COLOR LASER BATTLE BREWING
COLOR LASER BATTLE BREWING
2005-10-19 at 11:10:00 am #13977
Color laser battle brewing
Hewlett-Packard unveils new printers to keep ahead of pack
In the brewing war over the printer business, the next battle is being fought in color.
Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled several new color printers and related supplies Monday in its latest maneuver to outflank feisty newcomer Dell Inc. and maintain its sizable lead in the business.
Among HP’s new offerings is a $700 color laser printer that takes aim at Dell’s line of lower-priced offerings. HP also unveiled a new toner technology it claims delivers 20 percent more color and 40 percent more gloss than other toners.
Earlier this year, HP introduced a bare-bones $400 color laser printer that matched Dell’s price for a similar machine. Dell now sells a color laser for as little as $260.
Dell’s low-end color laser is not produced by Lexington-based Lexmark International Inc., which, along with other companies, produces the computer giant’s printers, said spokeswoman Emily Rardin. Lexmark’s lowest-priced color laser, the C510, retails for $499 but is not designed as a low-end machine, as both its printer quality and pages per minute outnumber its rivals’ offerings.
At the low-end prices, business and home users can now get print-shop quality color machines for about the same price that some lower-quality ink-jet printers cost just a few years ago.
That’s increasingly important to businesses such as real estate offices, retail shops and others who print an estimated 21 billion color pages each year for fliers, brochures and other materials.
“If you look at small and medium-sized businesses, what they want is to look like a big company, but they don’t have a big company budget,” said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP’s imaging and printing group. With the new color laser printers, Joshi said, companies can produce a typical brochure for about $180, compared to about $600 at a print shop such as FedEx Kinko’s.
HP helped create the printer business and today is the industry’s undisputed leader.
According to technology research company International Data Corp., the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company controls about 45 percent of the overall printer market, well ahead of No. 2 Dell’s 15 percent market share.
But Dell, based in Austin, Texas, has been making significant headway in an industry it entered only about three years ago. That’s especially true in the color laser printer business, which is widely considered the fastest-growing and most profitable part of the market.
According to IDC, Dell captured about 12 percent of that market and became the No. 3 seller of color laser printer and all-in-one devices in its first year in the business, while HP’s market share in that business fell slightly to 35 percent.
The new battleground is the color laser business. According to Lyra Research Inc., shipments of color laser multi-function printers are expected to grow by 220 percent over the next four years.
Lexmark CEO Paul Curlander also emphasized the importance of color laser printers in a recent conference call with analysts. He said Lexmark had not been proactive enough in the third quarter in cutting prices to match its competitors. As a result, the company, while still growing in color laser sales, did not grow at the pace it would like.
What makes the color laser business even more attractive to printer companies is that color machines typically use four times as much toner as black-and-white machines. Color supplies also typically cost more than black-and-white supplies.
HP claims every part of its printer business is profitable. And since it already has a large base of printer customers, about 58 percent of HP’s printer group revenues come just from supplies.
Like HP, Dell is planning a greater focus on color and on small and medium-sized businesses, said Tony Mara, Dell’s senior manager for printer product marketing.
For years, Dell sold computers almost exclusively to business users. Today, the majority of its sales still come from companies, government agencies and other non-consumer users.
When it entered the printer business, though, Dell focused almost exclusively on consumers, offering low-priced — even free — ink jets with new computer purchases.
Joshi predicted HP will remain the market leader in part by relying on superior technology. It does all its printer research in-house, while Dell basically re-brands printers made by Lexmark, Kodak, Samsung and Fuji Xerox.