Toshiba Dealers and End Users Learn to Work, Print and Communicate Smarter
Over 700 attendees gathered at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on November 13 and 14 for Toshiba America Business Solutions’ (TABS) 2012 conference. This was the second year that Toshiba coupled its national dealer meeting with an end-user conference, allowing dealers to invite clients (or potential clients) to the show to attend educational seminars, visit the product fair and enjoy the festivities. In addition to furthering business relationships, extending the invitation to customers at last year’s conference helped to increase sales, noted TABS President and CEO Mark Mathews.
On the business front, this year, MPS sales grew by 19 percent, while thermal barcode sales grew 27 percent, and the company will finish 2012 up on revenue and profitability, said Mathews. Toshiba also acquired IBM Retail Store Solutions, which will continue as Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions (TGCS), supplying accounts such as Starbucks and Costco with retail solutions from point of sale to self-service kiosks, printers, displays, operating systems and applications.
The areas of focus at this year’s conference were MPS implementation and execution; expanding business through new services and channels; and managed IT services, which were further elaborated upon in various education sessions. Additionally, the product fair encouraged attendees to communicate smarter (digital signage solutions), print smarter (MPS and print output solutions), and work smarter (document workflow and security), showcasing around 20 partners in those areas, including A4 partners HP and Lexmark, and a dozen or so leasing, education and MPS partners. Scattered throughout the fair were a few new and upcoming Toshiba products, including a 50-ppm color MFP, an MFP with erasable toner, connectors for partner solutions, a mobile application, as well as products from its other divisions, such as thermal printers for label and barcode printing, and AquaAce media, which is resistant to heat, water, tearing and fading.
Toshiba Announces 50-ppm Color MFP and 30-ppm Eco MFP
In early 2013, Toshiba will launch the e-STUDIO2555c, 3055c and 3555c, followed by the e-STUDIO4555c and 5055c. This 25- to 50-ppm series replaces the e-STUDIO4540c series and shares many of the features and design elements introduced with the 2550c series (e-STUDIO2550c, e-STUDIO2551c, e-STUDIO2051c, e-STUDIO2050c) such as the 9" touchscreen control panel and the new design launched earlier this year that Toshiba touts as compact, quiet, lightweight and environmentally friendly.
The e-STUDIO5055c is Toshiba’s first 50-ppm color model and was a necessary addition to the line, according to the company, because previously it had to offer the 55-ppm e-STUDIO5540c to fill requests for a 50-ppm color unit or dual-line dealers had to supply competitors’ 50-ppm devices.
The new series is equipped with the latest e-BRIDGE controller and Toshiba’s Universal Print Driver, which supports e-BRIDGE plug-ins including Job Point, which will split a job among up to 10 machines; Hardcopy Security Printing, which embeds watermarks in secure documents to deter illegal copying (and when the device is enabled to detect watermarks, it can prevent copies from being made and alert an administrator); Drop Zone, which lets users drop files into a folder to automate tasks; Job Build, which merges different document types such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint before printing; and Job Separator, which lets teachers enter their names, classroom numbers and number of students, for instance, so that when copies of the same document are made for multiple classes, the machine automatically makes as many copies as identified per class, with the class’s information on the cover sheets of each set. Thanks to the open platform architecture and new e-BRIDGE controller, the devices support cloud computing and mobile applications and the ability for customers to access back-end applications from the control panel. The devices also have an embedded web browser.
Utilizing a new toner that melts at a lower temperature, helping to reduce energy consumption, increase the color gamut and produce high-gloss output, the series produces great image quality, according to Rory Fox, TABS senior product manager. While this series doesn’t have an optional EFI Fiery print controller, it has features for managing color output including Toshiba Color Tools Suite, ICC profiles, auto trapping, PostScript Overprint, e-BRIDGE color profiler and spot color matching, according to the company. Other noteworthy details include two 3,000-sheet finishing options, a standard self-encrypting hard drive, support for AquaAce specialty paper, and faster warm-up and first-copy times than the previous models.
Also on display at the product fair was Toshiba Tec Corporation’s eco MFP with erasable toner, which was released in Japan the week of the show, but not yet scheduled to launch in the US. The device, the e-STUDIO306LP, is basically the same as the e-STUDIO306, but prints using a special blue toner that turns clear when exposed to heat—no specialty paper required. To erase the toner, users feed paper into the optional erasing unit, which erases paper at up to 30 ppm and separates documents into two separate drawers: one for totally blank paper and the other for paper with non-erasable marks. The erased paper can be reprinted on up to five times.
The mobile printing session, presented by HP, highlighted a few statistics that brought to light the significance of developing and implementing mobile printing apps. In 2011, for the first time ever, smartphones outsold PCs; at the end of this year, 34 percent of the global workforce will be mobile; and by 2014, 90 percent of global Fortune 1000 companies will implement cloud printing services for mobile personnel. In fact, mobile solutions were plentiful at the product fair. Toshiba introduced its mobile print application, an Android version of which is scheduled to launch in December, while the iOS version’s launch is scheduled for January. In the Android version, of which we saw a beta version, users can select the desired Toshiba MFP out of a list of devices the app finds on the network, or they can enter the machine’s IP address. From within the application, users can scan a document and share to a Bluetooth device, or applications such as Facebook, Google Docs and Gmail; they can also preview the file using any capable application on their device. To print, users can define a directory on their mobile device from which to pull files, search other directories or pull files from Dropbox or other cloud services.
Other partners also showcased mobile capabilities, including HP’s ePrint Enterprise, a version of its mobile application that has a server-hosted print driver and lets users print to any PCL/PostScript printer or MFP on the network, HP or non-HP; Drivve’s Print Mobility Manager lets users print to any printer or MFP from any location via the internet; and PaperCut MF 12.5 introduced a mobile print release app.
Document Workflow and Security
Toshiba introduced e-Connect for Perceptive Software, an embedded connector that lets users log in to Perceptive Software from a Toshiba MFP’s control panel and automatically start the workflow process. Organizations can create profiles for different types of document workflows, such as for HR departments, medical documents, or expense reports; once a profile is selected, users can enter index data, scan the document, preview or delete it, and send it straight to the Perceptive Software server. A bidirectional connector for DocuWare that’s launching in December allows users to scan and send documents to DocuWare, as well as search the DocuWare database for files to print. A third embedded connector, for Pharos BluePrint Enterprise, is scheduled to launch later next year.
Toshiba also showcased the 2013 features of its fleet optimization tool, Encompass, which, in addition to integration with FM Audit and Lexmark Fleet Management Suite, enhanced reports, built-in pricing utilities, and a visual representation of the customer’s floor plan, includes a mobile assessment tool. Dealers can take their smartphones and tablets on-site, where they can access the account and perform assessments by entering data on an organization’s fleet via a preconfigured form that integrates with the Encompass database. To save time and ensure accuracy, the tool lets users search the database to select the desired model, and prepopulates some fields based on the selected device; for variable fields, the form presents drop-down menus of pertinent answers or lists of options that can be checked off one by one (such as finisher configuration). Once the form is finished, and the mobile device is connected to a network, the data is sent back to Encompass.
Stepping into Digital Signage
Headlining the digital signage section of the product showcase was Toshiba’s Communications Tabletop, a full Windows 7 computer inside a large, touch-screen tabletop interface. With 40 touch points and built-in WiFi, the Communications Tabletop lets users flip through files and send them to mobile devices via the drag-and-drop interface. According to a Toshiba representative, the tabletop is ideal for showcasing images in the retail and travel industries or collaborating in business environments, among other uses.
Joe Contreras, TABS director of product solutions and marketing, explained that Toshiba wants to help dealers make the transition to new forms of communication, such as digital technology and help them manage those services. So how does digital signage aid Toshiba dealers? Contreras noted that one purpose of digital signage is in-house use by dealers for demonstrations and sales. One dealer we spoke to said he was interested in using digital displays to showcase large, production machines in his showroom, rather than taking up valuable floor space. Additionally, selling digital signage solutions can help dealers access new opportunities and eventually bring in commission on those sales.
Digital signage solutions partners at the event included NEC, Planar, Peerless - AV, Ergotron, ComQi, and Horizon, which shared products from large format video displays and touch-screen monitors to screen mounts, and charging stations.