October 27, 2004 -- (WhatTheyThink.com) -- The 25th annual Xplor Conference opened here in Dallas, Texas with a new look and strategy for the future. The show floor is smaller with far less equipment, but the core value of Xplor remains unchanged--and even enhanced. There are dozens of educational sessions from analysts, industry experts, and vendors, all sharing their knowledge and often hands-on experience on some of the most pressing issues surrounding the creation, production and distribution of electronic and print documents.
Although a series of smaller meetings and product updates took place on Sunday and first thing Monday morning, Xplor really starts with the Joint Technology Council sessions. The JTC features CEOs or other senior execs from the leading vendors giving their perspective on the industry--how their company sees the continually shifting market.
Homi Shamir, president of Kodak Versamark led off with a presentation of how Kodak's Graphic Communications Group is leveraging the synergy of Kodak Versamark, NexPress, and the broader technology expertise of Kodak to provide a complete range of both continuous inkjet and electrophotographic printing. Shamir's presentation included video clips showing how customers are achieving success with both CIJ and inkjet digital printing, including Nippon Telephone and Telegraph in Japan, DST Output in California, MicroDynamics Group in Illinois, and Principal Financial in Iowa.
Charles Myers, technology strategist at Adobe Systems explained how PDF--once a curiosity and now one of the most widespread standards for document interchange and printing will continue to evolve further, with versions optimized for document archival and engineering. He noted how Adobe Creative Suite, which I reviewed recently in On Demand Journal, is helping streamline design with greater consistency and reliability, fostering an ability for customers to manage their businesses better. Myers also noted Adobe's initiative to make variable data printing easier with plug-ins for InDesign and through a new educational site at adobe.com. In addition is what Myers described as an intelligent document platform that enables documents to be printed when and where needed, a process he says will accelerate the flow of a company's business critical documents between customers, employees, and suppliers.
Alfons Buts, president of Nipson Digital Printing System, talked about the hybrid printing system showcased two weeks back at Graph Expo, a system that drew interest from commercial printers and service bureau owners alike in Chicago. Buts said the key advantages to integrating the digital capabilities are speed and flexibility. And even though the 410-feet-per-minute speed of Nipson's VaryPress is lower than that of an offset press at full cry, savings come in elimination of costs associated with pre-printed stock and in fewer steps in the production process, which reduces labor costs.
Mal Baboyian, president of Océ North America's Digital Document Systems emphasized that the industry--and indeed most attendees businesses are not about printing, but about making their business more successful and relevant to their customers. Baboyian talked about how Océ's PRISMA workflow architecture is focusing on delivering solutions four key print environments--transactional, on-demand, CRD and network/office. On the hardware front he also noted Océ's VarioPrint 2110 and VarioStream 9000 as well as the VarioPrint 5000 line, noting the high reliability and performance they offer the transactional print market. Océ's VarioStream 7000 line has the lowest TCO of any high speed roll-fed print engine.
Keenie McDonald, general manager of IBM Printing Systems made history as the first woman to keynote at the Xplor Joint Technology Council. She noted how IBM has listened to customers, delivering more speed and reliability some of the lowest total costs of ownership. Like her predecessors at IBM Printing Systems, McDonald addressed the issue of color. Admitting that color is rising in importance in transactional print, McDonald announced the formation of the AFP Color Consortium to develop the specifications and standardization necessary for IBM's AFP print architecture to run color. One would assume, then, that IBM has a color print engine in the works. Will we see a IBM color "technology demo" at On Demand in May, or perhaps at Graph Expo? Who knows, and IBM certainly isn't telling.
Mike Kucharski, Vice President and General Manager of Xerox's workflow business team, led off with a brief tribute to Gil Hatch who passed away recently following a long battle with cancer. Moving on, Kucharsky said that while black and white printing is the foundation, digital color is the greatest source of growth for the transactional print industry. Workflow, he continued, is a critical strategic imperative. He recapped the four new products that are part of Xerox's FreeFlow collection, Process Manager, Print Manger, Makeready and Web Services. Development of these and other FreeFlow products are supported with SDKs and APIs which will continue to add new functionality to FreeFlow.
George Mulhern Senior Vice President for Shared Printing and Imaging showed the different approach HP takes to the printing industry, emphasizing that "unlocking information was a means of unleashing your business." He cited three key shifts: the transition of content to digital; horizontal and heterogeneous networked environments and the demand for simplistic, manageable, adaptable and flexible document production. He noted that the current tendency toward business running in different silos (office printing, manufacturing, marketing and office copying) will change. All have related business processes and data and applications, and share resources, but often have disconnected workflows, redundant hardware, databases, infrastructures and support services. HP is drawing on its expertise in IT to bring to market tools to link these areas more tightly together across the enterprise to provide total print management solutions for all types of print.
By Noel Ward - Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of WTT's Tradeshow Coverage
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