A briefing with Brent Richtsmeier, Samsung’s VP of Solutions and Mobility, at Apps World, XLR8 at Excel London gave Steven Swift the opportunity to find out more about Samsung’s vision for the connected workplace. Here, shares his thoughts on how apps are redefining the role of the office MFP
A first observation was that Samsung appeared to be the only exhibitor in this vast hall talking about print solutions, and certainly the only representative of the major printer OEMs with a stand there. That may say something about Samsung’s different approach to linking print and workplace solutions, which reflects their heritage in mobile technology.
That is not to say that other printer OEMs are not developing apps to manage workplace solutions, but the fact that none of them chose to exhibit at Apps World may hint at their view of apps as add-ons to their hardware, rather than the key element in their proposition to customers, which is how Samsung sees Apps – with the added advantage that theirs are based on the ubiquitous Android mobile platform.
A bit of background. By now everyone in the print industry is coming to terms with the fact that print volumes really are in decline, at least in the office, and that this is being driven primarily by the digitisation of workflows.
As an interesting aside, the entry into the workplace of millennials, who have grown up with screens, was thought likely to herald a generational change, driving down print volumes further and faster, but that, at least for now, seems not to be the case. A recent InfoTrends report included research showing that 18-29 year old office workers had an equal, if not slightly higher, preference for paper documents than their older colleagues.
Nevertheless, print volumes as a whole are going down and that is squeezing revenue and margins for both printer OEMs and their channel partners.
So one of the hottest topics of discussion throughout the industry is how to replace those lost print revenues, with a lot of attention focusing on workflow solutions and apps, to try to get a share of the growing digital activity. A central element in this thinking has been how to redefine and broaden the role of the office MFP, to leverage not only its printing and scanning functionalities, but also its processing power and connectivity, to make it into a hub for communications and workflow management.
HP has long talked about the MFP as the on-ramp for office documents, and has built on this idea to develop a range of workflow solutions targeting vertical market segments. This year has seen major announcements from Konica Minolta, with their new concept of the Workplace Hub, and Xerox, with its launch of the new VersaLink and AltaLink product families with Connect Key technology to facilitate workflow management, and the development of apps to support this.
To succeed in capturing a bigger share of workflows and associated revenues, the print industry needs to take account of some of the big changes taking place in the office and the way people work.
First among these is the growing importance of Mobility. For many workers, gone are the days when they went to the same desk in the same office every day. More and more people spread their work among multiple locations, including home and while they are travelling. To do this, they need technology that works equally well wherever they are, including the ability to share information and print documents while they are on the move. Mobile printing, which started slowly, now seems to be really taking off.
Linked to this is the growing requirement to use the same devices and technology everywhere, for personal as well as work purposes. People will no longer accept that they have to switch to a different device or technology when they move from home to office. This applies to smart phones and tablets, which are at the centre of almost everything people do, but also extends to other devices and functionalities, including printers – and this will broaden to include many more types of device as the Internet of Things becomes a reality.
Demand for customisation
This is driving the next big change in the way we work, which is the growing demand for customisation and the flexibility for workers to adapt and personalise their own devices and technologies for work purposes as well as their personal communications. The obvious and most common way of personalising devices is through the development and installation of apps.
For this to succeed will require apps that can readily be adapted to work across multiple platforms and tailored to meet individual users’ needs. It will no longer suffice to produce standard apps that work on only one type of device or operating system.
This goes to the heart of the Samsung proposition for the connected workplace. As the world leader in mobile technology, it is perhaps uniquely well placed to spearhead a massive expansion in apps-led development and customisation of workflows. That is exactly what Samsung is proposing with its new Smart Services initiative, built on the Smart UX Center.
Samsung claims that this will:
Provide a complete platform to enhance workplace experience;
Allow users to enjoy apps already developed, now and in the future;
Customise workflows by creating new apps or modifying existing ones;
Support and make easy the development of new apps, by making an SDK available to developers who, in the case of channel partners, can also use this to build an important new revenue stream
Samsung says that using its vast experience in this area and allowing developers to use familiar tools such as Android will cut the average development time for a Smart UX Centre app to 30 days, compared to 9 months for a typical embedded printer app using current industry standards.
This is not just a theoretical concept. At Apps World, Samsung was able to show some impressive apps and workflow solutions that are already being used by customers. These include:
Remote Call – a solution for service technicians working in the field, with integrated communications linking phone and online support, to help them deliver same day service to customers;
MobiSystems Office Suite – providing one app to view and edit documents, working across Android/Dex and Smart UX; and
Massinelli – an instore retail marketing solution, facilitating the printing of on-demand flyers. There are also plans to take Smart UX to the next level, beyond traditional printing, with innovative solutions including:
Self-serve automated shipping system, linking weighing scales, bar-code scanner and NFC/card reader;
Self-point health solution, linking medical scales, smart watch, and blood pressure measurements.
The big question
This all looks very promising, but it is based on linking Samsung’s expertise in mobile technology with its print and workflow business. The big question now is how this will translate into the HP world, when the acquisition of Samsung’s print business is completed later this year. It appears to fit very well with HP’s own strategy of developing more sophisticated services and solutions. However, will HP be able to integrate and manage this initiative with its organisation and technology, and in particular with its channel?
Steven Swift is Co-Founder of IDeAs, a European network of Independent Document Advisors, set up to advise printer vendors and the dealer community on how to adapt to the changes re-shaping the printing and imaging industry.