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Issue Date: June 2007

Xerox touts app integration for MFP market

June 2007
Rik Turner

Xerox has put flesh on the bones of its vision of app integration with its multifunction printers, or MFPs, and the ability to drive apps from an MFP's user interface.

Mark Boyt, European product manager, said Xerox has had APIs for third-party ISVs to write their apps to for integration with its boxes for 3-4 years, but it stepped up a gear in September 2006 when it launched its extensible interface platform (EIP) technology on the WorkCenter 200 Series of high-end MFPs. That is, A3 paper format and 30 ppm-75 ppm print speeds.
At that time EIP was no more than a capability in the products, he said, but now Xerox has unveiled a first raft of applications from ISV partners in North America and Europe, which is where it hopes to see momentum start to build. It has been demo-ing apps from 10 ISVs in Europe, including Equitrac (print tracking, print management and cost recovery solutions), iXware (a unified messaging platform that combines fax, sms, e-mail and voicemail) and RTE Software (transformation of documents into PDF format for e-mailing through any messaging service) and a similar number in the US.
While today all the 200 family are monochrome devices, said Boyt, a colour-capable product will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year: the family is in fact the EIP-enabled successor to the 7000 range, which has colour products, so a colour-capable box in the 200 family should be any major development undertaking.
EIP is a Web services-based technology deployed on a server in a corporate network. In addition to the list of ISVs writing to its APIs, Stamford, Connecticut-based Xerox has also announced two new APIs. The first is Presentation Services, which enables the UI screen on the MFP to become a reflection of the apps on the EIP server. And, secondly, Authentication Services, which brings support for authentication mechanisms such as PIN numbers and pass cards that can now be input at the MFP, with EIP interfacing with a corporate LDAP directory to determine which apps the individual user can access on that machine.
"This also enables a personal experience of the MFP as a comms hubs," said Boyt. "A mobile worker might be able to access their e-mail and print out relevant ones from the MFP, for instance, or a corporate employee in a campus scenario could store a job on the server and print off required documents in another building where he or she needs to be, rather than doing it at their desk and carrying them."
Xerox offers an SDK for EIP, freely downloadable from its website, for anyone wanting to develop to the APIs, and take its 200 family technology to market in two ways: its Office group goes through the channel, while the Xerox Global Services arm delivers it as a managed service.
The main competitors to the 200 family come from Ricoh, Canon, Konica Minolta, HP and, in the US, Sharp. Boyt said both Ricoh and Canon offer apps from third-party ISVs, including EIP consortium members such as Equitrac, "but they embed them in their actual products, requiring them to be downloaded as a Java app that interacts with the firmware on the box." The disadvantage to this model, of course, is that the same app has to be downloaded to every MFP on which it is to be used, whereas Xerox centralizes them on the EIP server and enables them to be invoked as Web services from the individual machines' UI.
Our view
The EIP strategy is an interesting one, with obvious advantages from the fact that it uses Web services technology, enabling the equivalent of server-based computing for the enterprise printing and imaging world, with the convenience of the facility being available at any 200 family device on the network. Xerox clearly intends to take the technology further down its MFP portfolio too.
Source: Computergram


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