In an unusual twist, Kodak and Xerox stepped in as premium sponsors of the 2005 conference, following Hewlett-Packard's decision earlier this year to withdraw its support of ICE and to create a new organization for HP Indigo customers. Those two were joined at ICE by 25 other sponsors, consisting primarily of paper, variable data printing (VDP) and Web-based storefront software vendors.
Future sponsorships for the annual conference are still to be worked out, given Xerox's existing support for its Premier Partners program and Kodak's plans for what was the former Creo users group. One of the primary goals for the organization will also be to re-engage HP for its participation, according to Val DiGiacinto, of The Ace Group in New York City, who serves as ICE President.
Despite the uncertainty about premier sponsors for the 2006 event, the 240 attendees at this year's meeting—representing 85 printing companies—were pleased with what proved to be an informative and engaging program.
Frank Romano, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, provided the opening keynote. He chastised printers, in general, for doing such a poor job in promoting and explaining the value of VDP to customers. Although it's now been 12 years since Indigo and Xeikon introduced digital production color to the marketplace, he believes the industry seriously lacks a "cohesive marketing approach" and has been slow to invest in new technology. Some other observations Romano made:
* PRINT 05 showed that digital printing is not going to replace offset. They go hand in hand, and there will be more hybrid products that incorporate offset printed shells with variable data digital printing.
* Higher margins can be found in providing creative services, not just for digital printing output, because clients won't question the creative charges on an invoice. "No one ever goes out and gets three bids for creative," he says.