Photography company Eastman Kodak Co. is expected to
introduce consumer inkjet printers next year and could challenge entrenched
makers such as Lexmark International Inc. and Hewlett-Packard
Co, industry analysts said on Tuesday.
Kodak executives have offered few details about inkjet printers since it
mentioned the devices when it announced in September 2003 dramatic plans to
shift its focus to digital photography and imaging services and away from
traditional cameras and film.
Photo-quality consumer inkjet printers will be announced in mid-2006 by
Kodak, which believes its technology is superior to that in current models,
Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross said following a briefing with the
Rochester, New York, company.
Kodak spokesman Dave Lanzillo reiterated that inkjet printers are part of its
growth plan, but declined to comment on the likelihood of a 2006 product
The stakes are high in the multibillion-dollar inkjet market, where companies
sell printers for little or no profit and then distribute highly-profitable ink
cartridges that consumers frequently replace during the life of the printer.
Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich said Kodak declined to specify the
products it would sell but said that Kodak would target high-use customers,
perhaps with lower prices for ink and other supplies.
“Although we don’t see Kodak gaining double-digit market share soon, the
company is a serious player,” he said in a note to clients.
Together, Kodak’s well-known brand name and lower prices for inkjet printers
and ink cartridges could give it a leg up once its printer sales began. But its
ability to compete in the already cutthroat printer market could depend on how
fast sales of traditional film decline. Kodak has been using film revenue to
bankroll its new digital initiatives.
“This is a costly enterprise,” Cross said. “(But)
investors should not discount Kodak’s chances. If anyone can mount a
credible challenge to the entrenched players — HP, Lexmark,
Canon and Seiko Epson — we believe Kodak has the best set
of assets, limited only by modest financial resources.”