Custom Features Give MFPs Added Sizzle

New software tools enable high-profit MFP solutions tailored for specific customers and verticals.

Multifunction printers (MFPs) continue to look and act more like standalone computers rather than just handy devices for printing, scanning and faxing. Consider their built-in network connections, which plug them seamlessly into LANs for efficient communications with companywide applications, such as document management and workflow systems. Embedded CPUs and hard drives further round out a modern MFP’s PC-like features.

Now the evolution is taking another step forward. MFP OEMs are introducing new sets of development software tools that come standard on leading models, such as the Xerox WorkCentre 7200 and 7300 series MFPs, which are pushing these workgroup machines to new levels of functionality.

For example, Xerox’s Extensive Interface Platform (EIP) offers programming “hooks” that allow software developers to tightly integrate their applications with Xerox MFPs. This creates opportunities for customizations like special touch-screen panels on the devices that tailor them for the specific needs of individual customers and vertical markets.

The close interworking of the hardware and software benefits MFP makers, ISVs and solution providers alike. For the latter, customization provides a way to “add value and revenues, glue yourself to the customer, and build your business around more than just competing against the guy who is always going to bid one percent lower than you,” says David Bates, vice president of product marketing for the Xerox Office Group.

ISVs that work closely with solution providers see related opportunities. “EIP really expands the breadth and reach of our products so they’re becoming highly distributed throughout the organization and accessible to a far greater number of users than before,” says Karen Cummings, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Omtool Ltd., maker of the AccuRoute document-routing software.

The document management market is evolving from first-generation point products based on client/server applications to more-scalable applications using tools such as EIP, she says. Because of the newer technologies, “We expect the market to double over the next 12 to 18 months,” Cummings says.

Omtool often sells AccuRoute to a number of the vertical markets, including financial services, in partnership with solution providers, she adds.

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