Commentary & Analysis
Xerox: Analysts, Customers and the New DocuTech
By Noel Ward,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 3, 2004
By Noel Ward, Executive Editor & Carole Alexander February 2, 2004 -- Over the past couple of years I've talked to many digital print providers in a variety of different businesses who told me they were waiting to see what "the next DocuTech was like" before deciding whether to invest in new print engines. As of Thursday, their wait was over. At a lively, customer-focused product launch at the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th street in New York City, Xerox rolled out the new DocuTech 100 and 120 copier/printer to a capacity crowd of customers, with some journalists and analysts thrown in for good measure. Another 3000-plus people watched a live webcast from locations around the world. No small event, this one. Along with some other analysts, I'd seen the new box a couple of times before. Being something of a technology junky, I found the machine impressive, but each time I was struck by the reactions of my colleagues. The gang that tracks this industry have all been at it awhile. We're a fairly skeptical bunch, stingy with praise, and there are a few genuine nitpicking cynics in the mix. But when they saw the DocuTech 100/120 for the first time the skepticism was far less evident than usual. Many thought this machine really was different, the start of something new, instead of the same old thing with new skins. What seemed to make the biggest impression was one of the machine's major differentiators, its 120-pages-per-minute scanner. That rapid pace is the same for both one-sided or two-sided originals, thanks to dual scanning heads. iGen3 Technology The new DocuTech is the first Xerox monochrome device to incorporate some of the technology developed for the iGen3. Among these are techniques for steering paper into and through the machine to help ensure accurate registration and an image transfer system that uses a toner cloud to transfer the image to the page from a photoconductor belt. As on the iGen3, the paper never touches the belt. The machine can handle a broad range of paper stocks including specialty media, and accommodate wider sheet sizes, giving users more options and capabilities. This machine represents a new platform for Xerox, one that's intended to be extensible to faster models. Ursula Burns, Xerox President for Business Group Operations, noted how just as car makers use one platform for multiple vehicles, so will Xerox use this new platform as the basis for upcoming DocuTech models. Many of its technologies, which generated some 300 patents, are likely to show up in other machines yet to come. And we may see some of those later this year. Filling a Gap Still, I wondered, why did Xerox launch a new platform with a machine of relatively modest speed? CAP Ventures says there is "… a significant gap in the market between light- and full-production digital black-and-white copier/printers." But to the casual observer--and many print providers--there would seem to be a number of machines in that space, wearing badges from Canon, Heidelberg, and others, even Xerox. What sets the DocuTech 100/120 apart is that they can do more and fit better into more environments than their competitors. There is no reason these machines won't find homes with quick printers, copy shops, law offices, educational institutions, service bureaus, corporate data centers, in-plants, and even large offices and workgroups. The gap CAPV cites exists because other machines in this space lack many of the features needed to profitably address intermediate print volumes and job complexity. All types of users are demanding more of their equipment and find the current crop of machines unable to deliver what they need. Since Xerox was hearing this from some their own customers, they took a different approach. They listened. A Broadway Show by Carole Alexander "From Blank Page to Breaking News" read the banners at the Manhattan Center at the launch of the new DocuTech 100 and 120 Copier/Printer and two new Phaser models. Gil Hatch, President, Production Systems Group, accompanied by an AlphaGraphics franchisee, showed the new DocuTech 120. Giving the demo a Broadway show feeling was a demonstration of the impressive high speed of the Docutech 120 copier/printer, orchestrated by Tony Federico, VP of Platform Development, conducting a small group of musicians while dressed in full tux. Ursula Burns, President of the Business Group Operations, added flavor by bringing customers on stage from companies such as Prudential Services, McGraw Hill, Continental Airlines and Blue Cross Blue Shield, who gave sound bytes about significant business benefits using Xerox equipment. Asked about what benefits he considered most important about the DocuTech 100/120 to customers, Mark Waxenberg, Vice President and General Manager, Production Systems Group, had ready answers. "Although the real wow is image quality and productivity," said Waxenberg, "I think the top benefits are tighter registration than offset and less maintenance. This is critical to customers who are in the offset transfer business." The biggest benefit to Xerox, Waxenberg stated, "is that these products defend the digital monochrome business was started by Xerox in the early 1990s. It also fills a gap that has existed among monochrome devices and fills out the product line." He thinks the DocuTech 100/120 is ideal for "quick printers, commercial printers, service bureaus, in-house plants and even smaller print shops." Waxenberg, a 31 year Xerox veteran, sees these products as "the greatest in the last 14 years. They are following Moore's Law." In case you've forgotten, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, made the observation in 1965, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months. In short, every 18 months you get more technology for your money. Jerry Murray, Vice President, Worldwide Product Marketing, thought the greatest benefit to customers was, "the ability to transfer more jobs from offset, take on other applications they couldn't do before, and add entirely new applications." He pointed to the simplicity of bringing in a job on a CD and also burning a CD as output. "The biggest value of the new products to Xerox," said Murray, " is to help customers produce more applications at a lower cost and more efficiently. This should result in larger volumes." For customer sales and marketing support, he points to the Premier Partnership Program for classes, and an industry kit with information on 11 vertical industry applications, among other materials. Murray added, "The DocuTech 100/120 should refresh the monochrome business. Some people say it is falling, but I think this will change the way people are looking at it." Advisory Council Sitting on the stage in New York were Xerox customers from all kinds of printing businesses who had been on the DocuTech Copier/Printer Advisory Council for the new platform. They told Xerox four broad areas were essential to their businesses: productivity, flexibility, reliability and image quality. To deliver on each measure, Xerox tapped their knowledge, examining the demands of different job types and print environments, identifying weak spots and pain points, figuring out how to build a machine that addressed as many real world customer needs as possible. In addition, Xerox recognized that part of productivity and flexibility is workflow, and the new machine is designed to let users take advantage of products in Xerox's FreeFlow collection of workflow tools. Some of these, such as DigiPath, VIPP and DocuSP are already familiar to Xerox customers, and should make the transition to the new machines a straightforward matter. Rolling out a machine that can serve the needs of such a broad range of customers and businesses is a sound strategy. It remains to be seen what other models based on this new platform will be like, but if this new machine is any indicator, my guess is that the DocuTech is likely remain the standard by which other monochrome printers are judged.