ThinPrint sees strong channel opportunities in new mobile initiatives

ThinPrint has begun to re-emphasize mobile print solutions, which include the introduction of a new next-gen solution, and a partnership with MobileIron that they expect will be very strategic.

Henning Volkmer, President and CEO of ThinPrint and Cortado

Berlin-headquartered print management services provider ThinPrint is once again doubling down on mobile print solutions. Two weeks ago, the company announced a key new strategic partnership with MobileIron, which they expect will improve their visibility, and lead to greater use of ThinPrint by MobileIron’s channel. That partnership is based on an integration with the ThinPrint Mobile Print offering, which became available at the end of April. ThinPrint Mobile Print also creates new opportunities for ThinPrint’s traditional partners. The company also believes it should also appeal to mobility resellers who haven’t realized the importance of the print opportunity previously.

“ThinPrint started out almost 20 years ago, with a fairly simple break-fix solution for printing in Citrix environments,” said Henning Volkmer, ThinPrint’s President and CEO. “From there, we broadened the portfolio, and when smartphones came to market, we applied print technology to those mobile devices to let them print to any kind of printer, whether on the corporate network or connected by their own technologies. The mobility market then took off more then expected, so we developed a separate mobility solutions company – Cortado Mobile Solutions. It and ThinPrint operated in tandem as two separate companies under the same holding brand, Cortado.” Volkmer is also the President and CEO of Cortado.

ThinPrint has now begun to re-emphasize the centrality of their mobile solutions again.

“In the last couple of years, the mobility space has consolidated, so we went back to our roots and have just made available a new print-specific product – ThinPrint Mobile Print,” Volkmer said. “It is a modern solution that can tie together super modern workflows, and provides a mobile solution to enable customers to complete their mobility strategy.”

ThinPrint’s market niche, in a market where the printer OEMs also provide print management, has always been to provide full vendor-agnostic support, as well  as a broader range of functionality.

“There are areas where we overlap, but we do things on a broader scope and cover a wider range of applications than the printing OEMs,” Volkmer said. “The management functionality they have is typically proprietary to their own printers, but that’s not realistic for most organizations. There are also other things the printer manufacturers don’t cover – like how a printer is assigned to a user, the amount of bandwidth they take, or how easy it is to manage the fleet of printers. In addition, while Microsoft is promoting server virtualization to replace print servers, centralizing printing-as-a-service makes more sense for many organizations, especially larger ones.”

ThinPrint’s customer base extends from very small businesses to large enterprises.

“Our customers are very much across the board,” Volkmer stated. “We have individual installations such as small law offices with one lawyer, and we also have large enterprises with up to 200,000 users. A lot of the larger banks use us.”

ThinPrint does do some direct sales, so technically have a hybrid go-to-market strategy, but the channel is their preferred go-to-market route. They made some enhancements to their channel program at the beginning of 2018.

“Where we can sell through a channel partner, we prefer that,” Volkmer said. “We got our start in channels. However, some customers, especially those who buy from Amazon as their preferred IT vendor, want to go direct. Across different regions we also have different channel capabilities, particularly since the broad nature of our portfolio means that the channel is often spread across many solutions.”

ThinPrint believes strongly in a value channel model, rather than signing up flocks of partners

“We have a couple hundred partners globally,” Volkmer said. “As we cover many, many countries, this number makes us more of a select partnering model. We try to avoid signing up partners who just want one project. It’s not a good idea for either them or us.”

Historically, ThinPrint’s channel partners have been Citrix, Microsoft and VMware resellers, with VMware licensing some ThinPrint components for their Horizon View products. However, Volkmer said that with major changes happening to the printing market in recent years, ThinPrint has re-examined its go-to-market strategy. A new emphasis on different types of channel partners, along with new strategic partnerships with companies like MobileIron has been the result.

“With the move to a paperless office, a lot has changed a lot in printing over the last several years, opening up many interesting opportunities that are beyond our core market,” Volkmer said. “Printing remains expensive and complicated and we can provide an important differentiation solving mobile enterprise print management issues to make cloud deployment easier. New possible vendor partners have emerged. Larger enterprise mobility management [EMM] vendors have come into the category, and their platforms allow us to add tremendous value. The printer OEMs also see more value in partnering with us, because mobile print and cloud print make it easier for the office equipment channel to go to their customers and offer more than break-fix services and toner. We need to assess the best way to reach the partners of these vendors, and change from what we have traditionally done.”

The new technology partnership with EMM provider MobileIron is one of these initiatives. The integration allows ThinPrint Mobile Print to be managed by MobileIron, and facilitates secure mobile printing with iPhones, iPads and Android devices on any network printer, regardless of printer model or manufacturer.

“While we already have decent brand recognition in North America, MobileIron is one of the most recognized brands in EMM, and we believe that this will give us a good deal of additional visibility,” Volkmer said.

“We are also hoping that this will give us access to the MobileIron channel,” he added. That’s an aspiration of most strategic partnerships, but the vendor co-operation is especially important here because MobileIron does not publicize their channel relationships.

“This channel is a closely guarded asset,” Volkmer said.

The ThinPrint Mobile Print solution became generally available a little over a month ago. It is designed to be easily integrated into EMM and MDM [multi-device management] vendor systems, and lets companies integrate iOS and Android devices into their existing print infrastructure. Employees can thus easily access and use all current network printers. User authorizations are automatically inherited from the Microsoft Active Directory or from the print server, but can be extended, modified or restricted as required for mobile users.

“We think that it will give our traditional channel partners a new topic to talk about,” Volkmer said. “In addition, we think it will appeal to other partners in mobility who are looking for a differentiator. Google and Apple basically dictate what can be done in mobility. The security and mobility vendors are just the last stage. As a result, they have been heavily commoditized and it’s a tough market to be in. The  channel thus needs to focus on how to make the devices they have secured more productive – how to generate more value from those devices.”

Print is a key new value-add, which many mobile partners have not been selling, Volkmer stressed.

“ Mobile print is the connector between digital workflows and physical workflows,” he said. “It lets these partners be able to have discussions about value generation among their customers – how they can make young people on their phones more productive. There’s also a tremendous opportunity around print-related topics like security and compliance, that drive a lot of channel activities, which get hidden by the fact they are behind print.”