In early February, Epson held its “Ink Boldly” partner conference, its first in-person partner event since March 2020. Although Epson has been far from quiet in the interim, the event, held in Huntington Beach, Calif., gave the company the chance to really strut its stuff.
And strut it did, showcasing products, people and technological advancements. Let’s take a look at three of the major announcements by size: the big, the small, and the middle.
Former Orlando Magic star Shaquille O’Neal (OK, he’s done some other things too, but Orlando doesn’t get bragging rights very often) has been the face of Epson’s commercial campaigns for a few years now, but now the channel gets their share of him as well. Sadly, Shaq was not at the event in person, but his life-size likeness was everywhere, dwarfing everyone. You’ve seen the cutouts and posters at Best Buys, in airports, and a thousand other locations touting Epson’s commercial products. Now, as Joe Contreras, head of sales and channel marketing for Office Print put it, “we want to Shaq-ify your dealership” with marketing materials, social media, videos and more. It’s a fun 7-foot-1, 325-pound addition, and more importantly, shows Epson’s level of investment in the channel.
Smaller than Shaq’s pinky, the PrecisionCore printhead was an even bigger presence at the event. PrecisionCore is not new, of course — it’s the foundation of Epson’s lineup. It is, said VP North America Commercial Sales & Marketing Mark Mathews, the reason he joined Epson. It’s a big deal. Introduced in 2013, the “next-generation inkjet printing technology poised to transform the printing business” has been the force behind Epson’s drive into the office space. Notable at the 2023 event, however, was new messaging behind the product: Simple. Smart. Clean. Mathews emphasized the messaging and the “advanced printing technology engineered by Epson to power the world’s top performing printers.” The centerpiece of a display in the solution showroom, attendees also received a Lucite-encased chip in their goody bags. Seeing is believing, after all, and as President and CEO Keith Kratzberg noted, it’s rather impressive to hold the 1.3-inch-wide chip and realize it contains eight channels and 200 nozzles through which ink flows — heat free. The “heat free” messaging is, of course, in the spotlight more than ever given today’s global sustainability and environmental initiatives and requirements.
The headliner of the show was the new WorkForce Enterprise AM series C4000, C5000, and C6000. With speeds of 40, 50, and 60 ppm respectively, the devices fill an interesting gap in the prior WorkForce lineup, as Senior Product Manager Dan Misilewich demonstrated with a pie chart showing the current 33+ ppm A3 market in North America. Although about a quarter of the pie consisted of 55+ ppm devices, covered by Epson’s existing lineup of 60-100 ppm devices, a big chunk of pie was still missing. The new devices will cover that middle ground, filling what was a big gap between the 26-ppm HC units and the existing 60-ppm devices. They are relatively compact devices, with the smallest footprints in their class, and include inner finishing. They’ll be available to dealers in early March.
There was a lot of other ground covered during the event, of course, from new wide-format devices to desktop A4s, and software and solutions for markets ranging from medical to education — plenty to pique dealers’ interest and continue to establish Epson as a player worth keeping an eye on.
Since Epson began its push into the office printing market about a decade ago, there have been a lot of changes — technology advancements, new entrants into and departures from the space, an entire pandemic that basically reshaped the market and redefined “the office,” global economic shifts and soaring energy costs.
Epson is doing its best to take advantage of many of those shifts. After HP’s exit left a PageWide-sized gap in the space, Epson became the natural successor, and has doubled down with its commitment to investment in inkjet, increasing production capacity for its printers and printheads and in fact announcing it would end its global sales and distribution of laser printers by 2026 — an announcement that coincided with the launch of the AM series in Europe late last year. As environmental, social and governance (ESG) is increasingly on the radar of corporations, investors and consumers, it’s a smart move for Epson to lean into that messaging (“Epson is focused on changing the way we consume energy and is committed to providing innovative and efficient PrecisionCore Heat-Free print solutions,” said Mathews in a press release).
“Time will tell” is such a cliché way to end a piece — but clichés exist for a reason. No one could have imagined what would take place mere days after the 2020 event, after all, and time was not kind to those predictions. But ignoring that, it’s pretty safe to say that Epson has embarked on a very interesting and decisive path. They’re putting their money where their mouth is, making heavy investments in PrecisionCore technology, and listening to their partners when it comes to what’s next — and those are all ingredients for success.
A picture is worth 1,000 words:
is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.