Will Low-End Scanning Lead To More Sales For VARs?
Surprisingly, yes. With scanner drivers included in the next release of Windows, increasing numbers of end users will be using scanners at their workstations. This suggests more scanning hardware/software sales and upgrades for VARs.
With the advent of $100 color flatbed scanners, scanning is now affordable for everyone. As a result, VARs and systems integrators are going to have to take a different approach to selling scanning hardware and software to end users.
Scanner Drivers To Be Included In New Windows Platform
Another sign of the general acceptance of scanners is that in the next release of Windows, scanner drivers are going to be included in the operating system (OS) for the first time. These drivers include device (scanner) drivers as well as TWAIN support. TWAIN is a scanner-driver standard backed by several industry manufacturers (the Twain Working Group) which enables them to write their own drivers so scanners are not delayed from going to market. Members of the TWAIN Working Group include Canon, DocuMagix, Eastman Kodak, Genoa, Hewlett-Packard, Kofax, Bell & Howell, and Logitech. Prior to TWAIN, which began in 1992, Pixel Translations was the predominant company that wrote scanner drivers for precision scanning applications. Pixel developed the drivers under the ISIS imprint, often with royalty fees involved.
A Quick Rundown On TWAIN
With vendors making new scanners each year, new drivers are needed. Therefore, vendors would often have to wait for Pixel to manufacture a driver for their new scanner before they released it. Several issues developed relating to version control and delays in vendors' receiving drivers from Pixel. The TWAIN Working Group addressed these issues and decided to use the TWAIN umbrella to develop royalty-free scanner drivers for end-user applications. Now, vendors can write their own scanner drivers based on the TWAIN scanner-driver standard. Both TWAIN and ISIS drivers will be included in the next OS.
Scanner Vendors Voice Their Opinion
With the drivers soon to be available in the OS, several scanner vendor representatives predict that color scanners will soon follow the printer and proliferate at individual workstations. With color scanners turning up on more desks, there is a need for more user-friendly scanning software. Instead of having one department responsible for imaging paper, or even outsourcing it, companies will have workers doing it at their desks. Business Systems Magazine spoke with scanner vendor reps to gain their input. They offered advice on how VARs can adapt to these changes in the color-scanning market.
OS Drivers: A Taste Of What They Could Really Have
"The main concern is how VARs will make money selling scanning software with the drivers being offered in the OS," says Kim Hawley. (Hawley is senior vice president and general manager of Cornerstone Imaging, a vendor specializing in display products for document imaging. Cornerstone Imaging, headquartered in San Jose, CA, enjoyed revenues totaling $91.9 million in 1997.) Hawley doesn't see this as a legitimate concern because VARs can still make money - possibly even more than in the past - with the drivers in the OS. "End users will learn the limitations of the scanner drivers in the OS. However, the scanner drivers will likely seed the market and give end users a taste of what scanning can do for them. Users will always want more features such as advanced indexing of images or image cleanup. This is when they start looking for solutions beyond what the OS provides."
VARs Should Not Waste Time With Low-End Software
"VARs cannot make much money with low-end scanning software applications, unless it involves deals where VARs are selling large volumes of packages to a customer," says Dana Allen. (Allen is executive vice president of TMSSequoia, based in Stillwater, OK. The software developer specializes in imaging applications and had revenues totaling $5.6 million in 1997.) "TMS has a $50 software product available to VARs. This can make them money because it is usually sold to engineering departments where 500-1,000 seats may be needed," Allen states. He adds that VARs should be selling mid- and high-priced products to maximize their profits.
VARs Should Look To Their Existing Customer Base
Gail Bower, general manager of TMSSequoia, believes that most VARs are better positioned to sell scanning applications to small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as state and local governments. She does not see VARs well-positioned for large, enterprise-wide scanning sales. "The best thing for VARs to do is see the potential in their existing customer bases. They may have sold networking and computer hardware systems to an end user," Bower states. "With scanning becoming more common, all they have to do is take a proactive approach and ask their existing customers, 'Where do you have too much paper?' Most end users will have an answer and provide useful feedback. VARs already have credibility with these customers and don't have to overcome the most common barrier in sales – trust."
Approaching The Enterprise Sale
Hawley, Allen and Bower agree that if VARs do try to sell to larger enterprises, the approach should be on a departmental level. This way, VARs can establish themselves with a specific group of people and/or department at a company. If the installation goes well, they can ask this department where else in the company a document imaging system may be needed – asking for referrals from department to department. VARs can then sell to the enterprise without having to go through the long cycle usually associated with such sales.
How common will scanning become? Allen sums it up best. "Scanning will explode, especially on the low end, and almost everyone will have a scanner or digital copier five years from now."