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Seikosha is preparing to challenge Epson in the UK printer market. Nothing strange about, that you might think, except both companies are part of the same Seiko Epson Group of Japan. The competition is genuine and serious. Having two products on a shortlist can increase the chances of winning a particular account. At the same time, it means there are two sets of expenses incurred at many sites. According to Tokyo-based Seikosha product planning manager Mr Sawada, the competition is the important thing: Seiko believes in competition, both internal and external. So far, Epson has won hands down in the UK with Seikosha registering just 4,500 unit sales in 1986 and around double that so far this year. The Seikosha target for the immediate future is about 9% of a fast-growing market it estimates currently at 684,000 units. In West Germany, where Seikosha has its European headquarters, it has achieved that level, with 60,000 sales out of a total of 697,000 dot matrix printer sales. There Seikosha has five specialist printer distributors – one in each of Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt – four of the six big mail-order houses, three of the four biggest department store chains and OEM customers such as Ericsson Germany, Blaupunkt, and Schneider selling its products. In the UK, by contrast, only MBS Group’s DDL is distributing the printers. DDL has, however, just scored its first major success with the Seikosha line. Dixons Plc has signed for 10,000 dot matrix printers in the run-up to Christmas. The order is for a mixture of the 120chps SP1200 and the 24-pin SL80. In addition to the West German deals with Ericsson, Blaupunkt and Schneider, Seikosha currently sells various of its products to Philips, Siemens, Tandy and Wang under OEM contracts signed direct with the parent in Japan. Seikosha has traditionally had a presence at the top and bottom end of the market. Light-emitting diode At the top end, aimed at minicomputer and personal computer network users, it has the 18-pin SBP-10 introduced at the CeBit ’87 Hanover Fair. At 800chps in draft mode, it is claimed to be the world’s fastest dot matrix printer and is designed for 100% use. Epson- and IBM Proprinter-compatible with parallel, serial, coax and twinax interfaces, the SBP-10 offers Pica, Elite, Proportional, Italic, Bold, Subscript and Superscript fonts as standard and OCR-A and OCR-B as options. It handles A-4 and B-4 paper sizes as well as continuous stationery, and has battery backed programs and buffers. CeBit also saw the launch of the SL130 AI, a 24-pin, eight font, 216chps IBM- and Epson-compatible printer for PC users. At the low end, Seikosha has supplied Commodore Business Machines and Atari with printers to go with their home computers, and Amstrad also took 200,000 Seikosha print head mechanisms for early versions of the PCW word processing range. Back home, in the early 1980s it used also to supply NEC, Fujitsu, Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba at the low end but has lost market share as its customers developed their own products. A similar pattern may emerge in the fut-ure with manufacturers queueing up to licence Seikosha’s non-impact light emitting diode, LED, technology until their own is ready. The first fruits of Seikosha efforts in the LED direction were shown at CeBit. A five page per minute machine will be launched in March and a 15ppm printer is scheduled for next October. It will include Hewlett-Packard Laserjet, Epson and Diablo 630 emulations. Seikosha is looking for partners to develop the technology. An interesting brotherly battle lies ahead.

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CBR Staff Writer

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