MFP Capture, SharePoint 2010 among Hot Trends for 2011
What can participants in the document imaging market expect to see in 2011?
1. Full acceleration of hardware vendors into the capture software space: Up until now, we’ll say most MFP and scanner vendors have dipped their toes in the water in regards to capture software. They all offer some sort of capture software, but it’s usually proprietary to their hardware devices, and closed document imaging systems went the way of FileNet jukeboxes sometime in the mid-1990s. Kodak has shown signs of breaking this mold, but it remains to be seen if its sales channels can successfully sell Capture Pro into applications featuring other vendors’ hardware.
As mentioned in our introduction, it’s no secret that hardware sales are stagnant compared to the software growth we’re seeing in our industry. This is somewhat ironic, as five years ago, we were wondering why software growth wasn’t mirroring the 50% unit sales growth we were seeing for document scanners. Apparently, the market has now been seeded with hardware and is ripe for follow-on software.
Hardware companies have banked a lot of money over the years from device sales. But with the market evolving rapidly to where hardware is now a commodity and the real value lies in software and services sales (as evidenced by the emergence of MPS [managed print services] as a force), hardware companies are being forced to adapt. We’ve already seen acquisitions like ACS by Xerox and EDS by HP, and, on a smaller scale (and very close to home) Perceptive Software by Lexmark. We expect more of this, including a full-scale acquisition of a capture software company by a hardware vendor in 2011.
2. A ramping up of cloud-based document capture offerings: We discussed the emergence of the cloud as a viable delivery method for software applications in our last issue [see DIR 12/23/10]. To date, while we’ve seen a decent amount of document storage and retrieval, and even some workflow, being delivered through SaaS (software as a service), we’ve have not seen much capture deployed this way. Some of this has to do with the fact that scanner drivers typically reside on PCs, so the logistics of deploying capture as a service can get complicated.
However, as network scanning, from devices like MFPs, becomes more commonplace, reliance on drivers should decrease. An image captured on a network device to a watched network folder, can be uploaded automatically to a cloud-based service where complex capture can be done. And pricing can be based on the volume of documents being processed, which fits with both the emerging MPS model and the click-charge pricing models used historically by many capture vendors.
The cloud is potentially a low-cost-of-entry avenue for exposing lower-volume users to advanced data capture. We’re not saying it’s going to happen overnight, as cloud-based capture infrastructures still need to be built, but by the second half of this year, we expect to see some traction.
3. SharePoint emerges as a competitive transaction content management platform: Okay, we’ve been saying this for years, but this time, it’s really true. Sure, KnowledgeLake has helped SharePoint establish itself somewhat for document imaging applications, but from all indications, the changes in SharePoint 2010 make it a very viable document imaging platform—with or without an assist from KnowledgeLake. We detailed some of these changes in late 2009, after seeing a preview of the new version. They include improved meta data, indexing, searching, scalability, and records management features.
As adoption of SharePoint 2010 accelerates, we expect more users to take advantage of these features in document imaging applications. No, SharePoint 2010 is not a standalone document imaging platform, but with the addition of some capture, workflow, and viewing tools, it can do a lot more than SharePoint 2007—and, as has always been the case, most Microsoft enterprise customers already own it.
On the bright side for document imaging ISVs worried that SharePoint might encroach on their markets, from what we understand we might not see another version until 2015. So, if you can differentiate your product from SharePoint 2010 and/or figure out a niche where you can play nicely with it, you don’t have to worry about Microsoft stealing your features/copying your functionality for another four years.
4. An IDR vendor will be acquired: We made this prediction at Harvey Spencer Associates annual capture conference this past September. Basically, we’re of the opinion that there are too many smaller companies out there with good and innovative IDR technology. The market is just not big enough yet to support all these entrants and somebody (at least one company) will be forced to sell out.
Of course, on the upside, there is plenty of potential for IDR, especially in the emerging enterprise capture space, so the seller should be able to get a pretty decent multiple. And, it won’t necessarily have to be a small deal, as IDR is key to turning capture into a mainstream technology, so some mainstream vendors (with deep pocketbooks) may be interested.
5. HP will buy a capture ISV: I guess if this prediction comes to fruition, it will mean that number one, and likely number four, will also prove true. In 2008, HP bought Tower Software, a document imaging and records management ISV and EDS, a BPO giant. It also has a fairly full line of distributed/lower-volume production scanners, as well as scan-enabled MFPs. This missing link to bring this all together is a robust capture platform.
Like most hardware vendors, HP (for the reasons we’ve already outlined), realizes that future success lies in software and services sales. In addition to being motivated to acquire a capture platform to work in conjunction with its scanners and MFPs, HP plays heavily in the storage market, where EMC and IBM are probably its main competitors. EMC acquired Captiva five years ago, which seems to be working out. And, IBM bought Datacap last year. In other words, it’s HP’s move—and because of its capture hardware business, it will be doubly motivated to act.