Redefining printing


Augmenting its product offering for the office environment with new products featuring enhancements to its ConnectKey interface, Xerox is all geared to continue redefining office printing

Xerox has strengthened its printer portfolio with a launch of 29 new models featuring enhancements to the ConnectKey interface. ConnectKey that offers a range of capabilities that helps automate work processes, is pivotal to manufacturer’s vision for printing at the workplace, focusing on increasing productivity and reducing paper wastage.

“We have being working hard to bring in new innovations that address the needs of the office environment. In this context, the launch of new printers and MFPs featuring ConnectKey is very significant. ConnectKey is about expanding the scope of printing, offering capabilities that make it possible for users to customize printers and MFPs in a way which is similar to how people now use smart mobile devices to meet their different needs,” says Pui Chi Li, Head of Marketing for the Middle East and Africa region of Xerox’s Developing Markets Operations.

The new printers and multifunction devices offer cloud-connected, app-based, touchscreen interfaces to office document production and management. According to the vendor, with a tap or swipe, for example, users can translate a document, scan directly to a client folder in the cloud or complete a loan application – whatever their work requires.

Elaborating further, she says, “There are a few key capabilities that are part of ConnectKey. These include Mobility, security, cloud solutions and future proofing as well. The overall message is that we are constantly embracing the newer ways people work into our devices; it is not just about just one device as we use multiple devices or connectivity alone. The familiar interface of iOS or Android devices is part of the ConnectKey-enabled devices.”

The models being unveiled are across two product lines, called VersaLink and AltaLink. The VersaLink line is designed for the lower-volume needs of small businesses and distributed teams and includes 19 printers and multifunction printers (MFPs). AltaLink offers 10 additional MFPs geared toward larger-volume work. Within both lineups, Xerox says it has a solution for virtually any workspace, from a small office to an enterprise-level organization. All of the printers also offer a variety of security features to both protect data and guard against unauthorized use.

“Commencing May and right through the year, we will have the different models coming out that embraces the Connectkey environment. With cloud connectivity, ability to download apps, WiFi and security built in plus the option to include additional modules, it make the devices very versatile,” Chi adds.

She elaborates further, “We have A4 printers and MFP devices with ConnectKey, some of them dealing with larger office environments. We have devices suitable for small office environments up to 5 people and then there are devices also dealing with printing needs of offices of 10 to 25 people. It is across the range. The vision is to make it default across all our devices but that is going to be a gradual process and eventually we will phase out the products with the older technologies.”

Xerox App Studio enables channel partners to build and tailor MFPs using simple templates that modify and customize the user interface to synchronize to their business processes. For more sophisticated customization, the Personalized Application Builder (PAB) program lets users connect with partners to build complex apps to meet their unique workflow requirements.

“One of the key plans is future proofing. We are putting a lot of investments into innovations so that we are at the forefront. There is always going to be a challenge in the sense that there is always going to be a different way of working that we haven’t quite embraced as yet. Customers are leading the way and we are keeping pace. What we have done though is that we have future proofed ConnectKey in the sense that it is open source and we train our partners to possibly write new workflow applications into it,” says Chi.

On the state of the printing volumes, Chi says that the volumes are rising but the focus of the company is consistent with the company’s vision around enhancing the value propositions of printing as a functionality. According to her, digitization is in full flow from the feedback they are getting from all around, from partners and customers. There is a great uptake, interest and implementation of digital workflow processes.

“We are still seeing print volumes increasing which is the information we have been getting from the research agencies. ConnectKey provides value that goes beyond printing and is about how people are dealing with that information – how they distribute it, how manage it, how they store it, how they collaborate etc. Connectkey deals with the various stages of managing all the information although at the end we measure it by the number of pages that are printed out. We are heading on that journey,” she says.

Partners continues to be a key go to market strategy for the vendor.

“Partners are the key route to market and we have well established, knowledgeable partners in the region whom we continue to support. We have structurally changed, splitting into two companies. In the Middle East, we stayed as Xerox Technologies and are committed to innovation and our partners. We continue to engage them, training them and supporting them,” says Chi.

Elaborating on the focus across segments, she adds, “Market share wise, the office printer segment is much bigger. The mono colour printer is the really the ‘base of the pyramid’ and as you move up the value grows but the opportunity starts to get a bit contracted. We have a balanced approach in the region and distribute our resources accordingly to focus on the different opportunities.”

A3 mid-range printers for offices is where the manufacturer arguably generates the lion’s share of its Business while the production range of devices is also a sizeable business.

“Partners recognize the innovative, versatile printers that we bring through for the office environment. Then we have the Production range of printers where we have a very good heritage. We also have Personal space printers, where we could do better. We have a very broad range of products.”

She opines that while Xerox offers an entire range of devices, from the smaller type of personal type of printers for a smaller office environment and multifunction printers, all the way ranging up to production printers, the focus is on empowering resellers with a solutions focus.

“We would encourage all partners to start looking at solutions that could be available with slightly bigger range of printers and multi-functions. That will help them future proof their business with their customers,” she adds.

The SMB segment is a growth focus for the manufacturer.

“We have long recognized the fact that the SMB is a growing segment. Especially in emerging markets, the sector contributes significantly to the country’s GDP. It is a huge opportunity and is growing. The key focus is to have the right product offering in terms of feature sets, pricing and the breadth to meet their needs.”

In the manufacturer’s route to SMB customers, the partners are pivotal in reaching out.

“Many SMBs may not be centered around the main hubs. Having the right channel coverage will be an important part of covering the SMB market,” says Chi.

Partners are also key to the manufacturer’s Managed Print Services. The manufacturer has augmented partner’s capabilities to offers managed print services to customers, making it scalable.

She adds, “There are components that can be peeled off or scaled down to address more modest requirements from smaller sized offices that may not require all of the components. In short we have made managed print services from Xerox scalable to the Business size being addressed.”

In summary, the manufacturer continue to plough the road ahead with innovations that the market seems ready to embrace. For partners, there seems to be a great opportunity to be part of the digital transformation journey many Business customers are possibly undertaking by adding such solutions to their portfolio.