Evolution Keys: Sharp has taken a two-pronged approach to meeting the changing demands of A4 users in the current marketplace. We offer Sharp designed models that come loaded with standard features and perform exactly like our larger A3 devices. This allows seamless integration of user interface, OSA software and device features between A3 and A4 models for our dealers and their customers. Secondly, we’ve worked with partners to integrate their print engines and technologies, developing Sharp A4 models that offer key Sharp features while meeting the low costs at certain segments of this market. These partnerships have allowed us to quickly increase our offering in A4 from six models to over 22 in under three years.

Robert Covington
Senior Product Manager

2021-2022 Plans: In 2020, Toshiba introduced the e-STUDIO400AC series, our first Toshiba designed and manufactured color A4 multifunction printers: the 35 ppm e-STUDIO330AC and 42 ppm e-STUDIO400AC. These products have been tremendously successful in the marketplace while receiving critical industry acclaim (2020 Better Buys Editor’s Choice, 2021 BLI Winter Pick and the 2021 Stevie Award). Toshiba partners with all the leading A4 printer and MFP manufacturers, but the pandemic, subsequent semiconductor shortage and supply chain issues are forcing most manufacturers to pause on new product introductions until the situation stabilizes. I wouldn’t anticipate any major announcements this year.

Evolution Keys: These debut models feature the same 10.1” user interface, solutions support, and look and feel as our highly successful A3 models, making them unique. There’s no mistaking they’re from the same family, and this consistency allows us to be aggressive from a competitive price perspective when approaching an enterprise account where perhaps some of the placements can be A4. We’re also substantially expanding our Elevate Sky cloud service and application security capabilities to further improve customer support for people working in hybrid environments. e-BRIDGE Remote Assist within Elevate Sky helps service technicians diagnose and resolve customers’ technical issues remotely, while e-BRIDGE Remote Diagnostics can predict customer service needs relating to any break-fix or parts failure while proactively resolving the issue before it occurs.

Mike Pietrunti
Senior Vice President, U.S. Multi-Brand Dealer Channel

2021-2022 Plans: In 2021, Xerox began refreshing its lineup of color and black-and-white A4 printers and multifunction printers designed to meet the needs of small-office and home-office users. The new Xerox B and Xerox C Series products are reliable, quiet, compact and affordable. We’ll continue to launch additional models through March 2022, bringing the total number of new models to 10.

Evolution Keys: The new Xerox B and Xerox C Series focus on improving the user experience by expanding capabilities beyond copy, print and scan to make workers more productive whether they’re in the office, on the go or at home. The lines include a new, simplified setup process so IT support isn’t required—it automates installation of required printing and scanning software and includes a connection to Xerox Workflow Central. This secure, cloud-based solution delivers workflow automation and digitization tools to help teams overcome everyday workflow challenges such as converting scans into MS Office formats, summarizing long documents, converting hardcopy to audio or handwritten notes to text, translating and redacting. Expanding access to these types of services provides adaptable resources and tools to our customers, helping workers be more productive from any location.

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.