by Noel Ward, [email protected] October 29, 2002 -- AS I WAS HEADED FOR THE PRESS ROOM to write this up I ran in to Gilles Biscos of Interquest who asked what I thought of the show. "You were a little negative about it the last time we spoke," said Gilles. This question has been floating around quite a bit this first day of the 23rd Xplor Conference. While real numbers are hard to come by at this point, a look at the floor traffic shows what can best be described as moderate. But this is not a bad thing. Predictions of sparse attendance at this show have been rampant, but as of this moment, 4:36 Pacific Time, I'd have to say it doesn't seem too bad. I'll get a better read on the "quality" of the attendees over the next couple days. Vendors like a crowd, but they like decision-makers and buyers in their booths even better. And if fewer people are coming but are what are termed "better quality," then the vendors will be happy and that is good for the future of this show. Océ Printing Systems USA kicked off the show before the doors opened this morning with a press conference that crowded the company's booth as press and analysts listened to Carl Joachim and Guy Broadhurst describe the highlights and broad capabilities of the new VarioPrint and VarioStream families of print engines. The new engines are a significant step forward for Océ, and are replete with features and capabilities that address a broad range of cut sheet and continuous form printing requirements in the transactional and publishing markets. As noted previously on WTT, VARIO stands for Variable Input and Output of both datastreams and substrates. "The VarioStream 7000 series extends our postion as the leader in the high-speed, roll-fed printer placements in the U.S.," noted Joachim, Vice President of Marketing. "It continues our tradition of putting our customers first by delivering the fastest, most reliable and innovative solutions in the industry." The roll-fed VarioStream is scalable from 191 to nearly 1,300 images per minute, and can print with MICR toner at 1060 images per minute, soon to be increased to almost 1,300. According to an independent study by IDC, Océ solutions offer the highest monthly capacities and lowest total cost of ownership in production printing. While those numbers are impressive, it is cut-sheet printing that accounts for some 85% of the U.S. digital production printing market. Extending Océ's reach into that market is the job of the new VarioPrint series, the VarioPrint 5115 and 5160, with other models to follow. Both will be offering MICR and highlight color capabilities. The new lines will see early customer engagement late in the first quarter of 2003 and will be generally available in June 2003. What all these new machines offer is a huge range of choices that customers can configure based on their requirements. "There are more than 20 models in the VarioStream family," notes Broadhurst, Director of Product Marketing. "Each can be customized in terms of processors, memory, consumables, image quality and speed to meet a multitude of requirements--and adapt as new opportunities emerge." All models in the Vario lines support UP3I, the Universal Printer Pre- and Post-Processing Interface for communication with finishing and binding equipment. On the heels of Océ's announcements, IBM announced the expansion of its Infoprint 4100 family with two new models, the Infoprint 4100 HS2 and Infoprint 4100 HD3/HD4. The new additions enable the IP4100 to print 6x9 pages at speeds up to 2,238 impressions per minute (3-up on a 19-inch-wide web), and or at 1,220 ipm for letter-size pages. Like the new Océ devices, the new IBM Infoprint models support UP3I. Both machines will be available beginning November 22, 2002. IBM also announced Version 3 of the toner for its printers, said to increase the print quality of solid fill areas, bar codes, grayscales, lines and graphics. The new toner also improves fusing and adhesion to paper, an important benefit for customers who use post-processing equipment and require resistance to rub-off and smear. Big Blue also announced XML Extender for producing AFP from XML documents. AFP is used for plenty of production and distributed printing apps, and XML is used to support initiatives in business process integration, content management and Web services applications, among others. It makes sense for IBM to offer a way for AFP and XML to work together. Finally, IBM and Pitney Bowes are demonstrating a combined offering of their respective Infoprint and DFWorks workflows. This Automated Document Factory (ADF) solution show end-to-end control of output from a single point of control. Lots of things to see over in the Xerox booth, but few new announcements. A lot of the examples were things shown earlier this month at GraphExpo. The DocuColor 6060 took center stage for color, with various monochrome machines showing off a range of apps and output. The roll-fed DocuPrint CF 700 has been tweaked in several ways and was producing much better quality prints than the last time I saw it a year ago. A great unit on dislpay was the DocuPrint 75/90 combined with the ASF100-D inline booklet making system. Running DocuSP and DigiPath this combo produces saddle-stitched booklets with variable data from a footprint about three feet wide and maybe 14-feet long. It can handle IPDS and LCDS datastreams along with PostScript, PCL and PDF. Xerox also had its Invisible Control Marks solution running on a DocuTech 180 MX. This is Xerox's version of the InvisiVision invisible ink solution running at a number of vendors. There are some differences in the solutions and I'll try to report back on these later on. Invisible marking is a real advantage for adding codes and control marks to pages to keep data secure and in particular, support data-to-mail integrity without peppering pages with visible control numbers that can detract from the appearance of a document. Some of the solutions I'll look at are at Océ, Gunther, Bell & Howell, and Pitney Bowes, and I suspect there are others. Tomorrow we'll take a look at some software from Exstream, Elixir, Metavente and others, along with the machines of Gunther, Scitex Digital Printing and others.