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Fax machine designs to make current equipment obsolete.

"On-the-self technology is about to change the USA facsimile industry as it is known today. That's because home-based fax will grow and new business designs will offer higher productivity and reduced operating costs. Both fax machines and computer-based fax will see the same kinds of improvements over the next ten years as those which fueled the personal computer industry the last ten years."

This is according to Ken Camarro, author of the recently published "Fax Trend Report" and head of Camarro Research, based in Fairfield, Conn.

The firm, which focuses on office automation products, foresees facsimile transmission becomming the preferred mail replacement method over E-mail and electronic data interchange (EDI), and sees distinct roles for both stand-alone fax machines and computer-based fax.

This is contrary to some analysts' claims that computer-based fax is going to replace the fax machine.

Camarro says that computer-based fax has inherent limitations in ease of access, dealing with hard-copy originals, and physical delivery, and he says solutions to these problems are oversimplified. Another factor is that fax machines are designed for full-time low power standby--just like a simple phone--and there is a power-consumption problem with PC-based fax systems.

He also says that the current public switched telephone system (PSTN) has the hidden potential to compete strongly for the short-document fax market (alongside high-speed Group 4 digital transmission) and that proponents of digital G4 simply don't mention that the adoption of the required Switched 56 and ISDN lines is not going to be a smooth as was the rollout of fax on the world telephone network.

So far, he thinks that both vendors and the telephone companies are overlooking some great G3 solutions which could be implemented well ahead of digital fax.

These and other nonconventional findings are covered in the new Camarro Research report which is intended to stimulate fax engineers and telephone carrier managers to improve the current systems.

Camarro says, for example: "There is going to be a lot of pressure to speed up even the lowest-cost fax machine and fax boards to 14,400 bps, from the prevailing 9600 bps, so that business tax units won't incur expensive phone bills when calling a residential fax. No matter what the cost of the added components, every user will get payback over the life of the unit."

He goes on to say, "This will not result in incompability because every unit will still step down to 9600 if required, but new models will shift to the higher performance modems."

Camarro also says, "One has to study every aspect of fax to make sense out of it. Consumer fax is not divorced from business fax. What starts out as a highend feature often slides down to lower cost units, as is the case in the PC industry, and all fax machines use the same telephone lines."

His firm covered low-end, midrange, high-end, network manager, and computer-based fax products in the study.

It also gauged the market size and trends, and looked at the new proposed CCITT standards and trends in switched digital service.

"What results is a market and communications capability that is like the earlier telegraph, and now the telephone, radio, and TV communications modes in its significance."

Here are some of the things in store for the facsimile industry:

FAX MARKET

In spite of a near-term slowdown, U.S. fax sales are expected to grow beyond 5 million units per year by 1995.

There were an estimated 1.6 million U.S. fax machine shipments in 1989 and of these 70% were produced by Shapr, Murata, Panasonic, Ricoh, and Canon.

Low-end units comprised 62% of sales in 1989, 31% were midrange, and 7% were high-end systems. Low-end sales will rise to 76% of sales by 1995, midrange will be 18%, and high-end will account for 6% of sales. Even though the mix shifts over time, each segment will continue to grow because of market expansion and product obsolesence.

FAX DISTRIBUTION

By 1992, low-end fax distribution will spread to most retail establishments that now sell the $200 VCR. Warehouse clubs will retain a strong position but office superstore outlets will become the principal channel for most low-end and some midrange business fax systems. Even some basic high-end units will find their way to mass retail, with midrange and high-end performance beginning to blur because of the laser printer.

Retailers will handle fax units as just another telephone category alongside feature phones, TADs, cellular, and cordless phones.

The NOMDA dealers, VARs (value-added resellers), computer specialty, and telecomm dealers selling fax will become network conscious and learn how to sell fax systems which lower user telephone costs.

The current direct sales channels will promote corporate sales and networks and collaborate with dealers for installation and support.

BUSINESS FAX

Ink-jet and both laser and LED engine plain paper fax will achieve instant success because copier machines and laser printers have established a plain paper expectation among users. Plain paper capability will be available in every category by the end of 1991.

"Fax gridlock" is an enormous industry problem which is not being adequately addressed, and Switched 56 and ISDN will not solve this problem for the PSTN. The U.S. needs to upgrade to fax machines and fax boards with 14.4 kbps trellis coded modems to improve speed and copy quality and to reduce busy signals and costs.

G3 fax machines and the PSTN have to be optimized because the PSTN is simply going to remain as the most prevalent global network for the next 20 years.

The telephone companies and PBX manufacturers will develop services and capabilities to allow small-group direct inward dial (DID) for departmental fax machines and outbound calling through the PBX.

A new family of work group and departmental fax products will decentralize fax operations and bring mail sending and receiving closer to the individual and work group. These products will work as stand-alone products and/or as servers on computer networks.

New fax machine designs will have a modular telephone line interface to accommodate PSTN, Switched 56, and ISDN line combinations.

While ISDN and Switched 56 digital service will expand G4 use over the next five years, the currently proposed (and approved in the U.S.) digital G3 approach (G3 resolutions and coding at 56-64 kbps speeds and ECM over Switched 56 or ISDN) is likely to be enthusiastically received by users because it is faster and the equipment is more versatile. As a result, digital G3 and G4 are going to coexist and new designs will have to accommodate each group.

Common carrier and local telco provided value-added fax services have a lot of potential but need better pricing. Low-cost simultaneous broadcasting to large corporate nets and the faxing of newspapers, newsletters, questionnaires, and ballots are ideal applications. Local telephone companies can also offer store and forward on designated fax lines so that senders never receive a busy signal.

FAX NETWORK MANAGERS

Over 700 corporate network fax managers systems are installed in Japan; however, this newly introduced concept in the U.S. will have to be redesigned to provide improved outbound and inbound fax messaging.

A new family of work group/departmental/facility fax manager products is expected to more fully automate fax and reduce costs. These PBX-based systems will contend strongly with computer-based fax systems.

COMPUTER-BASED FAX

There is a major trend to design computer-based fax so that virtually any document, file, or screen can be sent via fax and reconstructed at the receiving end.

Computer-based fax boards have the same requirements as stand-alone fax machines in terms of faster 14.4 kbps modems, MMR coding, and ECM. Future designs will handle G4, have modular line interfaces, and offer G3 to digital G3 and G4 conversion.

U.S. MARKET REQUIREMENTS

Camarro contends the needs of the U.S. market are an afterthought for most Pacific Rim producers who dominate the industry.

"Fax machines are like the original VCRs which were never tested in the USA to see if customers could operate them. Most fax machines which come to the USA are influenced by Japanese design customs and Japan's expensive telephone system. The USA offers at least one-third of the world fax market and is the most mail intensive society on the planet. This means we need to do more fax product planning in the USA in order to get the specs we need!"
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Facsimile
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:1394
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