Sharp's Latest OSA Market Strategy Woos Partners

Document Architecture

At the same time, the Mahwah, N.J.-based company said it now is providing a new channel program to help solution providers attack the market with highly customized solutions for small businesses and enterprises alike.

In an announcement before its solution provider partners at the AIIM/On Demand Expo in Philadelphia earlier this month, company executives drew quick kudos from channel partners who have already been using Sharp’s OSA to build custom search and management applications.

“This [adoption] is something that’s going to happen very fast,” said Luis Gonzalez, president of M.O.S. Imaging Systems, a Miami-based Sharp dealer and developer of custom document software solutions. “The other thing we’re going to see is whoever is first is probably going to win.”

Sharp has been working on the OSA development platform for more than a year and is basing the technology on protocols such as XML and SOAP.

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Sharp President Ed McLaughlin said the company already has 26 solution providers who have begun using OSA to develop custom applications prior to its official launch. Going forward, any value-added reseller or dealer could use the technology to provide custom management, workflow and interface functionality inside Sharp MFPs, he added. “We believe it’s going to be the differentiator,” he said.

Sharp’s OSA will compete with existing technology by rivals, including Canon, Lake Success, N.Y., which currently offers its Multifunctional Embedded Application Platform (MEAP) for customization, and Lexmark, Lexington, Ky., which has provided channel partners with the opportunity to customize its devices. However, McLaughlin said that while Canon’s technology has been deployed by no more than a handful of Canon channel partners, Sharp’s OSA already has a broader adoption.

McLaughlin acknowledged that OSA may not be “as elegant” as Canon’s MEAP, but said Sharp provides more resellers with the capability to quickly create applications that can be customized not just device by device, but to create a custom user interface on each device for each individual user in an enterprise.

Sharp’s go-to-market strategy is non-direct and relies on channel partners largely via two-tier distribution. The company is seeking to build off that model and is augmenting its channel program, which initially focused on wooing solution providers with a well-known brand and 20-plus percent margins on most hardware offerings.

To coincide with the OSA kickoff, Sharp said it was unveiling new offerings for the channel, including the Sharp Developer MFP Purchase Program, where channel partners can buy discounted MFPs for use in testing custom applications based on OSA; a Developer MFP Maintenance Program to assist solution providers in long-term operation of the MFP systems; and a Sharp Marketing Program for channel partners that have developed custom applications based on OSA.

Bill Fraser, president of Fraser Advanced Information Systems, a West Reading, Pa.-based solution provider, said Sharp’s approach of providing an “open” platform, rather than proprietary technology, will speed time-to-market of offering custom solutions.

“The migration path of [proprietary] technology is very difficult,” Fraser said. “There will be an outbreak of applications [on Sharp's platform], and I think applications is where the document market is going.”

He said his company has been able to develop high-use, customized management interfaces for use on Sharp touch-screen consoles. Customers are so happy with integration he has come to calling those consoles “the money button.”

At the same time that the company rolled out its OSA platform, Sharp unveiled a series of new multifunction devices—the MX-5500N, the MX-6200N and the MX-7000N—all networkable, color devices with speeds ranging at 41 ppm in color and up to 62 ppm in monochrome. The devices also all are ready to integrate with OSA-based applications.

The MFPs are set to ship this summer, and pricing has not yet been set.