Obfuscate. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “to make obscure” as in to darken or confuse. I like Wikipedia’s definition, which reads, “Obfuscate is the concealment of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, intentionally ambiguous, and more difficult to interpret.” It seems to be the word du jour, since no one really wants to tell, or hear, reality any more.
Case in point is some of the recent forays of Xerox and HP into the “document management” arena. When cornered by the print media, the responses are couched in phrases which in so many words say – trust us.
Let’s be candid. These companies are in the business of document management. This means they are in the business of creating the box that produces the document or the software which manages it. If we think that they’re going to stop selling hardware to end users because it’s unfair to printers – think again. And if we think that organizations like NAPL/NAQP or Printing Industries of America can put a stop to it, it ain’t going to happen. And it’s not about loss of revenue dollars that both organizations garner from endorsement arrangements. To use the Texas parlance, “it’s bidness.”
It would be nice to hear from the leadership of these companies that their business is the document business and they serve both producers and users. In the short term it may hurt one group more than the other, but in the long term it will help these companies grow their business and provide a product which their customers’ desire. It’s the plain ugly truth about business – especially in today’s world of digital media.
Thus, it’s time to either fight them or join them — and the latter may be more survivable. By joining them, I mean study the business model which companies like Standard Register, Affiliated Computer Services, Xerox, etc. are using. The vast majority of our print community can not replicate those type of enterprise services, but maybe they can be replicated in some simpler form to service smaller companies, which will be ignored by the larger corporations. It’s the way to survive. If we think that we can continue to “just be a printer,” our days become quickly numbered. If we see ourselves as a document provider (I’m not using the word “print”), then a whole world of opportunity opens up. So, let’s not obfuscate. Let’s call it like it is. Print IS going away, but it’s not going to disappear. We just have to determine where the cheese is going to be.