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Appeared on: Thursday, January 05, 2006
Interview With Mr Mitch Ackmann of Microboards Technology


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Microboards has been around since 1989. The company started out by importing and selling the first CD recorders and recordable media in the U.S. As recordable technology grew, Manufacturers sought Microboards out and the company eventually became a value-added distributor for a variety of recordable products. Microboards invented the world’s first tower duplicator in the early 90s, and has been heavily involved in the introduction and growth of automated duplication and printing. In 2001, the company acquired a manufacturing facility, which has allowed it to broaden its product line to include automated duplication.

CDRInfo talks with Mr Mitch Ackmann, President and COO of Microboards Technology, about the future of the CD/DVD duplication/replication as well as the presence of Microboards in the optical storage industry.

Microboards is best known for its CD/DVD duplicators. What position does your company hold in the global market today?

It is difficult to know market share, as many of the industry’s most important players are privately held. But we are confident that we command one of the strongest market presences in this industry.

A look at the recent past shows that most of the CD/DVD duplication and printing products are highly customized, difficult to maintain, and quite expensive, at least for small companies and certainly for everyday consumers. How and when will recordable media printers and duplicators become more easily accessible to consumers?

CD/DVD Duplicators are getting less expensive every day – most PCs have basic copying ability built in right now. But the printing function has been slow to reach that consumer price point. That’s largely because all consumer printing technology (inkjet and laser) was developed around a curved paper path with a rectangular media, and without regard for rigid or round media. Microboards is fortunate to have developed several patents around media handling that reduces the number of moving parts, the footprint, and the manufacturing cost of disc printers, so we see great progress ahead for consumers in the years to come.

What are Microboards' weaknesses?

Chocolate and well-prepared Steak.

Seriously though, we work very hard, and want our customers to be pleased with us, almost to a fault. We try hard to make them want to do business with us. We take customer feedback seriously and act on it.

What differentiates Microboards from other distributors and how does it stand out from being just another distributor?

Microboards stands out for a number of reasons. While it is unusual, we are a manufacturer as well as a distributor, so there is more direct communication between us and the market. We have intellectual property – patents on media handling and printing – that give us a unique edge in providing new solutions. More importantly, we have a very loyal, broad, and well- trained channel to service our customer base. Our resellers' depth of experience gives us unusual strength with every kind of end user we deal with - from garage bands to Fortune 100 companies.We have a unique and long-standing focus on 12cm Media, so we truly are very expert in it. We are specialists, and we don’t focus on anything that is not CD/DVD related, which makes us a unique Value-Add Distributor for all the CD/DVD product lines we carry.

You work closely with Rimage, Primera and other manufacturers in the duplication industry. Yet aren't these companies Microboards' competitors?

We do work closely with Rimage. But while they manufacture machinery with similar components (recorders and printers for producing discs), the similarities end there.

Rimage has Everest Printing capability – it combines silkscreen quality print with silkscreen quality durability that is uniquely suited to applications that need both vibrant printing and longevity in their image. Rimage’s network capability and SDK for integrating their software with other solutions are unmatched. When a situation calls for a Rimage product, a Microboards product will not fit the bill; typically Rimage situations are mission critical, variable data, and system integrated. Microboards products, on the other hand, fit best into mid-to large run duplication environments. We no longer work closely with Primera – they have deviated to a lower-level consumer focus, where Rimage and Microboards are focused on partnering into industrial applications.

We have seen in the past, what can be considered in the main as unsuccessful attempts from far-east companies wanting to enter the recordable media, printer and duplicator market. What in your opinion are the reasons for their failure?

These companies develop a product and attempt to drive it to market on price alone – and in most cases you get what you pay for. Duplicators are designed to simplify work for content professionals and other people publishing large amounts of data; since every application is unique, you need a wide product offering and skilled staff in order to put the right solution to work in each situation. We pride ourselves on having great pre-sale and post-sale support for exactly that reason.


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Which companies are you collaborating with for your printing engine and inks?

We have been partnered with Hewlett Packard for quite a while, and the results have been phenomenal – with our unique autoloader capability and their inkjet technology, we were able to introduce the fastest, highest resolution inkjet printer with the lowest cost per print available, and have held that position for several years.

Apart from CD/DVD printers and duplicators, you also distribute CD/DVD media from Taiyo Yuden and Verbatim. What do you believe is the outlook for the optical storage media market during the next year?

I think the outlook is fantastic. Every now and then we hear people talking about the Internet as the death of media – as if software and music downloads are going to replace delivery on CD. But if you believe that, you probably believe that computers are reducing the amount of paper we use, too.

Experience shows us exactly the opposite. Increased exchange and archival of data, music, and video has been a boon to our industry, and DVD is driving that even more. We are projecting over 30% growth in each of the next two years for our optical media business.

Currently, the optical storage industry is focusing its attention on the new DVD formats, HD video content and the way it would be efficiently and safely distributed. In what ways will the duplication industry be involved in these new developments?

We’re fortunate to have strong relationships with each of the drive manufacturers, so we get good inside information on what’s coming and when. Duplication comes into play when these formats become distribution mediums; as soon as people are talking about playing the discs at home, we will have technology to service the market. We are also fortunate to have patents that apply to the new formats – we can handle and print on practically anything, regardless of the changes made to the recordable side.

We are also interested in the security question; content producers want to protect profitability, and we have developed relationships with people who are engineering leading content protection methods, whether through copy protection, password protection, or other encryption solutions. One we are particularly excited about is Hexalock – their holographic copy-protection technology remains undefeated for many types of digital content, and it is already integrated with top products like the Rimage Producer series.

Besides CD/DVD duplicators and optical media, are there other tangent markets and product lines that you are considering for the near future?

Yes and no. We will, of course, adopt optical media formats as they become available and viable, but our focus is on what we do best which is CD/DVD products. Our manufacturing arm has been very successful in bringing our core CD/DVD technology to the point-of-sale market. For example, we have deployed our CD dispensing and recording mechanism into Kodak’s point of sale kiosks for digital photography with over 10,000 of these types of units in the field. As we have with Kodak and other prominent photo kiosk manufacturers, we are now working in new markets outside photography to develop kiosk solutions.

We are investing heavily in our Asian and European operations, expanding our Japan and London offices, to position ourselves for expansion in global markets.

And we are looking for ways to bring our technology to new vertical markets. We are looking to everyone from corporate marketing departments to medical doctors for ideas on how we can help them to use optical technology.

What do you foresee as the future for Microboards in the duplication industry?

My vision is simple, but strong; Microboards will continue to get better and better at doing what we do. We have loyal customers that have grown with us because we take good care of them. We look for ways to make our products better every day. We are a family-oriented, personal company – five & ten years from now we will be bigger and better, but we will be the same people, doing the same thing – because we do it well.



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