Eastman Kodak Co. is playing for keeps with Keeps. Keeps, the Kodak Ektaprint electronic publishing system, is one of two "integrated image management systems" that the company introduced last week in the quest to strengthen its hand in the office-products market. The other is Kims, the Kodak image management system, which is designed to retrieve images of microfilmed documents automatically and digitize them for relay over an electronic network.
Keeps uses computer terminals, scanners, laser printers and software to compose and print documents, eliminating the need to cut and paste text and graphics created separately when preparing pages for printing. Not only can text be composed on the computer terminal, but graphics can be created, cropped and sized on the screen. And everything, including type sizes and fonts, is displayed on the screen exactly as it will appear when printed.
Analyst Eugene G. Glazer, who follows Kodak and Xerox Corp. for Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., said that the new products bring Kodak "into fairly direct competition with what Xerox is doing. Xerox has been in the leading position in document handling, and Kodak has been challenging Xerox in the copying business." Now the competition is extending to document handling, Glazer asserted.
While Kims has no corollary at Xerox, Keeps is similar to some new Xerox products, he said. A Kodak spokeswoman said the Xerox products cover "the high end and the low end" of the electronic publishing market. "They left a nice big gap right down the middle for Keeps , and we're happy about that," she said. The basic system, which includes a laser printer, will sell in the $50,000 range.
"I think the basic overall umbrella under which Kodak is acting is imaging technology," Glazer said. "Where in the past, that technology was silver-halide-based photography , they're trying to broaden the technology . . . into electronic imaging, manipulation of those images, printing of those images. I think Xerox is going to continue to have a very strong position in that market."
The new Kodak products represent competition for Xerox, "competition that they would expect," he added.
"I think this is just the beginning" of an accelerated move outward from standard photography, the Kodak spokeswoman said.
Keeps somewhat resembles Apple's Macintosh in its method of operation. ("I have heard someone call it a Super Macintosh," the Kodak spokeswoman admitted.) Operators use a pointer, or "mouse," to choose pictorial representations, or icons, of various tasks that can be performed, and the terminal screen can be segmented to display portions of several documents simultaneously.
Not surprisingly, the giant company has been testing Keeps in its Copy Products Division and, also not surprisingly, rave reviews are included in the press kit. One publications editor said using Keeps reduced from between four and five months to three weeks the time needed to update a booklet, a process that included eight revision cycles.
Kodak initially will market Keeps in Washington, New York City, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles by the end of the year.
Kims includes computer terminals, printers, microfilm autoloaders and software. Although the first systems are designed to retrieve information from microfilm, later versions will perform the same functions from images stored on optical disks. Kodak has reached the prototype stage in its optical-disk research.
With Kims, retrieved images can be enhanced to increase readability, enlarged up to four times normal size, annotated or combined with other documents before being transmitted along an electronic network or printed out.
Kims is aimed at institutions that keep gigantic quantities of records that have to be retrieved and studied periodically: insurance companies, financial institutions, corporate headquarters, engineering and design operations, and state, local and federal government agencies, according to Kodak. Transportation companies and research and pharmaceutical firms also are considered potential clients because they need to retrieve information quickly from reports and other documents.
Health-claims processing could prove to be the most fertile market for Kims. "It is not unusual for a health insurance organization to process upwards of between 7 million and 10 million claims a year, or to microfilm documents that represent multiples of those numbers," Kodak said.
The heart of the current system is an autoloader, or automatic arm resembling part of a juke box: It travels vertically and horizontally along a cabinet filled with microfilm reels to retrieve the correct one and insert it in a scanning device, which then digitizes the sought-after images and sends them to the user's computer screen.
Paul M. Artlip, the new system's marketing manager, said that, although Kodak sees optical disks increasing in importance in data storage, it believes magnetic disks and microfilm will not be eliminated.
He said magnetic disks and tape are fine for storing transient data, but the danger of accidental erasure is a drawback. He noted that the ability to change the contents of magnetically stored data makes them unsuitable for storing source documents that might be needed as legal proof of a transaction.
Microfilm, on the other hand, is ideal for this purpose, and data can be put on microfilm easily and quickly, Artlip said. But he added that it takes considerably longer to search microfilm for the needed documents -- even with Kims -- than to search magnetic disks.
Artlip said that, although optical disks have much greater storage capacity than magnetic disks, they don't have "the longevity of microfilm. For instance, a number of manufacturers have set 10 years as an initial 'keeping' goal."
He said that Kims could be used to transfer often-retrieved data from microfilm to magnetic or optical disks, while retaining the microfilmed version for protection.