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Mixed times for printer market in 2011

01 Dec 11

The New Zealand printer market clocked up $55 million in Q2 2011 according to IDC figures, with the research company predicting an 8% increase in unit shipments by 2014, mainly due to the inkjet market.

Cheryl Looi, IDC Asia Pacific (ANZ) market analyst, says while there is a move to everything being electronic, there is, and will continue to be, a need for printing. "For example, business users often still need signed hardcopy documents and there are a lot of paper-based workflows that will take a long time to digitise. Also, there are other forms of printing, such as photo printing, which are still very popular,” Looi says. "While there may be a lot of digitisation happening, what that often means is more content to print.”

In March, Gartner noted in Market Share Analysis: Printers, Copiers and MFPs, Worldwide 2010 that the worldwide market had finally returned to growth in 2010 – with shipments surging 12.3% and end-user spending climbing 4.6% - after struggling from weak demand for two years. But while Gartner had initially predicted worldwide shipment growth of 4.3% for printers and multifunction products in 2011, the research company downgraded that forecast in September to 3%, citing growing concerns about the US econmy and the debt crisis in the eurozone.

The Gartner 2010 market analysis says HP, Canon and Epson continued to dominate the market in 2010.

All three companies feature in New Zealand’s top five, in terms of unit shipments across all printing technology in Q2 2011 according to IDC – but they don’t make up the top three here. Instead, HP tops the New Zealand market with 34% share, followed by Brother with 27% and Canon on 17%. Epson claims 13% while Ricoh rounds out the top five with 2% market share.

Tablets: Good and bad

IDC’s Looi says several key trends are being seen in the New Zealand market, including ongoing development of the software capabilties for printers, driven in part by the gradual adoption of cloud computing, and some growth in printers which have mobile printing capabilities, thanks to the popularity of portable PCs, smartphones and media tablets.

But while tablets and smartphones are resulting in some growth in printers which have mobile printing capabilities,  Gartner is forecasting that very growth in tablets will hit an already declining printer market. Gartner says new use cases for tablets will impact how business users interact with rapidly changing content, such as interactive and social media, which will replace much of the traditional static content such as printed collateral. The research company says user preferences for reading on screen are also increasing.

"We are already starting to witness the impact on traditional forms of communication, such as paper-based collateral material and presentations, which are among the key drivers of print in many organisations,” Gartner says in Market Trends: Media tablets will hit an already declining print market. In the aggregate, Gartner predicts that by 2014, the content of at least one in 10 printed pages will migrate to a digital format, such as static content on media tablets, smartphones and PCs, as well as voice or video.

"Specific screen-sharing, voice and video application developments in verticals in which high volumes of pages are printed, such as government, media, entertainment, healthcare and education, could even further accelerate the overall decline in page volumes. This is in addition to the ongoing measures to reduce print volumes in offices by implementing technologies such as pull printing, which requires users to release a print job at the device,” Gartner says.

The report bluntly suggests that the traditional hardware and supplies model will no longer be viable over the longer term, and notes that some manufacturers, realising this, have moved more aggressively into areas of the market that promise more growth, such as managed print services (MPS), which is seeing double digit revenue growth. "We are also seeing some print technology providers making acquisitions of content management companies in order to play a larger role at the creation, capture and management of content, not just on the output (print) side,” Gartner adds.

Managed ROI

It’s the MPS area which Looi says offers channel partners the greatest opportunities. She notes that the New Zealand market too, has seen traditional print vendors restructure their strategy from just a box to a ‘solution in a box’. "MPS was introduced to generate more revenue and to have a longer business relationship with their customers,” Looi says.

"All channel partners should be looking to enhance the services provided. Resellers must have knowledge of MPS and be able to show their customers the return on investment and broader benefits to workflows. By doing this the relationship with clients changes from being highly transactional to a longer term partnership with more value for both parties,” she says.

Ultimately, Looi says the New Zealand market will see more sophisticated document solutions ‘to help enhance productivity and create a cost-efficient environment where there are more mobile workers seeing to work anywhere, anytime’. "But we’re not anticipating a printer-less office,” she adds.

A future of erasable paper

And further down the track? Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Imaging and Print Services, 2011, highlights some of the market innovations, including erasable paper printing systems, which it says in the longer term (more than 10 years) have the potential to reduce paper consumption drastically.  The systems print information on treated or plain paper with the information able to be erased, or to disappear after a certain period allowing the paper to be reused. Toshiba Tec has already developed an office solution using an erasable blue toner which enables plain paper to be used five times, with information erased using an erasing device. The somewhat time-consuming and cumbersome process has seen a 40% decrease in paper consumption among Japanese customers. Toshiba Tec and Pilot are now reportedly developing instantly erasable ink in an effort to get around the inconvenience of the current system.