|IT'S ALWAYS good to see my old friend Kent Martin-after all, we go back about 30 years. I ran into him at the Graphics of the Americas show which, by the way, is most definitely far more than a regional event and is well worth a trip. Not just because it's in Miami Beach at the beginning of February, but because it is well done and really has something to offer.
Anyway Kent and I went into our usual reminisce routine about print days past. And, of course, it always turns to the early '80s when he was president of Miller (does anyone out there remember Miller presses from Germany?) and I had the audacity to buy a press from a new kid on the block, Komori. What a shock: the press wasn't American or German; it was Japanese.
But Kent's harsh views have now become, "Harry, what a stroke of genius." You see, Kent is now a vice president at Komori. And the Komori I purchased turned out to be such a reliable, quality press (it still runs today) that he knows he count on me for accolades.
The experience dwelled in my mind as I started to think about the days when I owned a printing company and had all those great big machines on my shop floor. The feeling of power was awesome and it was one of the reasons I loved the printing business. I still get a kick out of going to shows like PRINT and watching guys get so excited over the big equipment. Unfortunately, the multimillion-dollar price tags quickly makes them go limp. But, admit it guys, it's a macho experience to climb up on a six-color, 40 press.
So, if I was once one of the heavy-iron guys, why am I constantly writing about these little laser and ink-jet office printers? I can't climb up on them and there's no feeeling of power. Or is there? Well, there is power, but it's a transfer of power.
A transfer that is happening more and more, and will be a major part of the future. That's why I keep writing about this. Because you, my fellow printers, must be alert to this trend as surely as you must stay alert to the latest price of paper. So read on as I present my case. And Anne Mulcahy and Carly Fiorina-the heads of Xerox and HP, respectively-if you're out there somewhere, read this, because the future in so many ways is in your hands.
A few years back my wife took me shopping for a new kitchen table. Of course, I was ready to buy the first table I saw and get back to the football game. But, as you might imagine, she dragged me into every furniture store and design center on the planet. Each place we visited had catalogs and color brochures showing styles of tables that were not on exhibit.
My first thought was that's good for us printers. However, since so many catalogs were out of date, missing or just buried in a disorganized mess of printed materials, it wasn't easy to find the specific brochures she needed.
One store, however, was an eye opener. They had copied the catalog pages or got available PDFs and computerized most of their literature. The salesperson flipped through a computer screen and simply printed my wife's choices on an HP office ink-jet printer. It was in color and included a picture and the specs.
OK, I know what you're going to say. The quality wasn't as good as a commercially printed brochure, and you're right. But my wife was happy because she got what she needed. It was more than fit for her purpose. Most important, the furniture dealer had everything at their fingertips and didn't have to worry about stocking or sorting through countless brochures.
This was my first real experience with the distribute-and-print concept. It made quite an impression on me as I realized that the amount of printing this could eliminate was staggering. Plus, I knew that ink-jet and laser printers were going to get faster and better. And "oh boy" have they, and "oh my" will they.
Let's flash forward to Graphics of the Americas 2002. I was in a booth at the show with Adobe. Adobe was introducing InDesign 2.0 which, by the way, is the most significant new software introduction in our industry. (At some point I will write a column as to why it is so good.) I shared the booth with Adobe because I represented The CADD Institute of Miami, owned by my good friend, or amigo, Ernesto Infante, where I do Adobe Certified training.
It is one of my many ventures because I love to train people and I especially like spending more time in South Florida. I live in both Villanova, PA, and Boca Raton, FL, and being of sound mind "Boca" is better. Obviously, we needed handout materials for the exhibition. I have a Xerox Phaser 7700 in my Villanova home office. When I referred to the transfer of power above, this is what I was talking about. I had the ability to print all of my color handouts and posters instantly, and the quality was excellent.
This was true power as I did it right by my desk-desktop digital printing, if you will. For color posters up to 12x18 and a few thousand two-sided 81/2x11 color handouts, it was like having the power of that Komori press right in my home.
Today's computers routinely come with 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB hard drives, so storing printable PDFs does not represent a problem. And the HP ink-jet that cranked out the color pages for my wife several years ago has been replaced by new printers like the HP 2600-a two-sided, PostScript ink-jet printer that can print with speed and quality, yet it costs about $1,000. I know because I have one in my Boca home office and it's a most impressive machine.
As we move into the future, ask yourself if you were a manufacturer why would you want to print and distribute countless numbers of brochures that get discarded or lost when you could send out current, well-organized PDFs? And as a dealer, why would you want to have mountains of out-of-date brochures cluttering up you showroom, when you can easily find what you want on your computer and then print it on your HP 2600?
And, if you're a car dealer or real estate agent who needs short-run color printing of 500 to 1,000 pieces, the Xerox Phaser 7700 can deliver right on your small office network. Plus, with Programs like PrintShop Mail, you can customize or address automatically in one pass. Even large companies could use the 7700 for custom runs instantly.
OK, you counter, finishing is still a problem. Even though there are desktop folders, I simply went to my local Office Depot and they folded 1,000 brochures for me for $10. As desktop or desk-side digital printing catches on, there will be further innovations in desktop finishing equipment.
Anne and Carly, I said the future was in your hands, but it may not be in the way you think it is. Carly, you bought a fine company with a good product when you bought Indigo. But your ink-jet printers are the answer for distribute-and-print scenarios that require only several copies.
Anne, I am not questioning Xerox's leadership role in digital printing. But take a trip to Wilsonville, OR, sample some of the wonderful local Pinot Noirs, and then listen to the fine people that have produced and are working on what I think is the most innovative, exciting new product to come along in years-the Phaser 7700. I can't wait to see where it goes from here as it gets faster and better.
And yes Kent, and all my printing brethren, there will still be room for six-color Komori peresses since commercial printing will not disappear. But distribute-and-print and desktop or desk-side digital printing will seriously erode the market. So you better think about it as the market tightens and gets far more competitive.