A Brief History of the Xerox Corportation

By: Mingki Tsui

The Xerox Corporation, headquartered in Norwalk, CT, has over 57,000 employees worldwide. The company has consistently ranked among the top firms in the computer category of FORTUNE magazine’s "World's Most Admired Companies" list, and is in the top one-third of the annual FORTUNE 500.

Xerox has a strategic focus on three primary corporate and consumer markets. First is the high-end production environment, including commercial printing. Next is networking solutions, in offices small and large. Finally, there is the large, growing category of its "value-added" services. There are two overarching, unifying themes that cross all Xerox product and service categories, relying on the company's demonstrated, core strengths and its position as "the document company." These themes are (1) color and (2) practical solutions that customize the various Xerox devices and methodologies to solve their customers' problems.

Of the firm's $17.6 billion in revenue for 2008, the U.S. market accounted for over half, or $9.1billion, while Europe totaled $6 billion. Together, Latin America, Canada and other nations around the world brought in the remainder, $2.5 billion. Not only does the company do business internationally, it wins awards around the world, as well. In fact, in 2008 alone Xerox earned more than 230 different awards for quality, innovation and service. Continuing its history of innovation, the company also introduced 29 new products in 2008, delivered to companies and individuals across a broad array of different sales channels.

Building on a strong foundation

Chester Carlson was a patent attorney and a dedicated, though part-time, inventor. He created the first "xerographic" image in his Queens, NY, workshop on October 22nd of 1938. Amazingly, for years he was unable to interest many people, and no manufacturers or buyers, in his invention. Business owners, product developers and entrepreneurs were convinced there was no market for "copiers" because carbon paper still worked just fine. An additional problem was that Carlson's prototype was bulky, awkward to use and downright messy. Some two dozen companies, IBM and General Electric included, reacted to Carlson's invention with what the inventor later called "an enthusiastic lack of interest."

The Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, OH, made a deal to refine Carlson's process, which he called "electrophotography," in 1944. Some three years later, the Haloid Company, a photographic paper manufacturer in Rochester, N.Y., secured a license from Battelle to build and market a "copying machine" using Carlson's technology. Carlson agreed with the executives of Haloid that "electrophotography" was too unwieldy a term, so the story goes that a professor of classical languages from The Ohio State University came up with "xerography" using the Greek for "dry" and "writing."

The name game

Haloid, which in short order bought all the rights to the technology, coined the term "Xerox" for the revolutionary copiers, and got a trademark for the word in 1948. Early and somewhat modest success of the Xerox copiers convinced Haloid management to change the firm's name to Haloid Xerox Inc. in 1958. As sales began to rise and the invention became more and more accepted, the company evolved into the "Xerox Corporation" in 1961. By this time, the marketplace had experienced a broad acceptance of the latest model, the Xerox 914, which was the first office copier that could use ordinary, inexpensive paper.

September 2009 will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Xerox 914. Over 200,000 units were sold worldwide from 1959 to 1976, the year the firm stopped manufacturing the 914. In 1985, over a quarter century after the legendary model was introduced, Xerox announced it would not renew any more 914 service contracts in the U.S. However, a "time and materials" repair service was instituted, since there were still over 6,000 units in operation around the globe. The Smithsonian Institution displays a model of the Xerox 914 as a landmark in American ingenuity and inventiveness.

Good corporate citizen

Xerox is proud to have pioneered the design and manufacture of "waste-free" products, and considers good corporate citizenship as important as technological development. In fact, the company sees no contradiction in pursuit of both. The company has positioned itself a firm that intends to use materials and energy as efficiently as possible, in order to reduce waste and emissions in the manufacturing phase, as well as during the life cycles of its products. This is the way in which the firm intends to build its continuing history.

Every year, Xerox reports on its programs that save hundreds of million dollars via product remanufacturing, parts recycling and the diversion of over 100 million pounds of landfill waste. Finally, Xerox has developed, implemented and maintained serious remanufacturing and recycling programs to ensure that its printers, copiers and multifunction devices can be managed with due environmental care and concern when they reach the ends of their initial life cycles. With careful steps and proven methods, Xerox is moving into the future with the same steadfastness that has brought it to the pinnacle of success.

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