by Noel Ward, Managing Editor of WhatTheyThink.com's Trade Show Coverage and Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com October 23, 2003 -- One of the interesting things about Xplor is going to the different the cities it selects as venues. It's always fun to hear Xplor veterans list off the cities (and the years) where the conference has taken them. It's amazing how many people can cite the last ten years in sequence. And there are those who can go back much further. Maybe that tells you some people have a little too much time on their hands—but it also shows the undeniable appeal this conference has to some long-time industry professionals. This year, as the conference closes in on the quarter century mark, Atlanta, Georgia will host Xplorers from Sunday, October 26 through Wednesday, October 29. JTC The show will kick off on Sunday with the traditional JTC (Joint Technology Council) sessions where top executives from the leading vendors give their views on industry trends, company directions, and announce new products. These can be interesting presentations and often provide insights into how competing firms perceive the markets they are fighting for. And sometimes even the product announcements can be interesting, especially when looked at in the context of how the companies see the industry. All I'll tell you is this: a couple of interesting announcements will be coming out of the JTC sessions on Sunday. Look for coverage here first thing Monday morning. Get smarter, compete better Xplor has always had a greater focus on education than other conferences, enabling people to take valuable lessons home with them. This year education extends out of the meeting rooms and onto the show floor with an Educational Pavilion hosted by IBM and Océ. There attendees can sit in on interactive sessions from Océ showing how businesses expand service offerings, profit from personalization, and turn CRDs into profit centers, to mention just a few. Océ's sessions include a variety of case studies—often by the very people involved on both the vendor and customer sides—to provide real world perspectives on how solutions were implemented. Océ executives and customers will also be speaking in a variety of educational seminars throughout the conference. IBM's presentations will delve into AFP and eBusiness - how to build output management systems, ways of reducing ERP costs, manage office document output systems, and offer solutions for AFP problems. On Tuesday afternoon the pavilion will be the venue for a review of the conference from some key analyst groups. Industry luminary Frank Romano of the Rochester Institute of Technology will moderate a session featuring industry experts from The Delphi Group, Gartner, Madison Advisors, and Strategy Partners International. This on-the-floor approach is great for two industry leaders like IBM and Océ. It puts them forth as key providers of the knowledge attendees come to Xplor seeking. While neither will have the array of equipment they usually do, it is really the knowledge-based solutions they can provide that have the greatest value to attendees. Meanwhile on the show floor… Elixir Technologies will be announcing a new alliance with at least one other vendor and demonstrating the power of its Vitesse software for creating VIPP files for Xerox print engines. Vitesse has some great features that position it well against the competition and makes some steps toward making variable data much easier for people who are not database mavens. There's more from Elixir, but I won't know until I get there. Exstream Software will showcase its newest releases, version 4.0 of Dialogue enterprise personalization software and WebVerse. Dialogue is a high performance enterprise personalization solution that combines design, production and web into one tightly integrated software suite. Version 4.0 offers four new modules and many enhancements for greater design flexibility and control when creating documents. The n ew modules include a Quark converter to convert existing Quark layouts into fully variable Dialogue designs; ODBC Access for directly retrieving data and updating ODBC data sources; a VIPP print driver for variable data output on Xerox high-speed, color printers; and an IJPDS print driver for duplex, black-and-white and full-color printing on Scitex Digital inkjet printers. Version 4.0 also provides extended color capabilities including exact color matching through the use of color formulas and Pantone templates that can be reused across applications. WebVerse is a fully integrated web environment for Dialogue and is already being used to create personalized web applications without Java programming. It is a powerful tool for customer-centric businesses that rely on call centers and branch offices to deliver fully personalized correspondence and fulfillment to customers in real-time. Heidelberg Digital is a relative newcomer to Xplor and is steadily solidifying its presence in the transactional printing marketplace. The centerpiece of Heidelberg Digital's booth will be the Digimaster 9110 MICR, which delivers the high print quality of the Digimaster printer with the added value of MICR toner. Rolled out last year at Xplor, the now widely available 9110 MICR offers an easily changeable developer unit so it can be easily converted to and from plain black toner as needed. The company will also demonstrate some of the capabilities of the NexStation DFE for the NexPress 2100. Representatives from Heidelberg Business Development Services will be on hand to answer printer's questions about how the equipment can fit into their businesses. GMC Software will be announcing a new Version Control System for its PrintNet-T document composition and production software. The new Version Control System maintains accurate, accessible records of revisions and updates to help companies save time and money and avoid liability due to inadvertent errors and omissions. Job flow is enhanced by faster digital access to document versions so design and production teams can see latest version of any file, make changes, and save a new version to the database. More details later, after we meet with GMC at the show. Scitex Digital has some important announcements around its high-speed print engines, as well as new alliances with some strategic partners that bode well for print providers already using SDP's machines—and those considering making the leap to color. Can't say more just now, but stay tuned. Xerox will have three very different machines on hand focused on the needs of the Xplor audience. First is color. The latest addition to the Xerox DocuColor line, the DocuColor 5252 is an entry-level production press that prints at 52 ppm and is 18 percent faster than its predecessor, the DocuColor 2045, while maintaining the same price point. The DocuColor 5252 is designed to help small and medium commercial printers, service bureaus, direct mailers and CRDs boost revenue by expanding applications on a wide range of paper stocks with strong image quality. The DocuPrint 75MX brings advanced MICR capabilities to mid-volume and distributed production environments. Designed for service bureaus, corporate data centers and companies in financial services and insurance that produce checks and negotiables for payroll, billing and accounting services, the DocuPrint 75MX also targets lower-volume, distributed MICR environments and for non-traditional MICR applications, such as coupons and concert tickets. The DocuPrint 850 continuous feed printer takes aim at high growth segments in print-on-demand (POD), publishing and transaction work, with a switchable pinless or pin-fed paper transport. It prints at 195 feet per minute or 850 two-up duplex impressions per minute. For POD and publishing requirements, the DP 850 prints PostScript and PDF files at 600 dots-per-inch print resolution using a Xerox DocuSP controller and DigiPath Production Software. Xerox will also have a DocuTech 6155 on hand, and Xerox executives will be speaking in a variety of educational sessions at Xplor. There is, of course, plenty more to see, do and hear at Xplor 24. Not the least of which is the opening party. There's something about ESPN Zone I'm not sure, but maybe it's the mix of mega-screen TVs, open bars, video games, plenty of food, Monday Night Football, and rock-climbing walls that brings out the crazy in a lot of people. And did I mention open bars? That's the basic concept behind the Xplor Opening Party on Monday night (aka, the Monday Night Event), sponsored once again by Scitex Digital Printing. It was in the ESPN Zone in Anaheim last year and was a significant amount of fun, so it's being replayed this year at ESPN Zone Atlanta. It ought to be a good time, and if the old Nikon survives, we'll have some pictures. Don't go away. I'll be back.