The biggest product launch in Xerox’s history puts apps centre stage
Billed as the largest product launch in Xerox’s 110-year history, the introduction of 29 new ConnectKey devices effectively re-boots the recently separated company’s printer range, giving it a more compelling, solutions-enabled offering to take to market.
The product refresh strengthens Xerox’s portfolio in areas where it has looked weak in the past, such as A4 MFPs; it delivers a consistent user experience right across the range; and, crucially, it extends the Extensible Interface Platform (EIP) to many more devices, meaning that Xerox now has the largest solutions-enabled portfolio in the industry.
It’s all about platforms today, and by app-enabling its new devices with EIP, Xerox is in a better position to help customers digitise document processes and workflows, whilst giving resellers the ability to provide fully customised solutions and more efficient managed document services (MDS).
The new devices are expected to play a big part in helping Xerox rebalance its business over the next three years, as it attempts to increase the proportion of its revenue from growth areas (A4 laser MFPs, managed document services) from 40% to 50%.
Expanding its A4 portfolio and making all the devices solutions-ready – previously just two of its A4 devices were solutions-enabled – will strengthen Xerox’s hand in the fast growing MDS market for small and medium-sized businesses, a market that is experiencing annual growth of 4-6%, compared to 2-3% in the enterprise sector where Xerox has traditionally operated.
Since announcing its new printers/MFPs in April, Xerox has further strengthened its SMB offering with an enhanced basic print service for multi-brand fleets, PageConnect Services, and a cloud-based enterprise content management system, DocuShare Flex, that enables businesses with as few as five employees to digitise and automate business processes.
It has also recruited a number of new resellers to expand its presence in the SMB market, including the Arena Group, IT Document Solutions and Viking Office Systems.
These developments are all underpinned by the new ConnectKey portfolio. So, what exactly did Xerox announce at the beginning of April and why are the new devices so significant?
The ConnectKey 2017 launch introduces 29 printers and MFPs split across two new sub-brands: Versalink, for small user groups and SMBs with limited IT support; and Altalink, for centralised use. There are 19 new Versalink devices (12 A4 and 7 A3) and 10 mid-range Altalink MFPs (all A3) with print speeds of up to 90 pages per minute.
Both sub-brands share the same user interface, ensuring a consistent experience across all devices, and have a number of properties in common:
Intuitive User Experience.
A customisable tablet-based user interface, with tap, swipe and pinch controls, gives users the ability to personalise the display for each employee and delivers time-saving features like scan previews and a reduction in the number of steps needed to complete a task. On Altalink MFPs, scan to email now involves just four steps, compared to as many as 10 on other devices;
Mobile and Cloud Ready.
The devices feature easy printing from any mobile device and integration with cloud services, such as Dropbox. User-installable cloud connectors can be downloaded from the Xerox App Gallery;
Xerox aims to make security a differentiator by not charging extra for real-time protection from internal and external security threats. Altalink devices also offer whitelisting from McAfee;
Next Generation Services.
All 29 devices support advanced, next generation managed print services through remote monitoring, remote configuration, device cloning, meter reading etc..
The EIP solutions platform empowers resellers to create customised solutions to meet specific customer challenges using the App Studio or Xerox Personalised Application Builder (PAB).
Bertrand Cerisier, VP, Global Marketing, Workplace Solutions Business Group, says that the combination of these five properties transforms what can be done with an MFP.
“The MFP today is a printing peripheral that sits in the corner. Our intention is to bring the MFP into the heart of the operation – to make it a means for people to connect to workflow processes and to connect systems together, to connect the elements where information is sitting.
“So, how do we connect things from a technology point of view? The first thing is to ensure that everyone in an organisation can have access to a workflow – down to every individual. ConnectKey has 29 products, starting at under 1,000 euros – solutions-capable products that bring workflow automation to the masses. And this is out of the box.
“Second, is to have a software platform, consistent across all 29 products, that enables customisation. All workers have different processes and the expectation is that we will configure our technology to their workflow and not the other way round.
“The third thing is solutions, from three main areas: our own solutions; solutions from experts like Nuance that meet a horizontal requirement in the document management world, as well as sector-specific providers; and solutions from our reseller channel.”
Solutions, or apps, were a major focus of the launch and Xerox s eager for partners to make the most of them: a) because they are an additional source of revenue; b) because they provide a differentiator in a competitive and commoditised market; and c) because they can be used to improve customers’ and the reseller’s own processes by integrating an organisation’s MFPs with other systems and programmes.
Xerox says there are broadly three types of apps that can be used with ConnectKey devices:
Information apps, which use an MFP’s tablet interface to display information, such as the name and contact details of the servicing company, QR codes to order supplies and alerts when a machine is out of toner or needs servicing;
Support apps that make it easier for partners to manage and service MFPs, for example by automating meter readings; and
Workflow apps that connect the MFP to different systems so that business processes can be digitised and automated.
The Xerox App Studio provides a range of template-driven tools that resellers with no in-house programming skills can use to customise ConnectKey devices, plus an App Gallery of solutions developed by Xerox and third parties that add extra functionality, such as scan to and print from Office 365, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, OneDrive, Box etc..
Another option is for resellers to create their own apps using the Xerox Personalised Application Builder (PAB). Introduced in 2013, this EIP SDK lets partners with programming skills create, share and sell their own solutions to customers and other resellers. End users benefit because it enables the reseller to create personalised solutions to meet customers’ specific needs and to improve their service levels (see box).