An Interview with Dr. Stephen Hoover of Xerox
For our most recent interview, we were able to get connected to Dr. Stephen P. Hoover of Xerox, Inc. Dr. Hoover earned his bachelors degree from Cornell University and both his masters and Ph. D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently vice president, Software and Electronics Development Group and was previously vice president and center manager of the Xerox Research Center Webster. For his extended bio, go here.
[Castle Ink]Xerox has been very widely successful with laser printers over the years. Given the technology of solid ink, has Xerox considered entering the inkjet market and offering some lower cost products for general home users or students?
[Hoover, Steve P] You are correct that solid ink technology has some real advantages; however, directly participating in the retail consumer market is more than a technology decision. It requires significant investment in marketing and channels development as well as a broad product portfolio. At this point in time we see significant growth opportunities with solid ink by moving up market and that direction suits our entire business and customer value proposition better.
For example just a year ago we released to the market our ColorQube A3 MFD product family based upon solid ink that delivers outstanding value propositions to our customers in terms of the environmental impact and total cost of ownership for color pages. Even through what was the most difficult economic times in recent history we have seen great uptake in the market of this new product which takes our solid ink technology into brand new markets.
In addition, in May, we had a technology demonstration in England at the IPEX printing show of a continuous feed inkjet press capable of over 1000 ppm that gives bright vibrant image quality on plain standard papers. This technology demonstration showed a new phase change inkjet technology based upon our solid ink technology heritage that delivers a tremendous value proposition of vibrant color prints on a broad range of plain standard papers. This includes lightweight, thin and recycled papers that standard water based inkjet technologies cannot print on at high speed with high quality and without paper distortions. So we are currently focused on significantly extending the market range of our fundamental technology position in phase change inkjet into these new areas.
[Castle Ink]Where is Xerox with their print armor? Are there any other applications for the chemical protection besides the photoreceptors?
[Hoover, Steve P] The specific chemical formulations and nano-material design approaches are unique to each type of component but we are investing in similar technologies to extend the life of other components in the system. These are currently in early enough development stages that we are not publically discussing specific applications or when they might come to market.
[Castle Ink]What trends or new technologies does Xerox see coming down the line both for themselves and the printer industry as a whole?
[Hoover, Steve P] This is a very, very broad question as we see many trends and key technologies so this is not an exhaustive list, but here are some that I think are very worthy of note. The first is the rapid growth in smart phones and new classes of devices such as the iPad and Kindle. We see significant increase in the use of these devices for business productivity and are investing to enable that. We announced our first offering in this space with our cloud based mobile print solution for our Enterprise Printing Services customers in May. (see: http://news.xerox.com/pr/xerox/new-xerox-mobile-print-solution-158013.aspx) We are continuing to invest and innovate in this broad area.
A key second technology trend is in the area of nano-technology which is the basis for the Print Armor discussed above and again we are investing in and see many applications over time in printing technologies.
A 3rd key technology trend is in the area of inkjet technologies. Unlike some of our competitors we see the co-existence for a very long time of both xerographic and inkjet technologies due to their inherent differences and advantages. Think of diesel and gas engine automobiles in Europe which split the market down the middle. Or the growth of hybrid and electric engine automobiles which are growing rapidly but will co-exist with gasoline engine automobiles for a very long time. But as I described before, we do see significant market opportunities for inkjet technologies and we believe that our phase change inkjet technologies as significantly advantaged for the office and production markets due to removing the problems that come from water based inks interacting poorly with paper and from the need for energy intensive drying. People don’t want to pay extra for special inkjet papers just to print.
A 4th key obvious trend is the rapid growth in digital viewing and information distribution. But what is interesting is that what we see is that it is not usually as a pure replacement for printed pages but it does cause a change in what people want printed and how. Specifically, the power of digital viewing is that it is immediate and personalized and it turns out that what people want from print is for that to be coupled to the digital information and to have the same degree of personalization and immediacy.
So, digital print is growing incredibly fast because it can deliver fast turn around times and highly personalized and customized print. So you see new product offerings such as our partnership with On Demand Books to deliver a system capable of printing single copies of books on demand within retail establishments. (see http://news.xerox.com/pr/xerox/NR_2010Jan14_Xerox_and_On_Demand_Books_ExpressoBookMachine.aspx)
The other key aspect of this trend is the integration of print and digitally viewed information into tightly integrated multi-media offerings such as our XMPie software for the easy production of multi-media marketing campaigns including personalized print and technologies such as the use of printed QR codes to tie print and web based information sources together very closely. (see for example: http://www.xerox.com/downloads/usa/en/psg/casestudies/psg_casestudy_Progressive_Communications.pdf and http://news.xerox.com/pr/xerox/xerox-igen4-press-enhancements-158519.aspx) And of course these are trends that are driving the entire industry to focus on the growth in multimedia communications and digital print.
[Castle Ink] HP has made news in the recent weeks with their ePrint solution. Does Xerox have plans for their printers working with mobile devices in the future? Is this where Venkatesh Rao comes in?
[Hoover, Steve P] Mobile and entirely new classes of devices such as the iPad are indeed focus areas for us and we have announced a new services offering for mobile print that has some strong advantages. And that this is just the start of a set of technology investments and offerings in the area of mobile.
Venkatesh Rao is really working in a very different arena, that area is really about the rapid increase in digitally created information that is highly personalized. But what he brings into that is the associated trend that much of the information is now created and published by individuals. We sometimes refer to this as the democratization of publishing as with the growth in blogs, wiki’s etc… it is now true that most information is published by individuals and not formal centralized publishers.
Venkat works in a technology area at Xerox where we are exploring how can we make it easier for people to publish the information they want to and how can people find the information that they want. And if they want it in printed form as well as digital we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get that information printed. But it is really all about helping people find the information they want, publish what they want and consume it in the form they want – print or digital. Venkat is the inventor and project lead for the Xerox Trails technology which helps to enable that. (see: http://open.xerox.com/xeroxproject/xerox-trails) And we have several other projects in this broad area that build on Xerox’s strengths in semantics and content understanding to help people find and create the information they find most useful.
[Castle Ink] Xerox has been widely successful when it comes to managed print services. Given the push from companies to go green, or to at least become more eco-friendly, do you think that segment of the printer industry still has room for significant growth?
[Hoover, Steve P] Absolutely. And in fact the green push is helping it to grow. Green means you reduce, reuse and recycle. Managed print helps people understand the print they are using, to reduce it, to find ways to reduce the number of printers and mfd’s you need to support your organization and to make sure that the print you produce is printed in the greenest way possible. In fact we have developed and now use with our services customers a print sustainability calculator that can help our managed print services customers understand their green footprint from print and how much we can help reduce it through the use of our managed print services. This is a very valuable part of our MPS offering. (For the integration of our sustainability calculator into MPS see for example: http://www.xerox.com/downloads/usa/en/xgs/casestudies/xgs_casestudy_aerospace_defense.pdf and http://www.consulting.xerox.com/flash/thoughtleaders/suscalc/xeroxCalc.html?)