By Louella Fernandes, Quocirca
In a highly commoditised market, printer vendors are challenged with keeping their products relevant in an evolving digital and mobile workplace. Dell is moving in the right direction with an expanded printing portfolio that encompass solutions “beyond print”, enabling its latest multifunction printers (MFP) to be used as cloud-centric document processing devices.
2013 has marked Dell’s 10 year anniversary in the printer market. Dell’s printer strategy began with a partnership with Lexmark and further expanded, Dell subsequently using OEM partners that included Samsung and Xerox. In those 10 years, Dell has gained a 10% share of a market dominated by industry stalwarts such as HP, Canon and Lexmark. Dell has significantly evolved its printing business from just a few models to 19 unique products today.
As with other parts of the company, Dell is transitioning its printer business from a hardware-centric to a solutions-driven approach. Despite overall print volumes being on a downward trajectory paper remains a key element of document workflow for many businesses. Dell, like other vendors, is seeing an opportunity to help businesses drive more efficiency beyond print, using the multifunction peripheral (MFP) to bridge the paper to digital gap.
Today MFPs have evolved beyond print and copy devices to become sophisticated document processing hubs that can also capture and route documents – whether it’s through the cloud or to on-premise applications. The growing use of cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive means that more of us have and want access to documents in the cloud. By providing access to a personal cloud space directly from the MFP and enabling the digitisation of paper documents, businesses can better utilise their MFPs as document productivity tools and make them integral to automating paper to digital workflows.
The introduction of the Dell Document Hub is certainly a step in the right direction. It provides SMBs with a simple and flexible approach to document collaboration allowing users to share, create and print across many common cloud document platforms including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and Microsoft SharePoint Online from a single access point. Through single-sign-on, users can search and manage documents across several cloud services – either scanning to the cloud or printing from the cloud. The Dell Document Hub is an embedded solution for the Dell Colour Multifunction Printer, the C2665dnf, and is also available as an app on Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows RT devices.
What is particularly unique to Dell’s Document Hub is the ability to aggregate search and print from more than one cloud service simultaneously. A key differentiator is also its built-in optical character recognition (OCR) which allows documents can be scanned and saved in their native format – whether it’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint or PDF. Multiple business cards, for instance, can be scanned and saved as individual .vcf files.
At a time when SMBs are becoming more receptive to cloud-based services, the Dell Document Hub could be a key differentiator for Dell in targeting SMB users. However, competition is intensifying and many vendors such as HP, Lexmark and Xerox are already well advanced in the solutions and services journey. To serve the SMB market effectively Dell will need to better engage with its partners, and is working to expand its channel through its newly added Dell Imaging and Print Strategic Partner Programme.
In the bigger picture, the recently re-privatised Dell is a “new” company with a lot to prove. When outlining his enterprise plans for Dell, Michael Dell stated “the PC is not dead, but the company is expanding beyond the PC”. This may as well apply to print and the need to expand beyond the printed page. Dell’s strategy to leverage its broad array of hardware, software and services – including security, systems management, networking and storage – isn’t unique. HP is also trying to push an integrated mobile/PC/print strategy and with a stronger presence in the printer market, HP has a significant head start.
Dell appears committed to print as part of its future strategy and its renewed focus on software and services, combined with its PC heritage should help it strengthen its footprint in the SMB space. Nevertheless it faces stiff competition and its ability to capture greater mindshare in the market will rely on forging closer channel partnerships and developing a stronger solutions and services proposition.