Many printer manufacturers have tried to challenge Hewlett-Packard Co.’s supremacy in the market. No one has succeeded, including Lexmark, Canon, Epson and Xerox.
Next in line Samsung Electronics Co. The South Korean giant, which makes almost everything from smart phones to TVs, boldly predicted recently that it will lead the A4 printing sector by 2017.
What makes Samsung’s challenge different is the company is not taking on HP on price or with a new colour process, but with an expertise the company knows very well: Mobility.
Can that help it overtake HP in printing? Dr. KiHo Kim, the executive vice president and head of the company’s printing solutions business, believes it can in the long term.
In an interview during a recent visit to Toronto he said that the goal is to reach the target by 2017. “That gives us more than three years,” he said.
Besides the mobility aspect, Samsung’s R&D department is also working on a new type of printer that will not have as many moving parts. According to Kim, those parts eventually fail and lead to more wear and tear. Samsung is working on electronics and software that will be cheaper to produce and allow the customer more flexibility.
He freely admitted that Samsung has a lot of problems in the printing market specifically on the entry-level, which Kim described that market as “bloody.” In Canada, Kim said that printing segment is not profitable. The strategy now is to move away from the entry-level market and concentrate on the SMB and B2B areas.
Kim’s track record is one of innovation with leadership positions in the smartphone and smart-city businesses for Samsung. “In both those areas the products are connected to each other. I think printers and copiers can be used more in a mobile environment,” he said.
Hyesung Ha, vice president of sales and market for Samsung Printing Solutions, said the company will also target CIOs with a total innovative solution that will distance Samsung product from traditional LAN-based or client server to new 3G and 4G solutions with more cloud-based apps.
“We can create something new in this kind of world such as NFC (Near Field Communications) for mobile printing. It’s just the beginning,” she said.
The thought at Samsung is that currently customers find it too complex to print from a smartphone or even a smart TV. The plan is to work with CIOs to make it easier and create a best end-user experience.
“We want to make it so easy that ‘Dumb and Dumber’ can print from a mobile device. The first step is to provide that kind of smart experience,” Ha added.
Recently Samsung showcased at the IFA show in Berlin its first NFC-enabled colour laser printer series called the Xpress C460. The company has already developed a mobile print app and a native photo printing app. Samsung also held a developers conference in Irvine, Calif., where independent software vendors and channel partners learned about the new platform and how to build upon the apps. “This is another way to go for us and it will bring in a lot of capabilities to the printing space,” Ha said.
Samsung also showed off two concept printers the Wave and the Indie. The Wave features minimal, organic design as well as a smartphone docking function. By docking a smartphone to the printer, the user can directly print out saved content on the smartphone. The Indie has mobile docking sound-system.
The manufacturer is also betting that paperless office trend stays in the myth category. A Samsung-sponsored study by market research firm IDC found that users of mobile devices print more than those who don’t use smartphones or tablets. Ha qualified this by saying it was a comparison of users with smartphone over users with PCs.
The report also says that pages printed by single and multi-function printers in 2012 could cover the surface area of New York City 237 times. It predicts that more than half of mobile device users will engage in mobile printing in offices by 2015.
“The IDC study is just a month old and we understand it unconventional to what people believe. The fact remains though that all additional devices add content. People are creating more and that 50 per cent of those on a mobile device will print them,” Ha said.
Kim said that Samsung’s R&D on printers will mirror that of its smartphone and tablet designs.
“We are trying to extend the innovation in smartphones and smart TV in smart printer area. Printers and copiers are business solutions and the smartphone and smart TVs are becoming more involved with business. If we can combine them together it will give us a more advanced scenario and generate more revenues, while offering a better end-user experience,” Dr. Kim said.
Ha added that while wireless printing has been available for years it was too cumbersome. Samsung is trying to change this by making the function more automated. “With a tap on your tablet or smartphone you can print, scan or push to fax a document. This can make collaboration easier and extend to all kinds of workflows.”
“But No. 1 is to bring a new printing experience to an old fashioned industry and mobility will be the first step,” Kim said.