Hewlett-Packard (HP) is upgrading its inkjet printers to appeal to small business owners for whom a big business machine is too expensive but a small consumer-oriented printer inadequate.
Meanwhile, HP faces new competition in the consumer printer market from Eastman Kodak Co., which introduced new inkjet printers Monday.
HP on Tuesday launched the HP Officejet J5700 printer series, scheduled to go on sale this month at a starting list price of US$149. Also coming on the market, in March, is the Officejet Pro K5400 series, starting at US$149, and the Officejet Pro L7000, starting at US$299. Each of the new printers are identified as "All-In-One," which means they can print, scan, copy and fax documents.
HP is migrating down to the sub-US$300 market features previously available in more expensive laser printers used by businesses and large enterprises, said Karl Schwenkmeyer, vice president of marketing for inkjet systems within HP's Imaging and Printing Group.
HP seeks to dispel some misconceptions about how inkjet printers can't handle business workloads because they are too slow, expensive to maintain and unreliable, Schwenkmeyer said. He said the printers can print color pages for as low as US$0.06 each and black ink documents at as low as $0.015 each. And the machines are engineered to print 7,500 pages a month without a failure.
Offering new features in lower priced printers is a lot like carmakers that first put anti-lock brakes only in luxury cars but now also offer them in compacts, said Robert Palmer, director of printer research at InfoTrends Inc., a printing market research firm.
"There's nothing here that is really new, but they (HP) have done a good job of putting products out that are more robust," said Palmer.
HP holds a market share lead of 50 percent in the inkjet printer market, according to 2005 InfoTrends numbers, said Palmer. Lexmark International follows with 16 percent, while Dell has 15 percent. Seiko Epson has 12 percent and Canon Inc. 8 percent.
But one more company is lining up to challenge HP.
Kodak entered the consumer inkjet market on Tuesday with models that aim for the heart of HP's printing profitability: the replacement ink cartridges. Kodak's replacement cartridges list for US$9.99 for black ink and US$14.99 for five-color ink, about half what HP and other brands charge.
Different models of the Kodak machines, which can print, scan and copy -- but not fax -- documents, list for US$149.99, US$199.99 and US$299.99, depending on the features. They are also targeted at consumers and home-based business operators.