Wireless and mobile technology will dominate printer market

Discussing Zebra's business strategy for 2004, managing director for Zebra EMEA, Rod Rodericks, says that new technologies are creating a more business critical role for printers and are the key to generating new revenue streams in the market.

Having invested heavily in developing this technology, Zebra has already started to see this growth. Out of what was a saturated market a few years ago, in 2003, the company saw a 30 per cent increase in European printer sales. "The new generation of print solutions are not about simply upgrading existing customers. They have allowed our partners to  approach customers with new and innovative ideas about how printers can be used to improve any number of business processes," says Rodericks.

"Before now, printers were typically sold as a standalone entity and were often an afterthought for the end user. However, now that many companies are investing in wireless LANs (local area networks), printers are now expected to link directly into the core IT infrastructure," he says.

"More importantly, with embedded wireless, mobile and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, printers  themselves are providing the basis for a whole range of standalone business applications," he says. Over the past year, Zebra has been working with a variety of retailers, tourist attractions and public sector organisations to develop applications based on its mobile and wireless printers.

Zebra's growth strategy will build on this momentum by continuing to invest in technology development and aims to have all its printers 'wireless-enabled' by 2005. However, this is only half the story. To take these products to market, Rodericks says that Zebra will also be gearing up investment in its reseller partners. "A different set of skills are required to sell this new generation of printers: not just technological expertise, but in order to pinpoint the opportunities, an understanding of the breadth of applications and how they fit with the business needs of various vertical sectors," he says.

By equipping partners with these skills and helping identify potential sales opportunities, Zebra has seen its education campaign start to pay dividends. At a Zebra reseller conference last spring, partners were given an insight into mobile printing applications and some of the innovative solutions that can be built around the technology. Zebra has already seen new contracts with major companies secured by resellers who attended the event.

Recognising the need for specialist knowledge of key end-user markets such as retail and government, resellers will also be supported by an expanded business development team at Zebra. The new team is tasked with gathering intelligence on major market drivers and seeking out opportunities for resellers in a variety of markets.

"Knowing the end-user markets inside out, and sharing this intelligence with our resellers, is crucial to Zebra's growth strategy," says Rodericks. "The printer market is being transformed by new technologies and applications, and having invested in developing our printers, Zebra is well ahead of the game. Our priority this year is helping our resellers maximise the opportunity."

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