Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Epson bets on business inkjets | Channel Pro

Epson reveals further push into business inkjet market; targets MPS channel with technology launch

Print manufacturer Epson
has revealed plans to pursue the burgeoning business inkjet market,
including a €125m investment to bring its industrial inkjet technology
to the mass market through the channel.

Speaking at the vendor’s ‘Future of
Business Printing’ event yesterday, Epson’s VP of marketing for EMEAR,
Rob Clark, claimed the evolution of inkjet in recent years is pushing
the technology from consumer further into in the workplace – at the
expense of laser print technology.

Epson launched its first inkjet range
into the consumer market in the early nineties, further establishing the
firm in the consumer space. It introduced its first WorkForce Pro range
of business printers in September 2011, selling to the SOHO and lower
end of SMB markets.

Today, Epson’s inkjet sales have
overtaken those of laser print – with this growth set to continue as the
vendor ploughs its efforts into further developing the business.

“The laser range is there for us to
provide to customers that haven’t yet been convinced that inkjet is the
way to go,” Clark told Channel Pro. “For us the future is definitely inkjet-based. We fully expect to be switching people to inkjet rather than laser.”

Market growth

Speaking at the event, Phil Sargeant, programme director at IDC,
said business inkjets currently comprise a fifth of the overall SMB
print market in Europe, but this figure is likely to increase as inkjets
grow in popularity. Indeed, the analyst predicts business inkjet
products will account for 25 percent of the business printer and
multifunction market by 2017.

“Whereas the laser market has suffered
over the last few years with the economic situation, the business inkjet
market bucked the trend, increasing year on year,” he said, citing
inkjet’s ease of use and maintenance, and comparative value for money.

Epson, HP Canon and Brother currently
dominate the inkjet market, adds Sargeant. “With Lexmark and Kodak
withdrawing from the market, it’s given the remaining brands greater
opportunity...[But] many other vendors are casting a keen eye on the
market as an opportunity, or they’re aware of the impact inkjet is
having on their own laser businesses.”

At the heart of Epson’s push is the
launch of the latest range of WorkForce Pro inkjet printers, which uses
the firm’s PrecisionCore print head technology, which was originally
developed for industrial applications. The Japanese vendor revealed it
has invested €125m into two new production lines, enabling Epson to take
the technology out to the volume market.

Epson also unveiled its patented
WorkForce Pro RIPS (Replaceable Ink Pack System), a series of inkjet
products that deliver uninterrupted printing for up to 75,000 pages
without the need for a consumables change.

The vendor says RIPS has been developed
to address the impact of printer downtime– a productivity loss
estimated to currently stand within the region of €7bn per annum across
Europe. The products are also designed to help businesses take advantage
of the convenience benefits of a localised printer fleet, but with the
predictable costs of a centralised model.

Targeting managed print channel

With the
firm only due to meet with channel partners after speaking to the
press, much of the detail around Epson’s channel strategy is yet to be
However, Epson says RIPS will be targeted towards a
formal managed print services (MPS) channel – its first compelling
offering for MPS partners.

Epson also hasn’t announced pricing on
the products, because it “wants the channel to have the opportunity to
build in other services under an MPS contract,” says Clark. “We want to
leave it down to them to make the end user proposition, and on what

“The plan is to keep a tight channel,” he adds.”It’s not a product we want going broad distribution on.”

However, the UK has “a less mature MPS
engagement” than other European countries, according to senior manager
at Epson UK, John Kelly, who adds that recruiting channel partners is
one of the firm’s biggest challenges.

One of the barriers, he says, is that
some dealers many not have considered inkjet in a click basis, “but we
think we’ve got a compelling message,” he maintains.