More than one industry analyst has said that software, not hardware, is the future of information technology.
The latest manufacturer to jump on that bandwagon is Xerox Corp., which on Wednesday pulled the wraps off its ConnectKey platform, a Linux-based system embedded in a new line of multifunction printers (MFPs) that the company says gives organizations of all sizes more administrative control, more document management power and security for digital and print documents.
ConnectKey can be seen as the next generation of Xerox’s SmartController platform, which included a network controller and some similar capabilities. However, SmartController wasn’t available on all MFPs and there were different controllers for some machines, which meant they didn’t talk to each other.
Unlike SmartController, ConnectKey doesn’t need to be mounted on a server: It can connect directly to the Internet and cloud storage. Applications can run native on MFPs, so there can be a Web interface for remote control.
(ControlKey lets organizations customize the panel on new MFPs)
Xerox is also touting ConnectKey’s ability to print from mobile devices, including BlackBerry 6/7, Android, iOS and Windows.
ConnectKey will be standard on all Xerox MFPs going forward, so IT administrators and users will have a standard interface and capabilities.
Cisco, Xerox join for mobile printing
To make sure customers understand it will deliver on that promise, Xerox also introduced the first of what it says will be six new MPF lines with 16 ConnectKey-enabled printers that will be available before the end of March.
Except for two models, ConnectKey won’t be available for install in older Xerox MFPs, but a company official said pricing of newer models with identical features should be the same.
“This is huge,” Terry Antinora, Xerox’s vice-president and general manager of the mid-market business group, said in an interview.
“It’s one of the more exciting things that Xerox has delivered.”
Evan Hardie, a senior analyst who specializes in printing solutions at IDC Canada didn’t go that far. Competitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark have recently made their own mobility and document management product announcements as well, he said, some of which also have a common platform across printers.
But ConnectKey has one ace up its sleeve, he said: Embedded security protection from McAfee, which can identify malware in digital documents. The new lines will also be recognized by Cisco System Inc.’s TrustSec network protocol, which protects data paths to and from the devices.