Throughout 2000, traditional printer manufacturers made numerous attempts to alert the IT channel of the merging technologies and the resulting channel rationalisation.
But last year, despite various vendor-run seminars on the merging sectors, the warnings slowed as, according to Tracey Rawling Church, marketing manager at Kyocera Mita UK, the market "played catch up".
"There was a flurry of activity in 2000 and manufacturers were driving the convergence message rather than users," she said.
"Last year, the industry sat back and waited for users to establish a requirement,"
But the promise of convergence is about to become a reality as the company prepares a 16 January launch of two copier-based multi-function devices (MFD) into the IT channel for the first time. So dealers' reluctance to sell copier products will be more damaging to their business than ever before, argued Rawling Church.
"The copier channel has been absolute in recognising the opportunities that come from the adoption of network functionality in copier devices," she said.
"[Copier dealers] are actively looking to penetrate the IT market and IT dealers are ostensibly letting them get away with it."
Terry Dellar, general manager of the facsimile and printer division at Samsung, revealed it was also preparing to release a copier-based MFD in the first quarter. He argued dealers would be foolhardy to refuse a slice of the pie.
"The new technology will be easier to use and less labour intensive, so it opens up a whole new market to the IT channel because previously they were reluctant to develop a services network."
IT dealers which have so far failed to adopt an MFD sales strategy will have to "talk to suppliers and learn fast", said Malcolm Hancock, principal analyst at Gartner Dataquest.
"Resellers have had two years to sit back and decide how to handle the products and the time is now upon them. They risk being pushed to the wayside by those that have embraced the convergence," he warned.
But Peter Urey, Hewlett-Packard's imaging and printing systems marketing manager, pointed out that IT dealers have often shown that "above all else, they are survivors".
"They can read a market and act at the right time, they have a great track record of sitting on a wave and embracing the technology just as it breaks - and they will do it again," he said.
HP plans to launch a raft of MFD in the second quarter and, as one printer rival stated, "that will give the green light to the rest of the industry", thereby speeding mass adoption.