People watching is a favorite hobby of mine. Guilty pleasure or not, you have to admit that reality—and what people do in public—is pretty amusing most of the time. It's also interesting to see how people act, how they dress, and even what they consider the "in style" of the moment to be. Some shirt or pair of pants you would never even contemplate wearing—or coming within one hundred feet of—some people proudly display without a moment's thought.
In a way, I get to "people watch" (and "company watch") as the editor of Wide-Format Imaging. It's always interesting for me to sit back and see what goes on in the industry as a whole. In some cases, it's amusing to see how incestuous the printing industry is and how, once you get sucked in, many times it's very hard to leave. You watch as people move from one company to another in the industry, jockeying for position as they move up the career ladder.
Coupled with my work on our sister pubs—Quick Printing and Printing News—it gives me an interesting perspective on the larger graphic communications industry—and a bigger canvas to watch. One of those larger trends I've been eyeing is the convergence and consolidation of the print industry as a whole. We've seen it on the vendor and the PSP side—some of which has been "forced" by the economic crisis.
So it was interesting for me to see the joint announcement from EFI and Heidelberg USA—just as we were going to press. What does this partnership mean for the industry? I think it's another "symptom" in the larger convergence trends we've all been seeing. I think it's a way for Heidelberg to give EFI the entrance it needs to the commercial print marketplace. While EFI is offers strong solutions to the commercial print market on the software side with its Fiery, Pace, and DigitalStoreFront products—to name a few—on the output side, however, its products have primarily been aimed at the wide- and grand-format printer provider. HP and Oce North America, on the other hand, have strong product lines in that commercial print space—giving them easier access—in addition to their wide-format products.
For Heidelberg, I believe this will help strengthen them and position them well as the market convergence continues. The integration of the EFI VUTEk printers into Heidelberg's Prinect workflow will also help to ease the mind of commercial printers entering the wide-format market, ensuring that the products they produce will be color consistent across both print platforms—and offer a familiar interface for the operator.
Is it good? Is it bad? I don't know. It will certainly be interesting to see how the additional feet on the street will the impact the sales of the VUTEk GS series of printers in the coming year. I also think it will probably give commercial printers a bigger opportunity to examine wide-format technology and explore how it can complement the current equipment and services they're offering.
In any case, it certainly makes "industry watching" a lot more interesting.