Lexmark Puts Managed-Services Experience To Work

Lexmark has tapped its managed-service experience with large enterprises to develop a new software tool called Fleet Manager. The product helps partners capture ongoing revenue streams from supplies and services, while simplifying print management and cutting costs for end users, said Lexmark executives at the VARBusiness XChange Technology Innovators Show in Huntington Beach, Calif., last month.

With Fleet Manager, solution providers install software at an end user's site that collects information about that user's printing environment. Resellers can then access and assess that information via a Web-based portal provided by Lexmark.

The software collects information in five different components: Asset Manager gives partners visibility into devices and page counts; Billing Manager helps partners provide cost-per-page or recurring monthly charges, or a combination of both payment plans for end users; Consumables Manager tracks supply levels and issues alerts to partners when levels are low; Availability Manager monitors the status of peripherals--regardless of whether or not they're Lexmark devices--and reports on events; and Optimization Manager provides visibility into overall printing-fleet usage to help solution providers assess and communicate how users can streamline printing processes.

The ability to gain visibility across printing devices from different vendors was a key draw for some VARs.

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"This is the part that sold me--the ability to work across multiple vendor devices," says Stephen Leedy, network administrator at Electronic Business Machines, A VAR in Lexington, Ky. Leedy, who has been beta-testing the new offering, says that, while the software does provide more information for Lexmark devices in some cases, he's generally satisfied with the tool's device compatibility.

Electronic Business Machines has already begun the process of moving into managed services. "As you know, hardware margins are really tough," Leedy says. "This is it; this is where we're headed."

Lexmark will provide free training for partners that sign up for Fleet Manager. Partners must purchase and supply a device, such as a PC, to host the software at end users' sites. Lexmark will also charge VARs a monthly software-hosting fee, although that fee will be waived until 2008, when participating partners will be charged on a per-image basis, with a monthly cap of $2 for each Lexmark device. Non-Lexmark devices will have a higher cap.

Along with the new managed-service offering, Lexmark also enhanced its financing options to give partners more flexibility with cost-per-page contracts and introduced two new lines of laser printers. Among the new printers is the C530, a color-laser machine that will replace Lexmark's C520 model. Starting around $500, the C530 prints 22 pages per minute in color and 24 ppm in monochrome. The new E Series monochrome lasers include standard duplexing and print 35 ppm.