Let’s eliminate the mystery right off the bat: Sharp is not going to ditch its hardware business and go all in on becoming a leader in AI development. All of you who are disappointed by that statement can stop reading right now.
I’m assuming you’re all still here.
Sharp is in a good place, which is something constantly reiterated at their 2023 National Dealer Meeting, held April 18-20 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. And they’ve gotten to, and stayed in, that good place not by jumping on bandwagons, but by focusing on core competencies, being aware of trends, and keeping on top of new technologies and incorporating them into proven strategies.
That was Mike Marusic’s point as he kicked off the first of two days of general sessions and presentations. Sharp is not unaware of buzzwords, or the “next big thing,” and Marusic was clear that AI is very much on the company’s radar, and they will certainly leverage it. But, he said, “choices have to be made about where to focus, where to place your money, where to invest, or (when it comes to the supply chain crisis), where to put your chips.”
So where is Sharp putting its chips (both metaphorical and literal)? Here are four things it is doing:
In what was probably the biggest announcement of the event, Sharp marked its entry into the production print space with the unveiling of a new 120-ppm color digital press that, along with two monochrome presses that print 136 ppm and 125 ppm, will be available by early 2024. The color device prints six colors in one pass, including gold, silver, bright pink, textured and clear toners in addition to CMYK. All the presses include inline finishing options and are powered by Fiery digital front ends. Sharp calls the launch a “significant milestone, [allowing] the company to extend its reach into higher production print markets.” Sharp execs didn’t confirm the manufacturer of the presses, but the most likely candidate seemed to be Fujifilm.
Sharp also previewed new Pro Series light production models that will replace existing models later this year.
The production print announcement was the big one, but arguably just as important was the announced collaboration between Sharp and ConnectWise that will, among other things, deliver a managed Print Security Service (not to be confused with a Managed Print security service) that integrates ConnectWise’s security information and event management (SIEM) solution. Sharp’s Shane Coffey likened the difference between hardware-based security like BIOS protection and the overall SIEM solution to home security — it’s great to have solid doors and deadbolts and to keep all your windows locked, but SIEM is like having a central alarm system that allows you to go beyond just defending and enables you to engage the police as soon as someone tries to break in.
For those not interested in the full SIEM solution, ConnectWise will soon launch a service that allows device monitoring without adopting the full SIEM implementation, giving dealers more visibility and detection capabilities. Also upcoming is a Synappx Manage application that was demoed at the show and will help dealers integrate IT service offerings with their print businesses through integration with ConnectWise PSA (professional services automation, formerly known as ConnectWise Manage).
Key to Sharp’s game plan is the wide array of office solutions it offers. In talking about Dynabooks, for example, Coffey noted, “it’s not just about selling laptops, it’s about broadening your offerings to your customer.” Diversified offerings like AQUOS boards, NEC displays, AV solutions and more remain critical to the company’s plans, and success stories from a dealer panel confirmed those plans are working. Critically, all of these solutions open doors to new business, which allows the placement of …
Yes, Sharp is still doing that too — and rather well. Both A3 and A4 have grown dramatically over the last few years, said Marusic, at a time when the rest of the market was not particularly robust. Both Sharp-only and dual-line dealers were up more than 100% from 2021 to 2022, and A3 market share growth has been particularly impressive, up to 10.1% in 2022 from just under 6% in 2014.
In his introductory presentation, Marusic drew upon this quote to illustrate Sharp’s position in times of change: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” It’s a good analogy for Sharp’s approach to maintaining its position in the market: a strategic focus on core competencies while staying up to date with the latest technology trends. By expanding into production print, strengthening security partnerships, and diversifying its product offerings, the company is ensuring its growth and success while doing the same for its dealers.
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.