Digital Print in 2014 – Better Late than Never for B2

As we look back on the new product announcements from 2013, I have to admit that the year was largely overshadowed by drupa 2012 and the many new and exciting technologies shown there. We were especially eager to see the new? B2 products enter the market in 2013, but it has proven to be a rather slow process. As analysts with many years in the industry, we experienced that launch schedules are overly optimistic side and that the actual product launches often seem to drag on forever. But the announcements from drupa 2012 seem to have taken these delays to a new dimension.

It seems that the duration from the first tech demo to  the beta test phase and then to final product is getting longer and longer. Admittedly the line between an early product demonstration and a technology demo is blurred. Many vendors take a cautious approach and label the new announcements as technology demonstrations. Also technology demoes may never end in a product at all. Still, prospective users want to know when they can expect a launch date of a new product or at least know when limited availability will start for early users.

In the table below we have listed key product concepts/demoes with their original availability date (as stated at or around drupa 2012) and the revised launch date (which is according to our latest information available). The launch date refers to either general commercial launch or early user/limited availability, and not to beta site installations in which the device has not yet been accepted or paid for  by the customer. In some cases we have not heard a revised date, which could mean the product is not coming to the market, though, of course, it does not necessarily mean that.

We do not expect all products to be introduced within the indicated time frame or at all, particularly when vendors are mainly trying to gauge user interest on a show. We also understand that turning a technology into a market-ready product requires a great deal of time and effort. We are puzzled however that almost all of the B2 (and larger) inkjet products shown around drupa 2012 miss their planned launch date – many quite considerably. The aim of announcing a product or technology early is clear and understandable: Get early user feedback, but may also help stop prospective buyers from investing in a competing product that is already available. Missing the date by a wide margin, however, introduces insecurity and dissatisfaction into the market. We also wonder whether these considerable delays undermine the confidence of print service providers in the technology or in production digital print altogether.

For 2014 we remain optimistic that the number of available models will broaden considerably. It would be a boon for the digital B2 market, a market which HP took by storm in 2013 with a market share of about 80%. (By the way, congratulations to HP for staying very close to the rollout timeline it stated at drupa 2012.) But we also believe that the B2 market can be even more successful if it has a broader choice of competitive devices. At the same time, new high-end cut-sheet products with SRA3 format, such as the Canon Niagara, can bring even more competition, which will put pressure on the B2 vendors to innovate as well.

InfoTrends just released a number of 2014 Road Maps with the main trends for the different communication industry segments InfoTrends covers. For more insight into the digital production printing market in 2014, our “Road Map 2014: On Demand Printing and Publishing Service”  is available.

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