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printCafe vs. PrintTalk--Waging a PrintWar?

November 2000
BY CAROLINE MILLER


In the realm of printing management systems, there's probably no hotter topic right now than printCafe and PrintTalk. The January 2000 announcement of the merger of nth degree software and Prograph to form printCafe, then the subsequent acquisitions of AHP, Hagen Systems, Logic Associates, M Data and Programmed Solutions left the industry confused, nervous and full of questions. That air of uncertainty was further fueled when, in June, the remaining MIS systems and 10 e-commerce companies announced the formation of the PrintTalk consortium. Both PrintTalk and printCafe made promises of seamless integration from the buyer to printer, but many in the industry remained skeptical.

Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2000 in Chicago proved to be the watershed moment for both PrintTalk and printCafe. PrintTalk unveiled and successfully demonstrated the first implementations between four companies.

While, across the show floor, printCafe demonstrated the coupling of its Web solution with its business management solutions with data flowing to and from the shop floor via its direct machine interface with MAN Roland, and integration to the print buyer's Ariba e-procurement platform.

Despite both demonstrations, there is still some confusion surrounding what exactly printCafe and PrintTalk are offering and how they differ from each other. So, in an effort to clear up the muddy waters that encircle both printCafe and PrintTalk, Printing Impressions presents a primer on printCafe and PrintTalk, their evolution and how they view their respective places in the market.

In February and March 2000, the newly formed printCafe, backed by CreoScitex, acquired what it believed were the leading MIS systems in the commercial printing industry. The concept behind the creation of printCafe was to integrate printer and print buyer MIS systems with e-commerce. printCafe built an Internet-based print procurement platform, so printers could automate the entire printing process from creation of the job on the buyer's side through the product delivery. printCafe offers online solutions that enable print buyers to create specifications for a print job, send them out for quotation, accept a bid and follow the production schedule, while maintaining communication with the print vendor and all suppliers throughout the production process.

printCafe felt that its solutions were perfectly suited for the industry. "We saw clearly that a lot of the e-commerce players in the market did not fully understand how the printing industry supply chain worked," explains printCafe co-CEO Marc Olin. "There were people who had come from outside the printing industry that had developed solutions which were somewhat hostile to the printers. Based on our many years of experience in the printing industry by delivering electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions to print buyers and printers, we felt that we were uniquely qualified to provide an end-to-end solution that addressed the needs of printers, as well as print buyers."
 

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