Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ricoh – IKON; Canon – Oce; Konica Minolta – Danka; Xerox – Global Imaging; Can You Say “World of Uncertainty?”

In an industry that is collapsing into a few very powerful mega manufactures it leaves an uneasy feeling in the minds of many salespeople that call this business their own. With the Canon-Oce purchase moving forward this brings some "heavy iron" that Canon desperately needs in its arsenal. The Kodak relationship with Canon surely is being undermined by the Ricoh – IKON acquisition. IKON was 60% of Canon's distribution network and placed most of the KODAK "heavy iron" and has been able to keep that piece of the business intact. Kodak at least locally has let go almost all of their sales force. In a market segment that is not conducive to "over the phone" selling; Kodak doesn't have the bandwidth to really market their big iron Digimasters/NexPresses. I think it is hard to believe that with such a coverage model that they can be successful. It almost appears that they are hoping that the Ricoh – IKON relationship will move the hardware for them.

I could see in the very near future Kodak divesting from their Digimaster and NexPress technology and selling that portion of the business to Ricoh. Canon will soon move away from their platform as they develop their own hardware that meets the higher end of the spectrum anyway. Now with the Oce B/W heavy iron they will no longer need the Digimaster technology in their portfolio. This will leave KODAK very vulnerable and weak with no way to move their hardware. What makes sense is that KODAK deal with the software and solutions end (which is the most profitable) and leave the hardware up to Ricoh they have a distribution network for their products that they cannot afford to create themselves. I think KODAK will retain the patents and continue to manufacture the hardware but I do not think they are being very successful moving it. Or maybe they sell off the entire division to Ricoh. Ricoh has deep enough pockets to take it over and the economy of scale to actually make money with the science. They will revamp the lines and come up with a new pricing structure that will give the NexPress some teeth.

With Black and White volumes decreasing the need for Digimaster type products is declining as the fast plastic gets more reliable and "self serviceable. " Xerox and Ricoh have perfected the art of getting the user to replace the majority of the simple parts. Digimaster type products require very skilled and expensive technicians. The Digimaster may go away completely not handing the substrates that are required today and never developing their image quality over 600 x 600 dpi. It will be interesting to see if Ricoh just takes the NexPress and leaves the Digimaster to die a slow death as they have some high speed black and white technology that will handle these volumes. Surely it will save them money if they can just purchase the piece that they need (high end color) and leave the black and white to their developers/engineers as they already own some of the technology to do datacenter printing. Konica Minolta is quickly developing their own "Black and White Big Iron" as they have no choice.

Xerox is the only manufacture that has the whole thing covered soup to nuts. Canon & Konica Minolta will come in second place with a close fit for most applications. Ricoh still has some terrible gaps in the mid and production color. With the C900 being only 2 bit color and the fact that many stocks won't even allow the toner to fuse to the paper it just isn't a very good option for anyone that wants better than mediocre business color at high speeds. IKON has done a great job trying to convince people that it is "ok" to be average. Talk tracks of close registration (which it will do) and productivity (only if you can get the toner to stick) are their battle cries. Now with a Creo controller and a robust Fiery Q-Series server only adds to the anguish of how much can you do with so little? I do believe that the kinks will be worked out in the second round of the machine which promises to be built around a new engine that will not use pulverized toner and fuser oil as its base technology but come up to this century with an engine that can use a polymerized toner like its slower office counterparts.

Once the Mega-Manufacturers settle down the rest of the Sharps, Toshibas etc will either go away mad or just go away! I do not think that they have the ability to rush into the market with robust product lines. Maybe I'm wrong and there will be a place for the Kyocera fleet machines. I just see leaving the production equipment an opportunity to lose the fleet. I was once told "own the head and the body will follow." If you have a Kyocera or Sharp fleet but use Canon in the marketing department and in the print shop and probably in billing and statements or the datacenter how long will it take for them to undermine your position in the fleet? More than likely not long…

Now that we have the newest "Gold Rush;" MPS is providing dealers and manufacturers alike a new toy to play with for a while until it becomes the next new commodity on the block. I am interested to see how this all pans out. Everyone is in turmoil. Xerox is trying to figure out how to "eat the elephant" that they bought both in ACS and Global, while Ricoh takes their medicine trying to keep down the sour grapes that they got with Ikon. Konica Minolta has survived the arsenic that they consumed with their acquisition of Danka, and we have yet to see how Canon will do trying to control the mad house that is Oce/Imagistics.

Wow a 4 ring circus now all we need is a master of ceremonies or a ring leader! What fun it is to be a big iron salesman these days!

Pirate Mike


  1. Arrrrr...

    Everything in print is decreasing; clicks, paper consumption, number of units shipped, A3's...

    It's like all the CopiersAreDying...who will shed the first tear?

    How soon will copiers become "quaint"?

    Great Observations.

    Keep the wind at your back.

  2. Don't forget that Konica Minolta has a distribution agreement with Kodak that was acquired in the Danka acquisition. Most of the tenured Kodak Service Tech are now Konica Minolta Employees.