Multi-functionality or utility?

DQW Bureau
New Update


The word ‘multi-function’ has acquired a whole new

dimension in the world we live in today. If there is a prefix that has come of

age in the new millennium, it is the term multi–be it a multi-dime-nsional

personality, multi-faceted character or the ability to multi-task in today’s

high-pressure job environment.

The Indian IT peripherals industry, one of the fastest gro-wing

segments within the IT hardware sector is no exception to the rule and in

keeping with the trend of multi-tasking, has seen the birth of several

multi-functional devices that perform additional services in tandem with their

core functionality. The availability of such mac-hines has revolutionized the

industry and significantly increased the choice of produ-cts available to the

customers, as they are not only more ‘affordable’ than their predeces-sors,

but also offer the consu-mer better value and a greater variety of features

provided the customer makes an informed choice.

Influenced by the manufa-cturers or purely for their ‘user-friendly’

quality, the market has developed its own set of three letter acronyms for these

new age devices. Words like AIO (All In One), MFD (Multi Function Device) and

MFP (Multi Fun-ction Products) have become the latest buzz words within the IT

peripherals industry. An interesting differentiation which is a must-know for

the layman looking at making a purchase within this is product category is that

the low-end inkjet varieties are often refe-rred to as AIOs, while the hea-vier

duty laser cartridge-based devices are termed as MFDs or MFPs.


While the birth of the MFD has been heralded as a

signi-ficant milestone for the indu-stry, for the serious buyer it is important

to go beyond the marketing hype associated with these products to under-stand

the ‘utility benefits’ these products deliver to organizations. When making

this purchase decision, con-sumers need to make their final decision after

evaluating both the utility and the value additions provided by the machines and

benchmarking them against their require-ments from the product. A buyer would do

well to ensure that in the final analysis his/her utility delivery (the ability

of the machine to perform the main function for which it has been purchased)

rates higher than the Value Added Service that the user might derive from the


Let’s take the example of color televisions. Nowadays,

televisions are available with so many features that even a dealer would find it

challenging to list its features in entirety. Furthermore, those features are

only advertised and the con-sumer does not even consider them when making a

purchase decision. The capability of the television is to beam good quality

picture and produce good quality sound and this ultimately becomes the decid-ing

factor. What’s more, during the product’s life cycle, only about three to

four features and seven to eight keys in the remote control end up being used—the

rest are not used or discovered!

The same holds true for an MFD. The point to be conside-red

when purchasing an MFD is how many of its features will have a high relevance

for your office. Certain criteria/features will hold true for any SMB (Small and

Medium Business) office. For example-

  • A basic copier is required for a group of people.

  • In a networked condi-tion, printing load of a mini-mum of

    six workstations has to be met.

  • With a faxing function, the machine needs to be ‘on’

    for a minimum of 12 hours in a day.

In order to cope with the office workload, the device needs

to be efficient in perfor-ming all these individual fun-ctions, as they are

vital to the running of the business. The point here to be considered is that

there must be a perfect fit between the features of an MFP/MFD and the primary

functional requirements of your office. In other words, there is no point in

buying an expensive hi-tech product if it does not serve your basic req-uirement.

Hence, the features and characteristics of any device must be carefully


Another important point to remember is that although these

devices are called Multi Function Products, they are essentially built over a

single function with the other functions being thrown in as add on features. For

example, there are devices that are predominantly printers, but can copy and

scan and fax machines, which in addition to their main functionality of faxing

can also copy and print. Given this context, customers would do well to first

identify their core requirements from the product (printing, scanning or

copying) and then purchase a machine that best delivers on their core

requirements with-out being swayed by its ability to deliver additional suppor-ting



As you can see, buying an MFD is not as easy as it might seem

and many factors need to be evaluated when purchasing an MFD, MFP or AIO device,

if the customer is to get the best product for his business or personal

requirements. In this regard, to make the lives of their customers easier, manu-factures

would do well if they start re-branding their products and market them as ‘multi-utility’

rather than multi-fun-ctional products, as that will help consumers purchase

those products that add the most value to his personal or pro-fessional lives.

Som Gangopadhyay

Senior Marketing Manager (Office Systems and Solutions) Canon India Pvt Ltd