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An Interview with Kim Beswick of Memjet

After finding out about Memjet through a WSJ blog entry in January, we decided to get some firsthand information from the company itself. Ms. Kim Beswick, VP of Marketing for Memjet Home and Office graciously agreed to give us a few minutes of her time for an interview. Below are the questions I asked and the responses from Ms. Beswick. The quotes provided are from an interview given to the website Databazaar in 2007.

Q. What is it like to go from such a large company like HP to a much smaller company like Memjet?
A. Energizing. It was an opportunity to work with a breakthrough technology in a small business context. I respected the experience and approach of the people who were building the business. It was exciting to be able to leverage the experience I gained at HP into a new business opportunity where responsibilities were broad and decision making swift.

Q. In April 2007 you stated that “We believe within five years we will have the capability to do color office documents at 120-150 ppm and full-page photos at 60-75ppm." Is that still the current goal? And when Mr. Lauer says that he believes the print head will do 60ppm, is he simply being cautious?
A. The focus was slightly different in 2007 than it is today but I think the two performance statements are still basically true. Currently, we are able to print at 60ppm for typical office documents and 30ppm for high quality color documents and photos. So yes, we are already basically where [Len] Lauer said we were. But we’re also improving all the time. Looking into the future 120-150ppm speeds are definitely possible. We may be a year off from our initial statements but the technology will evolve and expand over time from where we are today.

Q.You also stated that Memjet planned to have “Small-format devices for phones, cameras, PDAs and the like will likely follow our current introductions by about two years (or 2010)". And what about printers in cell phones? Are you still on track with that? Do the advances made with Wi-Fi technology and iPhone applications for printing give you any pause?
A. Our research and development team is focused on bigger market opportunities at the moment. We have a broad set of ideas and potential over time – the key is deciding which ones to focus on. We do know about Polaroid and the PoGo system, which was a major advance in an integrated camera printing solution. We believe that phones are a major computing platform that will at times also need to connect to a printer and print. While we have the potential over time to shrink our format and potentially integrate into smaller format devices, however iPhone and other phone apps that connect those devices to regular sized printers are likely the bigger near term opportunity. These solutions will be good for the industry at large and will be good for Memjet as well.

Q.Where do you see printing going in 5 years?
A. There is definitely a transition from black and white to color printing going on although the vast majority of office documents are printed on black and white laser printers still. Typical offices need some color printing, but because of the high cost of color printing, color devices are still somewhat specialized and restricted. We are trying to offer a new color printing choice that will actually print faster than a monochrome laser printer with similar functionality and good economics. We want to the worry and restrictions around color printing so that people just print.

Q.Charles LeCompte of Lyra Research was quoted in the same blog entry as saying “They’ve missed a bunch of deadlines”. Is this true, and if so, has it made you reconsider the timelines that were previously assigned to things?
A.Well, new technology is a wild ride. Anytime you start with technology that is new and still under development, you go in with a certain amount of unknown. We may have been over exuberant early on, but as the development process has progressed we have become clearer on what needs to be done to finally commercialize the technology. We have made good progress over the last few years, the components are done and we are now working on full printers with partners. These partners will introduce Memjet devices under their own brands.

Q.Based on the patents you have acquired thus far, are you still having to be as aggressive as a few years ago to protect the future of your company?
A. Patents are a core part of the value we provide to our partners because it gives them the freedom to operate competitively in the industry with our technology. We have over 2,600 patents already with 2,000 more pending. There may be a gradual settling or slowing at some point, but we will probably always be working on patents.