Commentary & Analysis
When is Universal not Universal?
by Bob Raus of Oc&
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: December 5, 2005
by Bob Raus of Océ North America's Digital Document Systems Division December 5, 2005 -- There is a tendency in the media to place astonishing layers of hype around just about everything. Living as I do in South Florida, for example, I have experienced five sizable hurricanes in the past 12 months. Once one passes through the media--and by extension the average resident--is quick to describe the scene as being like a war zone. While the storm damage has been extensive across Florida, relief is really just a few hours' drive away. As bad as it is, I doubt it is remotely similar to places like Iraq, Afghanistan or some countries in Africa where relief is virtually unavailable. This inclination to make over-the-top statements certainly extends to the marketing and PR departments of all types of companies. It is their job, of course, to make noise. Sometimes, the astronomical claims are meant to steal the spotlight from competitors and sometimes they are designed to create Fear – Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in the minds of prospects who are considering purchasing competitive products. Ultimately though, distorted claims that are blatantly in error go too far and provide a disservice to the industry as a whole. Astronomical claims are meant to steal the spotlight from competitors and may be designed to create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in the minds of prospects. For example, a large U.S. technology company noted for innovative computer, server, and printing products recently announced it was introducing an industry first: a "universal print driver." The news was aimed primarily at corporate IT managers, people whose least favorite responsibility is maintaining the print drivers on all the desktop and laptop computers in their enterprise. The announcement made it sound as if this new driver was the most remarkable invention of the year, and is destined to save legions of IT managers and their staffs uncountable hours of labor by making it easy to update print drivers over a network. The only problem is, similar and more advanced products have been on the market for well over five years. What is Universal? The word "universal" has numerous meanings, but the general one that applies here is, " affecting, relating to, or including everyone in a particular group or situation." Relating to laser and inkjet printer drivers, "universal" refers to a single printer driver, residing on a computer network, through which documents can be printed on any networked printing device from any manufacturer. This is eminently do-able, but the driver the company describes does not actually do this. It only works for the many models and types of printers made by the firm hyping the new driver. So while it does make life easier for IT guys who have to support that particular make of printer, they still have to deal with all the other printers in their enterprise on a one-on-one basis. And since virtually all companies use a mix of printers, there is limited value to this so-called universal driver. "Universal" really means a single printer driver, residing on a computer network, through which documents can be printed on any networked printing device from any manufacturer. I suggest that a truly universal print driver is one that resides on a network, works with every computer, and supports every major feature of every make and model printer and multi-function device with a single user interface. As part of a true print management system, it should be part of a rules-based system that monitors and provides complete reporting on all printer usage, supports supplies reordering and can automatically route a given file to the most appropriate printer for the job. For example, a single copy of a 10-page report is probably okay to print on a desktop inkjet unit. But when 10 copies are needed, the hallway printer is more efficient and faster. And when 40 copies are needed, bound and with covers, the job should probably go to the CRD or even to a contracted outside print provider. It is printer-agnostic, which is essential in today's corporate environments and their inevitable mix of printers from every manufacturer. A true universal print driver is a small part of a print management system--and helps IT establish a print infrastructure that streamlines support and device management across the enterprise. A true universal print driver is a small part of a print management system--and helps IT establish a print infrastructure that streamlines support and device management across the enterprise. The claim of a "universal print driver" and print management system may be a first for the company in question, but an architected print management solution has been available from Océ since before the turn of the century. It is already installed in companies around the world where it is used to drive and manage printers from Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Océ, Xerox and many others. And that's the fact, without any hype or overstatement.