by Noel Ward, Managing Editor of's Trade Show Coverage and Executive Editor of October 28, 2003 -- The lead-off event at Xplor is the JTC (Joint Technology Council) session that precedes the opening of the conference and trade show. A variety of industry leaders, often CEOs, give their views on industry trends, company directions, and announce new products. Depending on the presenter, these talks can range from fascinating to sure cures for insomnia, but all give attendees the opportunity to get a broader view of the industry and see how products fit into market needs and corporate strategies. Here in Atlanta CEOs, presidents and other senior staff gave the high level overviews, sometimes followed by other staff talking about products. The session went on for much of a rainy afternoon and covered a lot of ground, so here's a short summary, including some new product news from Scitex and Océ. Heidelberg Digital Wolfgang Pfizenmaier discussed "Trends in Transactional Printing." While Heidelberg is typically regarded as a solutions provider with a huge reach into the commercial print media world, what is less known is that the company has developed offerings that play effectively in transactional printing environments. A number of key customers have very successfully deployed Heidelberg solutions giving indication that the company's presence in this area is poised to grow. Mr. Pfizenmaier outlined several trends, including Convergence, Output Management, Recipient-Oriented Printing, and MICR Applications. In the same breath, he shared corresponding real-world customer success stories that reflect Heidelberg's growing strength in this important market segment. IBM Printing Systems David Dobson, General Manager of IBM Printing Systems, noted how the entire information technology industry is now at the beginning of another significant evolutionary step—what Big Blue calls “ e-business on demand”. “On demand is all about enterprise productivity,” said Mr. Dobson. “It's about how business processes are transformed, how existing IT infrastructures are optimized, and how new financial models that allow a variety of flexible options for acquiring IT are emerging. On demand is all about helping customers become more resilient, responsive, variable and focused and IBM is leading the way to on demand transformation.” Mr. Dobson explained that IBM is taking a new approach to demonstrating its products at Xplor. “ We are exhibiting here, but rather than pumping rolls and rolls of paper out on the show floor, we're doing a real, live application showcasing IBM's full product line at Bell South's printfacility during the Xplor tours on Thursday.” “We're also leading the way by substantially increasing our investment in education forums here at Xplor, by sponsoring the Educational Pavilion. More than ever before, our key developers and researchers are here at Xplor to discuss every facet of our solutions. These experts are onsite this week and we'll make it very easy for you to interact with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. ” The new approach also extends to a more aggressive tactic to direct marketing of products and services. “IBM has quadrupled what we spend on inviting prospective customers to visit our customer briefing and demonstration facilities. Talk to your IBM representative about getting you out to Boulder, Colorado, where we can take the time to show you in detail the value we can bring to your organization.” Océ Printing Systems USA Tom Long, president of Océ Printing Systems USA briefly cited several awards Océ won this year along with some examples of how Océ has delivered customized solutions for some key customers that delivered clear business benefits. Then he went on to discuss some of the changes that have taken place at Océ over 2003 and what they mean to customers. “2003 has been an exciting year. By refocusing Océ from the top-down and re-aligning our operations by industry segment, we've become more agile and more responsive to customer needs. Furthermore, we've shifted from being just an equipment supplier to becoming a business partner for our customers.” The result, announced Mr. Long, is that on December 1st Océ Printing Systems and its sister wide-format printer company will join forces under the single banner of Océ North America. “For our customers that means we will go into 2004 as a united team.” Indeed, the alignment has resulted in Océ having one of the most complete rosters of information management solutions including engineering systems, office and departmental copiers, central repro devices, and data center production printers, all covered by a single services umbrella. Mr. Long also cited some key elements in Océ's product line-up, such as the VarioPrint 2060, 2070 and 2090, adding that with light production options like the VarioPrint 2105 Océ now offers a complete line-up of cut-sheet imaging systems that bring production-class printing, copying, and scanning to multi-purpose document work centers. He also noted strong customer interest in the new, highly-rated VarioPrint 5000 production cut-sheet systems that support black and white, MICR, and CustomTone highlight color printing on a single device with a duty cycle of five million images per month. He also emphasized Océ's ongoing leadership in high-speed, roll-fed production printing with the VarioStream 7000 family. And like any good executive, he held out the carrot, the teaser about new products. “For those of you whose world has become more colorful,” said Mr. Long, “in 2004 we plan to strengthen our line-up of full color alternatives including an addition to the CPS700 series.” Carl Joachim, Vice President of Marketing, followed up Mr. Long with a look at some new products for 2004. For all the detail on these, please see the full listing of Océ press releases. Some of the highlights included enhanced print quality for the VarioStream 7000, roll-feed systems for the VarioPrint 5000 line, MICR support for the VarioPrint 5000, and DocDesigner, a module of Océ's PRISMA architecture to help customers automate preparation of documents for production, streamline pre-press production, and increase cost-effectiveness. Scitex Digital Printing Homi Shamir, President and CEO of Scitex Digital Printing and CEO of Scitex Corporation began with two key trends he said rise above all others— color and customized communications. “Together these have a value far beyond what either has on its own,” said Mr. Shamir, noting that these add up to value for the print provider, value for his customers, and value for end-users. Clearly enjoying himself, he poked a little fun at talk here last year that digital color printing will become a dominant part of the industry, ‘sometime during this decade.' Mr. Shamir, differed, noting that Scitex customers find digital color is already a key part of their businesses today. He noted how one leading industry executive said there was demand for ‘good-enough quality color printing, with higher reliability, faster printer speeds, and more attractive price points, especially for transactional and direct marketing applications.' “He must not have realized our customers are already delivering on that demand today, using Business Color,” grinned Mr. Shamir, “Because in case you missed it last year or the year before, inexpensive, high-speed, variable data, quality digital color printing is here, and you can get it only from Scitex Digital Printing!” (Somehow, only Homi Shamir could get away with saying that in a public presentation.) Next he talked about how customized communications are becoming an essential business tool. He noted the advent of the Do Not Call list will make direct mail much more important as a marketing vehicle. Being able to deliver customized, color communications presents a huge opportunity for many attendees at Xplor, he said, especially when documents can be produced at high speed and low cost. Most significant from Scitex was the announcement of the company's new VersaMark JetBlack, a monochrome digital printer intended to deliver productivity and cost advantages over toner-based machines. The JetBlack is unique in its ability to be upgraded to run spot or full color, enabling a customer to start with a monochrome printer and add spot or full-color capabilities based on business or customer requirements. ”The VersaMark JetBlack provides a clear and compelling upgrade path to spot and full-color printing,” said Mr. Shamir. “Now you can take your first step toward color printing with the investment protection of a high-speed, high-quality black-and-white printer. Mr. Shamir also announced an extension of the popular VersaMark Vantage line. A line which delivers black, spot and full color at speeds up to 325 feet per minute. Xerox Gil Hatch, president, Xerox Production Systems Group, reinforced Xerox's commitment to the industry and gave several examples of how customers in different markets are using Xerox technology to succeed and grow their businesses. He cited four key areas in which Xerox is helping customers meet the challenges they face today. These included facilitating easier personalization of direct mail and transactional documents, supporting ever faster turnarounds, shorter run lengths and a steady growth in print on demand. Hatch also emphasized how Xerox is steadily improving workflow efficiencies with FreeFlow, the company's integrated and steadily expanding collection of digital workflow tools, and how Xerox continues to provide customers new opportunities in digital color and electronic documents. And now the fun begins. Stay tuned for some coverage from the show and interviews with industry leaders. Gotta go.