Monday, April 13, 2009

So who do we blame for this?

After another tough week scrapping it out in the Dallas marketplace I thought to myself, "So who do I blame for this?" I find myself writing late and night and doing research at odd hours just to wake up at 6:00am to begin the war all over again. The battles rage on as the economy hits all time lows, and unemployment skyrockets. With the financial climate so hostile it is amazing that anyone is thinking about anything other than packing up and heading for the hills. Instead I look for the "new angle" on positioning people, processes and technology to help my prospects make more money! In the heat of the battle we cannot forget to continue to make and spend our money it is our duty. So who was it that stayed up long hours and late nights so that I could have something to write about?

Chester Carlson of course! Now you may be asking yourself who is Chester Carlson? Why he is the inventor of Xerography. If it weren't for his desire to copy patent papers quicker by having a piece of equipment that could make "instant copies" we would not have the luxury of selling imaging equipment. And what is interesting is how his patent ended up in the hands of a small company then known as Haloid. Haloid started in April of 1906 to manufacture and sell photographic paper. Now of course this small company is known as Xerox the grandfather of copiers.

So for those of you that didn't know or realize that you cared, In 1959 the Xerox 914 was introduced based on the innovations that were discovered by Chester. Fifty years later 2009, Pirate Mike tries to figure out how did I get here and whom can I blame for it? Well it is Chester's fault for sure. In a world that is accelerating and producing new ideas and technology faster than any other time in history I chose to get involved with the printing industry at the beginning of the personal computer boom. What is funny is that my grandmother felt so strongly about computers and my need to learn them that I can for as long as I can remember had a computer of my own. I have had every game console and personal computer as soon as they became available. From the Commodore 64 to the Coleco Adam computer I was prepared for the "Desktop Publishing Revolution" and the advent of digital printing technologies. So why you ask?

Why do I care? Well the interesting thing is that since I sell the big iron, I have always had a bit of disdain for Xerox, they after all were my primary competition and in fact many times the incumbent and the overall winner of many of the deals that I was in at the beginning of my career. I also was never really impressed with the docucolor 5000AP or its predecessor the docucolor 5000 they seemed clunky very inconsistent for color critical jobs and had an odd "image appearance" as Xerox calls it. I come from high end offset printing and no one wants the "greasy glossy" look or the "3d or layered look" and that is the sure signs you're looking at a CLC or docucolor print. The 5000, 7000 and 8000 do not seem to have much differences other than speed so if you are having issues with your 5000 at a particular volume then you don't have much choice but to look beyond the docucolor series and Xerox doesn't have a step between mid level production systems and their very high end the iGen.

I was just in a deal where the customer had a Xerox 5000 doing about 150k and were having lots of service issues, team Xerox rolled in and pitched an iGen. Now I'm sure the ones of you that know are laughing. You really cannot justify an iGen till you get over 250k and really it doesn't make good sense till 400k. Now this particular customer was a national account for both IKON and Xerox so we are obviously both supposed to be on our best behavior. So to be honest I was quite surprised that they went to the iGen at all. I think it was bad strategy as I of course came out with the Ricoh Pro C900 which can take them to 400k a month without any increase on capital investment. The 5000 maybe is 25 ppm on the thicker stocks and I am still at rated speed 90 ppm I can using 80# Cover settings duplex 100 and 110# Cover without loss of productivity in the turn like the Xerox. Plus really the docucolor is terrible both in color consistency, accuracy and in front to back registration. Those are not my issues at all. I do have a smaller color gamut, the C900 is almost exactly the same gamut as SWOP but if you're an offset house SWOP is good enough.

Also I had to fight the "image appearance" as my image is not the "greasy glossy" look but my sheet can be UV or Aqueous coated so you can still have the look and the abrasion resistance. So over the last couple years I got very comfortable beating Xerox with both the Konica Minolta in the light production (Although the doc 250 series is much tougher competition in my opinion) and then in the mid range beating Xerox with the imagePRESS and now the Ricoh Pro C900. So as I think about them I just don't get the feeling that I am dealing with a deadly foe. In fact if I didn't know the men that I compete against and have great respect for them I would really think they are clowns.

So where does that bring me? It brings me to the other day when I read about Xerox's 600 new patents (1000 in all if you add Fuji Xerox) and the feeling that they will not live long enough to see their new inventions come to fruition. And the thought that came to me about who is to blame for this. Then I start to do a deep dive into the history of my product and the legacy that Xerox has had over the last 50 years. Which in all honesty after learning about Xerox's past successes just makes me sad. How can a company with so much fail so miserably? Where do they go from here? All I can say is please do not unleash any of those new patents any time soon, as I am enjoying giving you the whooping that I am with my Ricoh Pro C900 and on the high end the Kodak NexPRESS. Please leave my real battles with HP's Indigo and beating the Kodak rep to the account first, that way I don't have to worry about what Xerox is going to do. Right now Konica Minolta cannot play in my realm and they are very late to market with their 90 ppm color system. By the time they bring theirs to market Ricoh will have released Version 2 of the C900 which will use a new toner system (Polymerized Toner) without fuser oil and will have the 120 ppm version using this new toner as well. (shhh its about a year away now)

In all seriousness, if you are reading this blog then you are "in the biz" and I hope that you take a moment whether you are brand new or a seasoned vet to look back and learn the history of our industry and how your company fits into it. We are all a part of making the digital printing revolution what it is and with all of its advances and trials we are in the midst of history in the making. I for one love it and hope that I can live long enough to see Xerox rise again and come to market with something that they can be proud of. Because I know they do not like losing to Canon and I KNOW they hate losing to me!

Happy Selling,

Pirate Mike…

Activity begets opportunity and opportunity begets success! Having a great product only makes it easier… - Pirate Mike…

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