Xerox said today it has teamed with Sharp and Fuji in a £1.25 billion
alliance that could lead to faster, more affordable inkjet printers for small
offices and studios.
The companies will each offer a full line of low-cost inkjet printers that
will be sold worldwide through more than 12,000 retail stores, Web sites and
other outlets, officials said. Xerox’s first new printers will be available in
the US in the next few months, the company’s President and Chief Executive
Officer Rich Thoman said.
The printers from the three firms will include new technologies that make
them “at least 50 per cent faster” than comparable inkjet systems from
Hewlett-Packard and other Xerox rivals, Thoman claimed.
“Inkjet has always been a trade-off for the user. … You can have colour
speed, or colour quality – never both,” Thoman said in a Webcast of yesterday’s
press event. “But that … is about to change.”
Inkjet printers provide an affordable alternative to laser printers, which
cost more and tend to offer better quality results. Inkjet technologies are
improving, however, and sales have started to surge alongside growing PC use and
an increase in the number of people who work at home, Xerox officials said.
The market for inkjet printers could be worth more than £31 billion by 2002,
according to Xerox estimates. HP is the recognized leader in the market, but
Xerox officials said they hope to steal some of HP’s business by banding
together with the partners announced today.
The three companies will pump a total of £1.25 billion into the alliance over
the next five years, Thoman said. The money will be used to cover development,
manufacturing, marketing and other costs, he added.
To boost performance, the new printers will include an operating mode called
eXpress Mode, which the companies claim will print much faster than the normal
mode on competing inkjet machines while maintaining “comparable” quality.
EXpress mode uses a “bidirectional printing” design developed by Xerox that
allows a line of type to be put down in a single sweep across the page. Most
printers put down half of the ink needed for a single line of type in each of
two passes, Xerox said.
Another feature called InkLogic uses four ink tanks in a single color
printer, while most inkjet printers use one. InkLogic allows users to replace
only the ink color that is empty, which Xerox said will help cut ink costs by 20
The printers will also feature a long-life printhead technology that can last
up to 10,000 pages without replacement. Most competitive models require users to
replace printheads about every 500 pages, according to Xerox.
Xerox will begin launching personal inkjet printers, copiers and
multifunction machines over the next few months in North America, Europe and
developing markets. Sharp will offer its brand of inkjet products in those
markets as well as in Japan and the rest of Asia-Pacific. Fuji Xerox-branded
products will be sold in Japan and the rest of Asia-Pacific.
The companies have also opened new manufacturing facilities to serve the
growing market. Xerox said it has opened state-of-the-art inkjet facilities in
Dundalk, Ireland; Canandaigua, New York; and Manaus, Brazil. Sharp has built a
dedicated inkjet product manufacturing and assembly center in Manila,
Philippines, the companies said.
The companies called their alliance the SOHO Printing Alliance, and said it
will draw on Xerox’s strong brand and inkjet patents, Sharp’s expertise in
producing low-cost products for mass markets, and Fuji Xerox’s technological
know-how. The Alliance is Xerox’s second major move to capture growth in printer
markets. In September of last year, Xerox announced plans to acquire Tektronix’s
printing business for £580 million.
Fuji Xerox is a 50-50 joint venture between Fuji Photo Film and Xerox that
develops, manufactures and markets office equipment, software and solutions in
Japan and the Pacific Rim.