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Capture: past, present and future

About two months ago, I had the chance to spend a couple of days in Las Vegas at the Kofax reseller conference. It was the first occasion I've had to meet at length with companies that are completely focusing their attention on the first stage of the knowledge chain—capturing and digitizing documents. Because we focus so much on post-capture content and technology in these pages, I often lose track of the sheer scale of paper documents that need to be digitized. So, spending time with the resellers at the event helped enrich my understanding of the life cycle of content.

At about that same time, Harvey Spencer released his report on the 2004 to 2008 worldwide document capture software market. His firm, Harvey Spencer Associates, has been specializing in electronic information (image-based and electronic transaction) capture technologies since 1989, and Harvey himself is widely considered to be the expert in the field. Below is a summary of the key findings, but I recommend you get a copy of the full report and thoroughly review it.

Last year, the worldwide capture market grew 14 percent from 2003 to a total of $901 million and is expected to top $1 billion in 2005. Through 2008, Spencer sees the percentage of spending growth in this sector to surpass that of overall IT. Not surprisingly, North America leads the pack with 54 percent of the 2004 market; Europe (especially the United Kingdom and Germany) is number two with 37 percent. Spencer found that Asia topped the spending list for the rest of the world, which accounted for 9 percent of the market. Asia, nevertheless, lags about 10 years behind North American and Europe.

The study finds that 38 percent of spending is for data capture applications, which is in transition from template-based forms processing to semi- or non-templated forms processing. The ad hoc and desktop management sectors experienced 27 percent growth from 2003 to 2004, followed by batch and distributed capture (18 percent). Spencer says the formatted full-text sector is growing slowly in developed countries but shows more vitality in the developing world.

What's ahead? At the great risk of oversimplification, capture technology will continue to become faster, smarter and easier to use, in both large-scale environments and small. Just look at what has happened in the past few years. Plus, the report finds, as the recognition and classification technologies evolve, the capture market will further expand. In fact, Spencer says, e-business, in it broadest sense, will be increasingly looking to capture to facilitate the conversion of paper to a flexible digital format.

"Over time," Spencer writes, "capture software will become a broad office application that sits at the front end of office automation—in some ways more similar to Microsoft Office than to the highly specialized niche products that dominate the market today."

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