IBM announced last week a suite of printing solutions for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) requiring more flexible printing options. It is the first print product offered as part of IBM's Express portfolio of products.
IBM also announced software and service solutions with new ThinkPads and an IBM Education Pack.
The announcement is part of a whirlwind of product additions from IBM in recent weeks to its Express line of products, which are designed specifically for the SMB.
The portfolio includes three offerings: IBM InfoPrint Express, InfoPrint Express Package for ERP [enterprise resource planning] and the InfoPrint Express Package for iSeries.
This is the first print offering in the express portfolio and represents a move Sageza Group research director Charles King calls an "interesting twist" in the IBM express portfolio strategy.
"In the past, the strategy was that they were really leveraging their middleware off as development platforms for ISVs to utilize as way to develop new SMB solutions. … I think that has been pretty successful in certain areas, … bringing SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle on board with the same methodology," King said.
With the hardware offering, King said IBM has begun using Express as a way of pushing ThinkPad solutions and as a way of expanding sales of IBM printing products.
"The ThinkPad is kind of a natural fit [with Express]," King said, adding that the principal printing products are interesting in that [companies] do have low rent options in Epson, Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard, but using the Express option gives them "all Blue brand."
InfoPrint Express consists of a selection of monochrome and color printers with maximum print speeds of 20 to 40 pages per minute, with software, services and financing options, as well as a range of connectivity options, including wireless technology, said Martin Vidaurre, global small medium business marketing manager, IBM's printing systems division.
The ERP package helps improve the distributed print environment and optimize communication flow of information to suppliers and customers by enabling full utilization of ERP databases, Vidaurre said. The iSeries package integrates print management functionality and enables customers to print business critical information reliably through system-managed printing.
Pricing for each of the options varies by configuration, Vidaurre said, with printers starting at $700 for basic models and $3,000 for more robust versions. The iSeries Package typically configures at $2,400, with any increase dependent on the type of printer purchased. The ERP Package pricing depends on the number of users, with approximately $49,000 the starting price for 30 users and $72,000 for 100 users.
The new Express ThinkPad models include the ThinkPad X40, and the ThinkPad R50e and R51 notebooks. These new models feature IBM ThinkVantage Technologies.
With the Rescue and Recovery with Rapid Restore contained within ThinkVantage, users will have a set of tools contained in an emergency operating system that provides one-button relief from common PC problems, such as viruses or corrupted software files -- even if the main operating system will not boot.
Pricing for the ThinkPad X40 Express models start at $1,499, with the ThinkPad R50e Express models starting at $1,129, and the ThinkPad R51 Express models at $1,199, said Tom Grimes, the global marketing manager for SMB and IBM personal computing division.
To address the challenge SMBs face in developing more efficient and cost-effective education and training for employees, IBM will also offer the IBM Education Pack, a set of three offerings for IBM education and training in IT. The pack provides access to classroom training, IBM technical conferences and e-learning. Express discounts on these classes are available from 5% to 10%.