With the start of OnDemand I would like to take the opportunity to look at what will be shown, some items for the first time, and what will be their likely impact on the market. I am writing this in the knowledge that this is an OnDemand I will not be attending. This is nothing to do with OnDemand, which will be the major transactional and direct mail printing and graphic arts event in North America this year. It is just after ten days of IPEX a week or so ago, followed by a multi-client visit to the USA last week I feel I have done exhibitions and traveling for the next month or so. I also had the opportunity to have a detailed look at many of the systems to be shown at OnDemand.

OnDemand is a great show and conference to assess the state of digital printing. It is the major North American launch event for any form of digital printing and thus allows attendees to be fully up to date. In fact despite coming only a few weeks after IPEX in the UK, there will be announcements of products held back for OnDemand that were not seen at IPEX.

The main event however at OnDemand will be a reflection of what was seen at IPEX. The key development at IPEX was the arrival of the Japanese as competition to Xerox in its area of market dominance, that is the 60-page/minute-production color market. This has been a market dominated by Xerox since in launched its Docucolor 2045 and 2060 at drupa in 2000. It has expanded its product range since then with the Docucolor 5252, 6060, 7000 and 8000, and of course its flagship iGen3. Xerox dominates this market despite the competition from HP Indigo, Kodak Nexpress and Xeikon. The real challenge to Xerox however has now started with the arrival of the new Canon ImagePress C7000VP and Konica Minolta bizhub Pro C6500. Both these products are due for first shipments in Q4 this year and have very impressive specifications that compare with the Docucolor 7000 from Xerox. These are certainly “must see” products at OnDemand. The interesting point with both of these is the price they will come to market. At IPEX Canon was quoting a figure of €250,000 ($315,000) which is in the region of the Xerox Docucolor 7000 price, but it is believed, if one believes rumors, they were taking orders at a figure around €150,000 ($190,000). Konica Minolta was not quoting a price at IPEX but we heard of figures in quotations around €125,000 ($160,000). If these figures are correct, and I have to say I have seen nothing in writing, just heard rumors, then the cat is well amongst the pigeons in stirring up the market.

Xerox is not however sitting back and letting other companies take control. At IPEX it announced a slightly slower version of the iGen3 this being the iGen3/90, which runs at 90 Letter images/minute. It has a different pricing approach to the higher-speed iGen3 and is optimized for running A4/Letter pages, whereas the faster iGen3 is optimized for running 11 x 17 inch pages in terms of its pricing model. This iGen3/90 appears to be aimed at squeezing the Kodak Nexpress 2500 and Indigo 5000 between it and the Docucolor 8000.

Xerox does however have something more to show at OnDemand that was not announced at IPEX, although it was there behind closed doors. This is the new Docucolor 5000 that replaces the Docucolor 2045, 5252 and 6060. These older machines were not compliant with the European ROHS regulations for ecological disposal. The Docucolor 5000 borrows many technologies from the Docucolor 7000 and 8000 units. In the Docucolor family its sits above the incredibly successful Docucolor 240/250 units. These run at 40 or 50 pages/minute as does the Docucolor 5000, but the 5000 can maintain this speed on paper stocks up to 220 gsm. (Being a European I have long forgotten what funny weights in lbs that is in USA, but it is a good heavy stock).

It will be interesting to see if any other Japanese contenders for the Xerox middleweight crown appear at OnDemand. Again rumor has it that Ricoh is preparing a contender for the battle. I would suggest looking at Ricoh, and if nothing is to be seen even asking if it is coming soon.

Apart from this big challenge to Xerox there will be lots more things to see at OnDemand. It will still be a little early to assess the contenders in the future high-speed color transactional print event. So far the only challengers for Kodak’s Versamark are the Agfa Dotrix and Screen TruePress Jet 520, although Océ will claim its 9230 is a player in the game. These should be looked at as they show what is coming in the future. I don’t expect anything new in this area will be seen, but again IBM is rumored to be readying something in the wings. The real battle in this market will not start until 2007, and probably not at OnDemand 2007. It does not really matter that the products for this market are not appearing rapidly as the transactional printing market really is not wanting color yet and has no idea how to run color applications.

OnDemand 2006 therefore will be the start of the big battle for supremacy in the middleweight division of digital color. The new players will not really be shipping anything in 2006 so much of what we will be hearing is mainly scene setting. Even if you put your money down now you are looking at delivery in early to mid 2007 with the new players. I wonder what special deals you will be able to do with HP Indigo, Kodak Nexpress, Xeikon and Xerox as they try to get your business now. Have a good show.