HP, Kodak introduce new ink-jet printers

HP adds high-end features to lower-end printers; Kodak offers cheaper ink cartridges

Hewlett-Packard Co. is upgrading its ink-jet printers to appeal to small business owners for whom a big business machine is too expensive but a small consumer-oriented printer is inadequate.

Meanwhile, HP faces new competition in the consumer printer market from Eastman Kodak Co., which introduced new ink-jet printers Monday.

HP yesterday launched the HP Officejet J5700 printer series, which is scheduled to go on sale this month at a starting list price of $149. Also coming on the market next month is the Officejet Pro K5400 series, starting at $149, and the Officejet Pro L7000, starting at $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-$300 market the features previously available in more expensive laser printers used by businesses and large companies, said Karl Schwenkmeyer, vice president of marketing for ink-jet systems in HP's imaging and printing group.

HP wants to dispel the misconception that ink-jet printers can't handle business workloads because they are too slow, too expensive to maintain and unreliable, Schwenkmeyer said. He said the printers can print color pages for as low as 6 cents each and black ink documents for as low as 15 cents each. The machines are engineered to print 7,500 pages per month without a failure, he said.

Vendors offering new features in lower-priced printers follows the example of carmakers that at first put antilock brakes only in luxury cars but that now also offer them in compact cars, said Robert Palmer, director of printer research at InfoTrends Inc., a printing market research firm.

"There's nothing here that is really new, but [HP has] done a good job of putting products out that are more robust," Palmer said.

HP holds a market share lead of 50% in the ink-jet printer market, according to 2005 InfoTrends numbers,  Palmer said. Lexmark International Inc. follows with 16%, while Dell Inc. has 15%. Seiko Epson Corp. has 12% and Canon Inc. has 8%.

But one more company is lining up to challenge HP.

Kodak entered the consumer ink-jet market on Tuesday with models that aim for the heart of HP's printing profitability:  replacement ink cartridges. Kodak's replacement cartridges list for $9.99 for black ink and $14.99 for five-color ink, about half  of what HP and other companies charge.

Different models of the Kodak machines, which can print, scan and copy -- but not fax -- documents, list for $149.99, $199.99 and $299.99, depending on the features. They are also targeted at consumers and home-based business operators.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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