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Monday, July 11, 2005
HP Unveils High-speed Ink-jet Technology

HP on Monday unveiled a line of low-cost inkjet printers featuring a new scalable ink-jet technology that will improve the speed and performance of home and small and midsize office printers.

The company aims to match the quality and speed of its laser printers as it seeks to defend its lucrative printer business from rivals such as Dell.

The announcement comes after a five-year development and a $1.4 billion of investment. The technology centers on the assembly of a new ink-jet print head. Instead of the print head components being welded together in postproduction, the components in the new ink jet are created as a single unit via a photolithographic process resulting in more accurate, faster and cheaper printing, HP said in a statement.

"We are introducing a new business printer which will be half the price of comparable laser printers and has substantially lower cost of operation," Vyomesh Joshi of HP's imaging and printing group said at an analysts' briefing.

HP announced a number of printers based on the new technology, including consumer models -- the HP Photosmart 8250 Photo Printer and the HP Photosmart 3000 All-In-One series. Both printers can deliver 4x6-in. prints in as little as 14 seconds for a minimum cost of 24 cents a print, HP said. The Photosmart 8250, priced at $199, will ship this month, while the Photosmart 3000, which will cost $299 to $399, is due to appear later in the year.

For the small and midsize business market, HP plans to release the HP Officejet Pro K550 Color Printer series in the fall. The company claims it will double print speeds of existing sub-$500 color laser printers at a 30% lower cost per page.

HP also announced half a dozen new portable photo printers, including the HP Photosmart 475 GoGo Photo Printer, costing $279, with the ability to print 5x7-in. photos and store over 1,000 images. The HP Photosmart 420 series GoGo Photo Studio is a bundled camera, printer and dock and is priced from $299.

The news came as HP rivals Lexmark International Inc., Canon Inc., Xerox Corp., Ricoh Inc. , and most importantly, Dell, mount serious challenges to its printer dominance.

In May, the company said it was making some headway in taking back market share in its flagship printer business. Earlier this year, HP cut about 2,000 jobs in its printing and imaging operation to boost profits amid falling printer prices.

Operating profit margins in the printing business narrowed in the quarter ended in April as rivals cut prices.

Joshi said new technology will prove to be as profitable as current systems, and he expects improved performance to spur users to print more pages and consume more ink, which drive profits.

"Not only are they going to print more, they will print high value pages so the overall usage will be higher," he said at the briefing.

Inkjets are generally cheaper than laser printers, though replacement ink cartridges can be more expensive. Laser units print more quickly and generally offer higher-quality copies.

Joshi, who runs HP's printing and PC businesses, had previously vowed to regain lost market share.

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