InBox: How does Xinet's service compare to the ASP model?
Seebass: We sell off-the-shelf, pre-packaged software that provides many of the services that most of these print ASPs provide, not all of the services, but many of them: file transfer, interacting with customers, customer management over the Internet.
InBox: What obstacles do you face (if any) in convincing ASP users that an alternative might work for them?
Seebass: We've found that the biggest barrier to selling the software is people's ability to establish a quick Internet connection and installing a firewall. But in order to use any of these ASPs successfully, you still have to do that. If you want to talk to an ASP, they're Internet-based. You have to have a firewall and you have to have a fast Internet connection. That's the vast majority of the expense of setting up this sort of thing yourself. Once you have that, the incremental costs to add your own services is very inexpensive. The ASPs will say to people who want to do these things themselves, "Oh, you're going out and inventing your own software, and don't get to leverage our knowledge from working with other customers." But the reality is you don't have to invent your software or hire someone to write it. There's packaged software out there. Many of ASPs use other people's software to provide their services, so all customers are really buying from them is marketing and a server to host it on, which most printers already have.
InBox: So are you saying that ASP users are lazy, or just afraid for the security of their own clients?
Seebass: If there isn't sufficient firewall and security, then they are not going to be able to access their ASP anyway. They're going to have to have security if they are going to get on the Internet and talk to an ASP. So, it's mainly a fact that they are afraid to take the leap in to providing the service themselves. The really big downside is not that you pay more for an ASP but that you aren't differentiating your service from anybody else using that ASP. And a really common complaint we found was, "Well, customer 'A' wants to use this ASP, and customer 'B' wants to use another ASP, and when I start adding it all up, I'm paying more for ASP services than I am making in income." That's not really a sustainable model. Either one ASP has to win and everyone has to use them, or everyone has to do it themselves.