By Ed Marino of Presstek Buying criteria are very different than they were at last drupa: buyers are looking for ways to make their businesses more productive and profitable. June 7, 2004 -- Having just returned from drupa, I wanted to share some additional thoughts as a follow-up my pre-drupa Presstek Perspective that appeared in this space last month. The good news is that the energy level at drupa was high and visitors seemed to be in a buying mood--a welcome relief after a tough few years. The other news--which I wouldn't categorize as bad, simply different--is that buying criteria are very different than they were at last drupa. In 2000, buyers were still looking for bigger, faster, cheaper. This time, they are looking for ways to make their businesses more productive and profitable. Certainly, purchasing new, more modern and productive equipment can play a role. But I also found visitors to drupa much more conscious of the end-to-end process and how it all works together than they were four years ago. It is no secret that Presstek has championed process-free plate imaging and direct imaging presses for some time, technologies that clearly have value in improving operational productivity and profitability. And to be honest with you, I found it gratifying that there was so much attention being paid to these areas at drupa 2004. The number of players having productized these technologies dramatically increased, and this is good for the industry--and for Presstek. I am proud of the work Presstek has done in this area. Let's face it, how many companies ever get a chance to bring to market one--let alone two--revolutionary technology introductions that go on to not only become mainstream, but to dramatically change business practices? Our competition is not each other; our competition is print apathy and the prevalence of viable communications alternatives to print. We must learn how to better position print as a critical element in business communications strategies. What is important for the industry in this scenario is that there are now a number of options available from a variety of suppliers, and we welcome that change. As long as competitors are delivering quality products into the marketplace that continue to build the value of these technologies, and as long as they display ethical behavior relative to the intellectual property rights of their competitors, this can only be beneficial to all of us--manufacturers and service providers alike. I sometimes feel that the market views Presstek as needing to have a protected, proprietary position in order to survive and prosper, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, we see ourselves as contributing technology to the industry. We do, of course, like any responsible company, have an obligation to protect our intellectual property interests. But we definitely see process-free plate imaging and direct imaging presses as increasingly important to the successful future of the printing industry and we are committed to working with other players to make sure these technologies deliver their promise. It needs to be easier for the buyer of print. And it needs to be easier for the producer of print. That brings me to the second message, which I espoused last month and which was reinforced for me at drupa 2004: The printing industry has changed forever, and we--both manufacturers and service providers--must lead the charge in adapting to, and building off of, that change. We are no longer an industry unto ourselves; we are an integral part of the larger business communications industry. Our competition is not each other; our competition is print apathy and the prevalence of viable communications alternatives to print. We must learn how to better position print as a critical element in business communications strategies. That means looking outside the industry for both partners and competitors and responding accordingly. That also means making it easier and more cost effective to produce "push button" high-quality, short-run full color printed materials. It needs to be easier for the buyer of print. And it needs to be easier for the producer of print. That is where I encourage my colleagues--manufacturers and service providers alike--to focus their energies as well. Many of the developments on display at drupa, including those from Presstek and its partners, are doing just that--removing a level of complexity from the manufacture of print and ensuring print's place in the future. Technology, in the form of new hardware, software and imaging capabilities, is being leveraged to improve quality and predictability in the manufacturing process and to bring high quality color printing within reach of the masses. That is the future of our industry. That is where Presstek will be focusing its energies. And that is where I encourage my colleagues--manufacturers and service providers alike--to focus their energies as well.