Sharp, Florida Solution Provider Gain Traction With Customization Platform

Mahwah, N.J.-based Sharp Document Solutions of America, the printer/copier division of the global technology giant, rolled out its OSA technology eight months ago -- the focal point of its effort to provide customization to its hardware.

Wes Benwick, CEO of Bennett Business Systems, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based solution provider, said the company recently won a contract at Florida Community College in Jacksonville against bidders that included IKON and Xerox.

"We never would have had a single IT person's ear," Benwick said. "We certainly never would be talking to someone in their network operations center. It has pushed us deeper into the enterprise."

OSA is an application development platform that enables solution providers to write software that resides directly on a Sharp multifunction printer. Other vendors -- including Canon, Lexmark and Xerox -- have similar customization platforms. For its part, Sharp is in the second year of a re-engagement with the IT solution provider channel beyond its traditional office products channel.

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Benwick said Bennett Business Systems initially began bidding for the college account with a fax server solution, but after discussions with the IT managers found that the school was experiencing increasing downtime. Using Sharp's OSA as a framework, Bennett Business Systems developed an application that allows the college's personnel to reorder supplies or order a service call directly via the device.

"Many adjunct professors who come in at night would never go to a training class, most likely, or won't make a phone call after hours" to replace supplies or request service for a multifunction printer, Benwick said. "We built this service and supply app to show the college how to teach adjunct professors and get them in the habit of using the front panel of the machine to place service calls."

OSA provides a development environment under which applications can be written, installed directly on a multifunction device and allow the device to communicate through a network without first going through a PC. Bennett's company is also using the Sharp framework to develop a new fax server application that will allow multifunction devices to send and receive faxes and, rather than spitting out a paper copy, deliver or send them in digital format to a hard drive.