Kodak Buys Intermate for IPDS Expertise
April 21, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When most people think of Kodak, the Rochester, New York, technology company, they probably think of film for cameras or, in more modern times, the company that is trying to stay in business by becoming a place where people upload digital photos to have them printed out or buy the paper to do their own photo printing at home. But Kodak is an expert in all kinds of digital technology, and it has aspirations in a market it calls transactional printing.
And to that end, Kodak last week announced that it has acquired Intermate A/S, a relatively small but very influential printing software and hardware company with 30 employees based in Birkerod, Denmark.
Way back when–about the time that the AS/400 was born two decades ago–IBM controlled a lot more of the operating system market than it does today, and IBM’s Advanced Function Printing and Intelligent Print Data Stream (AFP and IPDS) protocols meant a lot to businesses. AFP and then the IPDS add-ons were the means that mainframes, AS/400s, and other proprietary systems that supported IBM’s printing standards and their applications talked to the high-speed printers that were used to crank out invoices, statements, and other kinds of business forms. We are not talking about desktop printing here. (We are talking about continuous forms and cut sheet laser printers with ridiculous duty cycles that would cut your fingers off if you got to close to the moving paper.) Intermate, which was founded in 1976, was one of the handful of companies that created protocol converters that allowed cheaper laser printers using the PostScript protocol from Adobe or the Printer Control Language (PCL) protocol from Hewlett-Packard to talk to these central hosts and print their forms.
(If you are an old timer like I have apparently become somehow when I wasn’t looking, you might even remember that IBM used to resell the high-end Kodak cutsheet laser printers, the 3825 and 3827, and you might also remember that they were very cranky but elegant bits of machinery. It is very hard to do high-speed laser printers using cutsheet paper, as opposed to continuous forms paper that you then rip apart into individual sheets.)
Intermate has a bunch of different products that Eastman Kodak Company now controls. The IPDS Ultra SDK is a toolkit for adding IPDS support to hardware or software printing platforms; this allows companies to avoid reinventing that IPDS wheel. Intermate also sells a software-only AFP/IPDS LAN print server called WinIPDS, which converts IPDS data streams into formats supported by Windows printer drivers; the Advanced Print Server IPDS or SCS, which allows a PostScript or PCL printer to print data from IBM hosts using IPDS or SCS protocols; the IAPS ThinPrint, which is an external print server with a printer client gateway; and Intermate Forms, which is a bit of software that cranks out PCL forms and barcodes from IPDS and SCS data streams without tweaking the applications.
The financial terms of the Intermate acquisition were not disclosed by Kodak. Intermate will be merged into Kodak’s Print On Demand Solutions Group, which is itself an independent unit of Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group. The PODS group provides color servers to Kodak and other industry suppliers, including Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, Ikon, and Konica Minolta. I only hope that Kodak allows Intermate to keep the company canteen, daycare center, and remote office options, which you can read about here. It sounds like a truly great place to work, and that matters in this world today.