Facing a multifunction printer segment increasingly crowded with tier-one vendors, Canon is looking to distinguish itself by focusing more on customization in its product line.
The Lake Success, N.Y.-based vendor has begun shipping a new midrange device that allows third parties to provide custom-built applications and user interfaces based on Canon's Multifunctional Embedded Application Platform (MEAP) architecture.
Canon's copier-based multi-function unit, the ImageRunner C3200, includes Java-based technology that the vendor said can be used by third parties to provide network-based applications that integrate e-mail, scanning and document management functions into one device.
The first such application that Canon has authorized for the platform was developed by eCopy, a Nashua, N.H.-based ISV. The software company developed Connector for Canon ImageWare, an application that enables the conversion of hard-copy documents into digital files that are stored and can be modified or distributed over a network via ImageRunner.
When the software is integrated into the multifunction copier with Canon's ImageWare technology, it allows document indexing information to be tagged to scanned documents. Those tags allow the documents to be stored and retrieved more efficiently, and resources to be shared in a workgroup setting.
Canon executives said the company would manage integration of the third-party software with its hardware by requiring software developers to receive approval from the vendor before shipping any solutions to market.
Price ranges for the device and software were not immediately available.
Canon rivals, including Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Oki Data and Xerox, have been working to build channel adoption of their multifunction products for much of the past year with additions to their product lines. Many of those product rollouts have coincided with current corporate IT refresh cycles.
Some solution providers said they believe the higher-end technologies on such devices will be successful, but only in certain segments.
"I could see in a large organization, it would be nice to be able to do customization based on using Java," said Patrick Holeva, president of CMC Business Systems, an Austin, Texas-based Canon solution provider.
Holeva said his company"an exclusive Canon dealer"has sold the ImageRunner product line throughout its customer set. He says it's been a profitable product for his company since earlier units were first rolled out.