*NEWS*COLOR LASER BATTLE BREWING

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*NEWS*COLOR LASER BATTLE BREWING

 user 2005-10-19 at 11:11:00 am Views: 67
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    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.