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Graph Expo 2000--Vendor Coalitions Offer Real Promise

October 2000
BY CLINT BOLTE


More than 650 vendors were represented in 575 exhibits covering 480,000 net square feet at Chicago's McCormick Place. Only a fraction of the estimated 46,000 in attendance at Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2000 were at DRUPA last May. But those that were may have been startled at the changes and progress of a number of the vendors in only a matter of months.

Vendor coalitions, even among competitors, was the clear theme of this, North America's largest graphic communications trade exposition.

The initial half dozen e-commerce hubs created much of last year's Graph Expo stir. The e-commerce caldron continues to bubble over with totally different business models, interesting and successful liaisons, ever more startups, specialty vendor participants numbering more than 200—and most of the printing industry standing back with a large ladle stirring the caldron even more before choosing suppliers. Sixty-five exhibitors showed online services, e-commerce systems, or Internet-based products and services.

At Graph Expo '99, Impresse and Noosh presented what appeared to be a buyer-centric model with fees to be paid for by printers. The lack of the printing industry endorsement, coupled with the giant amalgamation of many of the leading print MIS suppliers into printCafe, showed just how nimble these dominant e-hubs can be. While printCafe's client base numbered only 7,000, these printers were the dominant revenue generators in North America. With printCafe's spring announcement of its PCX standards interface initiative, PrintTalk was formed in June consisting of 18 e-commerce and MIS competitors, representing 6,000 printers. Its objective was to draft a standards-based and open architecture to assure end-to-end connectivity between e-commerce applications and business management applications for the graphic arts industry.

Embracing the new JDF standard and cXML, PrintTalk defined 16 initial business objects. Specifications for the first and most difficult four—Request for Quote, Quote, Order, and Order Acknowledgment—were released at Graph Expo. Impresse announced that it was among four companies which have already proved the viability of these PrintTalk specifications by executing a print procurement transaction, featuring end-to-end integration and security, from a buyer's procurement system through to a printer's plant management system.

These specifications are available for download free of any license fees or royalties from the PrintTalk Website at www.printtalk.org. Additional releases meeting the other dozen objectives are planned for later this year.

printCafe softened its earlier rejection of JDF as an acceptable guideline by offering to securely pass data in compliance with CIP4 and GCA standards. One of the cornerstones of CIP4 is JDF. Additionally, printCafe plans to become active in contributing to the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) effort.
 

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