Lexmark International announced last week the acquisition of its seventh and eighth software companies since mid-2010. The Lexington company paid $31.5 million total for Seattle-based AccessVia and San Francisco-based Twistage.
AccessVia's software allows retail stores to prepare print and electronic signs, such as the tags on shelves in front of products.
Twistage's software helps companies manage video, audio, images and other types of media.
The CEOs of AccessVia and Twistage spoke with the Herald-Leader about the companies' new roles in Lexmark's Perceptive Software unit. This is an edited transcript of the conversations.
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Dean A. Sleeper, AccessVia CEO
Question: What made Lexmark a good fit for AccessVia?
Answer: "We're longtime partners, and they're folks we really love to work with.
"The root of it is actually quite simple and fundamental. Our software is used by the world's largest retailers to produce their shelf-edge promotional materials — everything that shows the item and the price.
"In the early days of the business, absolutely every one of those applications was traditional print output. The result was every one of our customers required a printer to find our software useful, and a huge majority of our customers over the years have selected Lexmark printers.
"As we both saw how we were always in the same places serving the same customers, we devoted a lot of time to do the deep dark engineering work to make both of our offerings work well together."
Q: Describe the electronic signage that uses your software.
A: "The truth is that digital signage actually has seen the least adoption in North America. It's far more prevalent in European markets and other markets around the globe.
"Frankly, domestically what has been happening is people have been putting in large-screen in-store TVs, which is a different space than either of us is interested in.
"North America is just beginning to come online with two categories. There are electronic shelf labels. That's basically just a small electronic device that is really just communicating things. It gives a true absolute match to precisely what's ringing at the register. It doesn't require folks to get a pile of output in the back room and then spend their afternoon applying it to the shelf.
"Then there are digital signs that are a little bit larger than that. Again, it's a direct parallel to the larger piece of paper that you see hanging on the shelf. That's a replacement for the printed sign.
"But even if you adopt it, you need to do both. It's virtually impossible to imagine where every item would have a digital sign because of the costs with the infrastructure."
Q: Tell me about how your software fits in with Lexmark's existing software offerings.
A: "There's already been a tremendous amount of dialogue about what the opportunities are. ... We are already working on the opportunities we have to share those capabilities with our existing customers."
David Wadler, Twistage CEO
Q: Describe Twistage's software offerings.
A: "Twistage is a company focused on digital media. ... Video is the largest piece of our business, distributing and consuming the video. We have no part in the production, ... but once the content is ready, a business might want to put it on the Internet and monetize it with advertising ... or any number of things.
"We've reduced that process that is very technically complex — moving files around from one server to the other, making sure it's in the right format for working on your mobile device. We've reduced that to what's essentially a point-and-click process."
Q: What's an example of a client that uses Twistage's software?
A: "Jive Software is an enterprise social business sharing product. What it provides is a social framework. Rather than send you an email, I can post something to your wall. It's really social collaboration in the corporate world. Social networking is a very familiar paradigm for people so you use that instead of sending emails all over the place.
"With our software ... you log into your Jive account, you press a button to add the video to the page, and the video is automatically converted and anyone else on your team authorized to see the video will see it.
"It's really a business tool that enables people to get this rich, rich information at the touch of a button."
Q: How do you see your software working alongside Lexmark's existing offerings?
A: Wadler said Twistage would pair well with Lexmark's software that focuses on making medical imaging, such as X-rays, easily accessible to health care providers. "It does not handle video," he said. "That's a problem we're going to be able to solve very, very quickly."
Q: What would be an example of a video that would be stored for health care?
A: "There's everything from training to one of the examples includes when a patient is lying in bed, ... a live video camera feed can come up and can zoom in and look at the patient. You have this really cool telemedicine thing, but there's no way to take the content that's created and archive it and attach it to the patient record.
"It's really about managing content, and this is more content that (Lexmark) will be able to manage."