Dell to enter managed print services market

Dell is eyeing the growing amount of data in organizations

Dell could start offering managed print services later this year as it tries to extend its reach in the printing and imaging market, a company executive said on Wednesday.

The company is laying down the framework to enter the market by releasing enterprise printer hardware around which it could provide services, said Donald Heath, senior product manager in Dell's printing and imaging division. The company's next step would be to unify printing hardware and provide managed services to reduce the cost per page printed, Heath said.

"We're already doing a lot of managed seats, and offering [managed print services] would be a natural evolution," Heath said. Dell has made a recent push into managed-services offerings for large enterprises, acquiring services company Perot Systems in November for around US$3.9 billion in cash. Dell in December integrated Perot Systems' operations into a new unit called Dell Services.

Dell's current offerings are mostly geared toward hardware and supplies, but an increased focus is being placed on controlling the document flow in organizations, Heath said. The company is providing hardware and software improvements that could ease the management of printers and digitization, and the printing of documents, Heath said. Dell is also evaluating services offerings from Perot.

Dell in the coming months will release a software package to unify printer infrastructures in enterprises and will also incorporate OpenManage Printer Manager software into the Dell Management Console, which brings device and task management in server environments under a single application. Dell is also embedding Java capabilities in printers, which will provide the capability to install custom software on printers depending on specific needs. The company earlier this week also released new enterprise printers focused on cost and print speed, including the 5535dn laser printer, which can print 55 pages per minute.

The managed-print services market is currently dominated by Xerox and Hewlett-Packard, which also offer document management services. HP in September formed a new print services division to combine software and services around printing hardware. The same month, Xerox announced it would acquire services company Affiliated Computer Services for $6.4 billion to expand its document and business process management offerings.

Dell will be entering a lucrative market with a small number of players, and gaining a small market share could generate good revenue, said Charles King, president at Pund-IT. Dell may try to gain control of the growing amount of data within enterprises through printing, imaging and scanning services and document management, he said.

"The sheer volume of information that businesses are creating, accumulating and storing ... continues to increase. That's not going to slow down," King said. There will be an increased demand for services to manage those documents, which could blur the line between document digitization and management.

The acquisition of Perot Systems is a nice beachhead for Dell to enter printing services and document management, especially in niche markets such as health care, King said. Perot in 2007 acquired the consulting group within Meditech, which offers software and consulting services to move paper medical records to electronic records. Dell also last week announced a medical document management product called Medical Archiving that includes a PowerEdge server to access, store and distribute medical records.

But for other niche markets, Dell may need to partner with small companies with domain expertise to develop software that could match its server, storage and printing and imaging hardware, King said. It cannot develop homegrown hardware and software by itself for all markets, and customers like choice, King said.

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