The bump factor seems kind of low. That's the number of people you bump into as you rush across the show floor on your way from one meeting to the next. That's not to say there aren't a lot of people here, it's just that there doesn't seem to be a lot of them on the show floor here in  Boston. The stands of the print engine companies seem pretty well populated, but the aisles are easy to navigate and other booths have moderate traffic at best. All the vendors I've talked with say traffic seems light, but some say they are seeing decision-makers and key influencers, which are the folks you really want to see. So maybe On Demand 2008 will be OK.

Ricoh Makes Waves

As with some other shows in recent years, there wasn't any particular "buzz" that had people talking. Maybe this is to be expected in a drupa year, and most vendors were only leaking a few hints about what was to come in Duesseldorf. One thing we got a glimpse of was a new color box from Ricoh, the C900, which will be formally introduced at drupa, but won't be rolled out in the States until Graph Expo in late October. This is a compact 90 page per minute full color printer that can run stocks 13 x 19" and up to 300 gsm, all at full rated speed. There's no firm word on price yet but sources indicate a range between $100,000 and $135,000. There's a variety of feeding and finishing options that will add to that, but that kind of capability and price point  may cause more than a little heartburn at some other vendors. Our sources tell us the same machine, probably with some additional front end tweaks, will be also be sold by InfoPrint Solutions. Stay tuned for more news on this machine. We'll give you a closer look as soon as possible.


Ricoh C900

While we'll have to wait for Ricoh's C900, customers needing some top shelf large format printing for technical documents should take a close look at Canon's ImagePROGRAF iPF720. This new large format inkjet machine is much the same as the popular iPF710 model, but sports an 80 gig hard drive that gives it more horsepower for printing a wider range of technical documents such as architectural plans, maps and more. The print quality I saw was very good, with crisp blacks and excellent colors, and provides the image quality architects or landscapes designer needs when showing plans and designs to customers, especially computer-generated perspective drawings. The iPF720 will be available next month.

Where's the Hardware?

I wrote earlier in my show comments, wondering if On Demand is becoming more of a software show. The amount of equipment being brought to On Demand --and trade shows in general-- seems to be decreasing. Last year at this show Kodak made a splash by not bringing in any equipment. Goss International and Heidelberg did the same at Graph Expo. Kodak took the same approach again this year, with only a few scanners in their stand. Other print engine vendors still had equipment, but there were murmurs of agreement from many I spoke with that there may be less value in bringing equipment to this show than in past years. While I doubt On Demand 2009 will be a print engine free zone, the changing nature of how print engine vendors are reaching out to customers will further influence the number of machines we'll see on the show floor in Philadelphia next March.

All the big players have invested in multiple demo centers where a full range of equipment can be displayed, examined, tested and reviewed. While this is not a new approach, the scope of the demo centers has changed. Most have grown in size and are designed to accommodate the needs of vendors as they work with customers and prospects. Vendors are using these as educational centers for their customers and as highly focused "trade shows," featuring only their products and those of their partners. They see a much better return on investment by bringing customers and prospects to a large demo center for a couple of days than they get out of many trade shows. While trade shows still serve a vital function in lead generation and provide attendees the opportunity to see a wide range of products, demo center visits help close deals and can foster stronger relationships.

Curiously though, it was the equipment vendors' stands that have the busiest so far here in Boston. I'm not sure what they tells us, but as vendors look at the soaring costs of shipping equipment to shows, the expense of booth space and moving machinery in and out, I think Kodak's stance is likely to be mirrored by other companies next year.

There's more from this show and me still to come, including a 1 billion print guarantee from Océ. And that's for next time.