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Charting a course through MFPs

Charting a course through MFPs

While the multifunction printer market is saturated with products that are able to do pretty much anything you want them to, it is still a rewarding segment if you are able to help clients navigate the features flood.

Is it a printer, a fax, a copier, or a good excuse to lurk and chew the fat with colleagues while you pretend to look busy in the office? Whatever your take on multifunction printers (MFPs), there is no doubt they are an increasingly convenient and feature-rich addition to companies Australia-wide.

“One of the biggest trends at the moment is traditional leaders in the market are coming out with more sophisticated multifunction printers,” IDC hardcopy peripheral research market analyst, Katarzyna Czubak, said. “They are not entry-level, little boxes sold over the counter in retail shops anymore. They are machines that can compete with the copier industry. That is the biggest thing we are seeing at the moment; those machines are growing quite fast and gaining market share.

“Of course, attached to that there are so many other things like services, consulting and so on; it is an interesting market at the moment.”

According to IDC figures, growth in colour laser units shipped in Q1 2008 increased 69.2 per cent over the same period in 2007. Shipments of mono laser MFPs also grew 21.1 per cent using the same comparison.

While this represents only one segment of the overall MFP market, it does reflect the successful push by the printing side into the multifunction device space. Previously, and especially at the top end, copier vendors held vast swathes of market share and generally took their sales direct. However, as the devices are merging into remarkably similar offerings with comparable features, printing vendors are beginning to creep into the game and more often than not are doing it through the channel. For customers, this means more options and lower prices.

The meaning of multifunction

“The definition of multifunction printers and copiers is more from the industry perspective,” IDC hardcopy peripheral research program manager, Rishi Ghai, said. “It’s not so much from the customer perspective. Customers don’t necessarily distinguish between a device that is based on printers or copiers. Whether the final output is similar or not, that is the key question a customer would be looking at.”

In fact, an IDC survey ran last year, which asked 260 customers from a cross-section of vertical industries and company size about their views on multifunction devices, found 84 per cent would chose a multifunction device in the future and 73 per cent of these would choose a colour version. With these levels of interest, it is no wonder printing vendors are taking it to their copier counterparts.

“Before it was very much sold direct by many vendors, but it is an area expanding through the channel now,” Samsung IT division national marketing manager, Anthony Toope, said. “That total market place is worth $300 million, so the opportunity is there.”

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