Xerox Woos Channel Partners, SMBs

"With our new partner program, we're targeting a subset of the reseller community, the high-end solution VARs, to entice them to build out a document solutions practice area that is broader than print management," says Jim Firestone, president of Xerox. "This subset includes both VARs that have declared an intention to build out a document solutions practice area, as well as VARs that we have identified as candidates that have the wherewithal to do so."

Xerox is targeting about 600 U.S. resellers with the new program, under which the vendor will make available all of its office products, including its higher-end multifunction devices as well as other software and services. Doing so will double the number of systems available currently, Firestone says. Xerox previously has given its partners access to about 25 printers and basic MFPs, while it sold the rest of its line direct or through its agent channel to larger firms.

Xerox also added five new color printers to its product mix, including two multifunction models. The company now has eight color printers priced between $350 and $1,500 -- products that Xerox says can find a home in either SMBs or enterprise workgroups.

"We, and the industry overall, tend to want to separate among the SMB and enterprise market, but it's really separated around what you are trying to do," says David Bates, vice president, product marketing, Xerox. "SMBs that print a lot need a printer from the higher end of line. Many enterprise accounts want small workgroup printers, where one of the lower cost products would be more appropriate."

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Among the lowest priced of the new models is the $500 6180 color laser printer, which prints 20 pages per minute in color and 26 ppm in black and white. Xerox sees this model, which sits smack in the middle of its color printer line, as a sweet spot with its balance of speed, features and cost.

On the MFP side, Xerox has introduced the Phaser 6115MFP, a color laser device that prints at 5 ppm in color and 20 ppm in monochrome; it also scans, copies and faxes documents. It will cost around $800.

Toward the higher end of its line of office MFPs, Xerox also launched a new solid ink model. The Phaser 8560MFP is a workgroup device that replaces the Xerox WorkCentre C424 solid ink MFP. The 8560MFP prints at 30 ppm in monochrome and color and costs around $1,500.

On the hardware side, Xerox is urging partners to concentrate their efforts on selling color printers and MFPs, which offer higher opportunities for revenue and margins. Sales of color printers are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent from now until 2010, according to InfoTrends. The company also encouraged partners to target the SMB market, which it identified as a $44 billion market worldwide. But the main focus at Xerox's event was around developing services and solutions around the hardware, as resellers continue to face thin margins on hardware sales.