UK Tech Week: Xerox joins in the digital dance

Rick Thoman, president and CEO of Xerox, cast away the company's long-standing image of copier dinosaur and flaunted a new image focused on networked, digital products and strategic industry alliances.

The Former IBM-er gave a keynote at UK technology week today telling the audience that organisations that are out of step in the digital dance will encounter painful times ahead. "We often take the pace of technological change for granted. The Net has taken us on a roller-coaster ride. We need to fasten our seat belts for the roller coaster ahead."

In an interview with ZDNet News, Thoman said Xerox would aggressively roll out new software, hardware and services to bridge the gap between paper and digital document processing and that copiers alone would become only a small part of the company's business. "People don't understand that we are no longer a copier company. We're shedding that image."

Xerox' facelift kicks off with a huge, multi-milion dollar advertising campaign in the US this week and includes the launch of around 20 new products for specific industry sectors including manufacturing and publishing.

The company moved into the networking products line as late as this year, but it is now working with European and Japanese manufacturers to develop just-in-time systems for publishing manuals. It has also teamed up with "a major German publishing house" to develop digital book production capabilities.

"I expect 50 percent of our revenues to come from these digital products. Over the past six months we've seen a 40-plus per cent increase in networkable product revenues. Analogue products account for around 35 percent of revenues," said Thoman.

The biggest industry alliance is with Lotus to create interoperability between paper and electronic systems based on Xerox' Document Centre office technology and Lotus Domino. The initial implementation will allow users to scan hard copy images or text into Lotus Notes e-mail or Domino format. An English language version will be available in fourth quarter 1998. Additionally, the pair will increase support for Salutation, the open office architecture for managing network devices from scanners to fax machines, next year.

Thoman also unveiled Eureka a new tip sharing system developed by its flagship Paulo Alto research centre and being piloted in Xerox, France. "The idea is to create a environment where service people learn, fix product problems and share the knowledge rather than keep it to themselves," he said.

Eureka, which on Xerox software uses Notes-like capabilities but is cheaper than Notes, is being trialled by a "leading European" telco, according to Thoman.


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