Xplor busier than expected by Noel Ward, [email protected] MORE THAN A FEW DIRE PREDICTIONS TO THE CONTRARY, Xplor 2002, here in the Theme Park capital of the western world seems to be a successful show. The real numbers won't be available for a few more days but if feet on the floor and seats in the sessions are any indication, rumors of Xplor's demise may be greatly exaggerated. Software vendors like GMC, Elixir, Exstream, OPserver, and Metavente have all remarked on the quality of the attendees. "We are seeing really well-qualified people," says Dianne Merzel, Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing for Elixir Technologies. Her impression is echoed by Exstream's president Davis Marksbury, who noted how busy their booth has been every moment since the show opened, and GMC Software CEO René Muller who said he wished they had brought more staff to support the booth. One Heidelberg spokesman went so far as to say there were more qualified people in their booth here at Xplor than at CeBit where some 250,000 people cruised the fairgrounds in Hanover, Germany. This Xplor seems to be exceeding all expectations. Word on the floor is that session attendance is also strong. There are not only fewer sessions than usual--a good thing, few are scheduled as an either-or choice, so attendees can get to more sessions. Several are reputed to have been standing room only--over 120 people--and many others are well-attended. My session this morning (Digital Color Printing Reality Check), had nearly 100 people, most paying attention and asking good follow-up questions. Activity is steady in the hardware booths as well. Gunther International is attracting crowds with its new Series W insertion equipment (see the pre-show coverage last week for details). They are also showing their inc.jet technology that can print both colored ink and the new invisible inks being shown off in a number of booths. It turns out that Gunther makes the invisible imaging technology and Videk makes the cameras that read it, and both are installed on the print engines at Océ, Xerox and others. Of course, H-P, the self-proclaimed master of ink jet technology, makes the ink itself. The Xerox booth is drawing steady traffic as is Océ and Scitex Digital Printing. The latter is getting increased interest in its VersaMark Vantage as a transactional print engine that offers the potential for reducing or eliminating preprinted forms or just printing full color at an extremely low price. A couple of good things today. Elixir has been around for awhile and its popular solutions have gained a lot of friends in companies needing to convert legacy documents to modern formats and in creating new documents for cross-media use. Their new trick is Vitesse, a new VIPP design tool that trumps competitor Lytrod Software by making variable data document design using Xerox's VIPP faster, easier and more fully featured. Vitesse can be used as a design tool via its GUI, much as a page layout program, and can also import hand-coded VIPP code, making it much more flexible for a broad range of users. Some of its features include the ability to create data-driven charts, use conditional logic on text and images, one-click table generation, text and image rotation to any angle, and sophisticated drawing tools. Not far away at GMC Software, CEO René Muller filled me in on GMC's new PrintNet-T, a tool for transactional document preparation and printing. He said PrintNet-T fits between the graphic arts applications and the data center. One of its key benefits is taking fonts used in traditional desktop design tools such as QuarkXPress that often use Macintosh fonts and making those fonts useful on other platforms and operating systems. This is a real plus for transactional service bureaus and data centers that often need to handle variable data jobs that were created on a Mac by a graphic designer but need to run on a printer that doesn't accommodate Mac fonts. PrintNet-T keeps the font in its native form on a broad range of platforms and production environments. You can get these details and more at www.gmc.net Heidelberg followed up its GraphExpo launch of the Digimaster 9150i with the announcement of its new Digimaster 9110m here at Xplor. The "m" stands for MICR, which emphasizes Heidelberg's commitment to the transactional data space. "MICR is a growing market and we want to be a part of it," noted Mark Weber, Executive Vice President at Heidelberg. The new box can print using MICR or normal toner so one machine can easily be used for multiple applications, a feature still lacking on some competitor's equipment. The 9110m is Heidelberg's first real venture into the data center market, and it will likely take some time to displace entrenched competitors like IBM, Océ and Xerox. And it will take more than a box with the relatively modest capes of the 9110m. There are an awful lot of Xerox's venerable 4890s out there, still churning out pages, and Océ--with far better name recognition in the transactional space than Heidelberg--has its new VarioPrint line with much broader capabilities than the 9110m. Time will tell, though, and for a first step, the 9110m is a good start.