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