Xerox Corp. today unveiled office automation products and a strategy as part of the struggle to duplicate its photocopier success in the rough-and-tumble computer industry.
Xerox recognizes "its future lies in providing a broad line of business systems in the office," said Xerox President and Chief Executive Officer David T. Kearns. "For the first time, we have a long-term systems strategy."
The new systems represent the cornerstone of Xerox's efforts to reduce its dependence on traditional copier technology for revenue as it bids to compete in the growing office automation market. By the end of the decade, more than half the company's revenue should come from its new lines of office automation equipment, Kearns said. Copiers account for nearly three-fourths of Xerox's $8.8 billion in sales.
Xerox's new strategy is based on "document processing" rather than "data processing." Rather than focusing on personal computer and minicomputer technology for shuffling databases or performing spreadsheet calculations, Xerox is emphasizing its expertise in formatting and printing the paper documents that constitute the bulk of a corporation's internal and external communications.
The company's self-described "documents solutions" approach differs significantly from the approaches taken by International Business Machines Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp., which offer the computer primarily as an information storage and manipulation device.
"What Xerox is saying is 'We are going to own the document world,' " said K. C. Branscomb, a Silicon Valley computer systems consultant.
The company's product introductions heavily underscored Xerox's commitment to what it hopes will be a multibillion-dollar "electronic publishing" market. While Xerox did introduce some IBM-compatible personal computers, the bulk of the attention at the Lincoln Center press conference was lavished on Xerox's 4045 Laser CP printer, which provides exceptionally-high-quality printing of text and graphics at 10 pages a minute for $4,995.
Xerox also offered its 3700 Laser Printing System for companies that need high-volume output of 40,000 pages a month. In effect, Xerox is giving companies the technology to become their own layout, typsetting and print shops.
Xerox stressed that all of these products could be linked to each other and to American Telephone & Telegraph and IBM equipment in various computer networking formats. "Our approach is to co-exist in that world" of competing computer companies, said Xerox Systems Group President Robert V. Adams. The company is seeking to position its products as complements, as well as competitors, to existing office automation systems.
However, many analysts are skeptical of Xerox's ability to market its technology effectively. Despite the company's large sales force and expertise in selling photocopying systems, they argue that experience indicates that Xerox simply isn't up to competing against the likes of IBM and Wang Laboratories in the fast-paced office automation market.
"It's a nice approach, but I don't think they can pull it off," said Edward Poshkus, an industry analyst at Creative Strategies in San Jose and a former Xerox consultant. "It's coming from the copier side of the market rather than the computer side, and I don't think the electronic-publishing concept is going to sell all that well."
Moreover, several other companies, including IBM and Japanese electronic firms, are expected to offer price-competitive laser printers before the end of the year.
Poshkus and other analysts point to Xerox's slow-selling attempt to enter the personal-computer market in 1981 with its Star computer system. Similarly, they say that many of Xerox's most brilliant technologies -- many devised at the company's Palo Alto research center -- have ended up being marketed by other companies. Apple Computer Co.'s Macintosh computer, for example, is an offshoot of work originally done at Xerox. Xerox's Ethernet computer network technology, which has begun to become an industry standard, is marketed more successfully by other local area network companies.
"They've let a lot of people steal their thunder," Poshkus said.
But Xerox insists that it has restructured itself to take advantage of internally developed technology and market it in a "coherent and organized" way.
"We have been fragmented, but not any longer," asserted Xerox's Adams.
"This is Xerox's renaissance of hope," said consultant Branscomb.