The opportunities facing the digital on-demand printing industry are unprecedented, according to Rick Thoman, chief executive of copier giant Xerox.
"Our studies show that the total number of electronic and paper documents will soar from just over two trillion a few years ago to 20 trillion by 2005, and 40 per cent of that market will be available to the digital printing industry," he said.
During his keynote speech at On Demand 2000, a digital printing and publishing conference, Thoman reflected on the past decade as well as predicting the next. "Looking back is fairly easy; looking ahead has never been more difficult," he said.
Thoman pointed out that the pace of change in the industry is "breathtaking", and said that three technologies - computing, imaging and communications - have collided to fuel the convergence of economic growth.
"Database marketing, data mining and digital printing enable more effective and highly personalised customer communications," he said, adding that companies are gaining competitive advantage by incorporating new technological capabilities and changing the way they do business.
For example, companies with direct selling models such as Dell have revolutionised the computer industry. "Dell doesn't make something and hope to sell it. It sells it and makes exactly what the customer ordered, with a 24x7 virtual storefront on the internet," he said.
"The impact of the internet world can't be overstated. It is bringing dynamic change to the new business or printing. Colour will be pervasive and documents themselves will change."
Xerox is expected to launch an online service for graphic arts companies to offer remote print distribution, guaranteed print, content and copyright management later this year.
The global digital printing community will become an ebusiness market over the next 10 years, said Thoman.
"Printing around the world will be distributed through high-speed, high-bandwidth pipelines."
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