Feb (02-07) - Introducing Infoprint Solutions Company

It went virtually un-noticed within our industry. IBM and Ricoh timed the announcement such that no one would pay much attention. This is a shocker: Ricoh is buying IBM's Printer Systems Division (PSD)! Ricoh has been making engines for the IBM midrange printers for some time now. It is clear that IBM wants out of the hardware business, having sold off much of its own production capacity. This move comes as quite a shock, yet there are some excellent opportunities ahead that I'll balance against the problems this may cause.

Lets start with the positive:

The printer division gets the global resources and production excellence of Ricoh who is focused on printing equipment. Ricoh has made significant inroads into the copier segment but has not entered the low end IT market until now. The relationship with IBM on the higher end printers precluded their entry, and Lexmark's printers were a natural choice given Lexmark's heritage as an IBM "child".

The Lexmark machines upon which the current mid to low end devices are based have interoperational issues in the newest generation which may make maintenance complicated and expensive.

The Ricoh machines are solid performers with low cost of operation. Add in the vast support infrastructure of the IBM PSD service that Ricoh will acquire, and we have a comer.

Ricoh has developed color capability over a long period, and their market maturity and very low operational costs will find a ready audience in time.

On the down side we have:

The loss of IBM as a technology developer and leader is a blow, but the proprietary AFP and IPDS applications are mature and stable. Clearly Ricoh will want to keep things stable while they transition, but then we can probably say goodbye to the Lexmark OEM gear in favor of Ricoh's mature product line.

Users will have a small but present learning curve with the newer engines. I don't expect much friction to final acceptance of the Ricoh based Infoprints, but there are lumps to be taken in order to find stable platforms in the new product. Continuity will be disturbed, but I expect Ricoh to act patiently so as to avoid real headaches in transition.

Ricoh has no current penetration into the IT landscape, so there are certain to be pains and aches as they learn there way through it.

So far there have been no changes to anything operational regarding this buyout. I will be sure to keep you apprised of important changes as they occur.

We are already beginning to familiarize ourselves with the new products, but it will be many years before the real ramifications are evident.

In other news, we have successfully integrated our e-commerce site. The next step is to offer dealer login which will provide discounts. This will prove to be of great interest fo those who need parts identification, prices, and wholesale ordering 24x7.

Also, as part of our technology refresh, we have integrated UPS shipping into our database management application, BIS. This multiuser application has been recently improved to allow multiple inventories and multiple locations to manage, ship, invoice and track every aspect of operations. While not currently packaged for retail sale, we would enjoy the opportunity to give you a demonstration. BIS is the result of years of development, specifically addressing the particular needs to collapse and explode equipment while tracking all costs.

David T. Mendelson