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Analysis

Nuance on track to transform enterprise printing
Louella Fernandes By: Louella Fernandes, Principal Analyst, Quocirca
Published: 2nd February 2012
Copyright Quocirca © 2012
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Nuance is a company with a plethora of products that cover the gamut of voice recognition, document capture and print management. Nuance has largely grown through acquisition (about 50 in the last ten years) so it is probably better known by its product names which include established brands such as PaperPort (desktop productivity), OmniPage (OCR), Dragon Dictate (voice recognition), eCopy (document capture and workflow) and Equitrac (print management) – its most recent acquisition. Overall, Nuance’s 2011 revenue reached $1.318 billion in 2011 with 2012 sales expected to reach $1.6 billion.  Boosted by its eCopy and Equitrac acquisitions, its imaging division growth has been strong, revenue reaching $177m in 2011 and expected to exceed $200m in 2012.

At its first European analyst event in London, Nuance discussed its strategic priorities for 2012, which include integration of its scan and print products and expansion of mobile and cloud delivery platforms. Nuance’s goal is to become the “MFP software standard” through delivering integrated cross-platform document capture and print management products – eCopy and Equitrac. Today, both products are well established, and Equitrac is already widely used to control and monitor print usage and costs across many verticals, with a particularly strong presence in the legal market – Nuance estimates that, globally, over 3,000 law firms use Equitrac. Its strong MFP and printer partner alliances mean Equitrac has long been used by major printer and copier OEMs such as HP, Ricoh and Xerox to provide enhanced multivendor print management capabilities for tracking, monitoring and reporting on scan, copy and print usage to their managed print services (MPS) customers.

This broadens the already strong OEM relationships on the eCopy side, including Canon, Konica Minolta and others.  With Equitrac, eCopy and its desktop products, Nuance has business relationships with nearly all major MFP, printer and scanner manufacturers worldwide.

Capturing the MPS opportunity
Nuance sees MPS as a key driver for its growth in the coming year and views the Equitrac and Nuance document imaging solutions as important components of helping MPS providers to succeed. Indeed there is rapid adoption - Quocirca research shows that around 45% of large corporates now have some form of MPS as they seek to reduce the cost and complexity of operating previously unmanaged printer fleets, typically characterised by a patchwork of devices from different manufacturers, with different consumables, paper, supplier and service requirements. Few organisations have the tools to track and monitor usage leading to spiralling print costs – both financial and environmental. Security is also an issue as all too often documents are left in output trays exposed to prying eyes.

MPS addresses these issues through three major phases – assessment, optimisation and on-going continuous management. Nuance’s Equitrac products have a strong part to play in all phases, helping organisations to not only reduce print wastage through tracking and reporting, but also enhance security, promote user mobility and reduce environmental impact. Key to this is Equitrac’s “Follow-You” or pull-printing which releases documents only upon user authentication – through either user PIN or smart card authentication. The results are compelling - Liverpool John Moores University discussed how they had saved £100,000 and reduced page volumes by 4.5 million per year through implementing Equitrac.

Nuance is also looking to address the largely untapped opportunity for MPS in the SMB market, via the reseller channel. Many resellers lack the resources or skills to deliver their own MPS, and are looking for a low-cost approach based on 3rd party platforms. Nuance intends to participate in this market which is seeing the emergence of cloud-based MPS offerings from vendors such as HP and Xerox. To capitalize on the emergence of cloud-based technologies and to support its partners’ Managed Services initiatives, Nuance will continue to expand its product portfolio (print management, capture and OCR) from on-premise deployments to off-premise (cloud) models. This will provide a set of cloud-based print management, document capture and OCR technology services to partners who wish to include them as part of their own managed services offerings. 

With the likes of HP and Xerox already having established cloud MPS platforms, Quocirca believes that Nuance will need to get these solutions to market quickly, particularly if it wishes to target the emerging ecosystem of independent MPS providers who will be looking for multivendor supported cloud-based services.

Quocirca believes that Nuance has product breadth, technical resources and channel reach to create a compelling set of enterprise cloud services around its eCopy and Equitrac products. However, given that both eCopy and Equitrac platforms have been gained through acquisition, Nuance still has some work to integrate them.

Talking to printers?
Given its heritage in speech recognition consumer technology, Nuance is uniquely positioned to apply this technology to enhance the printer and MFP user experience. The printer industry is far from immune from IT consumerisation, which continues to influence user expectations in the workplace. Whilst employees are used to the convenience, elegance and usability of tablets and smartphones, MFPs, in comparison, are in danger of becoming the elephant in the room.

Whilst most people are familiar with how to press print or copy, few users bother navigating complex nested menus to access finishing options or scan features. Businesses may therefore miss opportunities to minimise paper wastage through using features as duplex or booklet printing instead of single side printing. 

One technology that could improve the use of MFPs is voice recognition. Nuance has long been a leader in this field, and quietly provides back-end voice recognition functionality for Apple’s Siri. Could we in the future be telling our printers to print and staple 5 copies of a document – or scan and document and email it to a colleague? Yes - according to Nuance, the technology is already here to make it possible. It remains to be seen whether hardware vendors will embrace this opportunity to bring printers and MFPs into the 21st century.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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