Hewlett-Packard Introduces New Multifunction Copiers for Enterprises

In its second try at the copier market, HP will offer three models for business customers. Officials at Comdex said the company's new marketing strategy will take aim at improved document workflow.

LAS VEGAS—Hewlett-Packard made moves into the multifunction printer market on Tuesday with the introduction of several new products and services. The offerings aim to reduce the cost and increase the productivity of the companys printing solutions.

In addition, the announcements covered the companys first use of "smart paper," a technology that combines paper with a special printed background. Users can enter information with a digital pen, and that information can be quickly uploaded to a central database.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read more about HPs introduction of Digital Pen and Paper technology, click here.

HP introduced three copier-based printers, based on the companys relationship with Konica Minolta Holdings Inc.—the LaserJet 9055, 9065 and 9085. While HP officials declined to provide pricing, other published reports said the the multifunction products will carry price tags between $18,000 and $35,000.

The new LaserJets represent HPs second attempt at developing multifunction printing devices for the enterprise. HPs first attempt, the "Mopier," focused on the technical capabilities of the individual devices. Instead, what customers wanted were management tools to streamline their document workflow, according to Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HPs imaging and printing group.

"We didnt have the right products with mopiers," Joshi said. "We made some mistakes and we learned from those mistakes."

Now, HP will challenge established players such as Canon Inc., Konica Minolta, and Xerox Corp., which have shipped multifunction devices for a number of years. HP already ships printer-based multifunction peripherals for small businesses, such as the LaserJet 9000 MFP, which is priced at about $16,500.

While HP holds the dominanat share of the office printer business, its market share in copiers is relatively tiny, about 1.5 percent by Joshis estimation. In three years, HP hopes to have increased its share to approximately 10 percent, Joshi said.

Although HP declined to provide specifications for the new machines, Joshi said the LaserJet 9055, 9065 and 9085 will print 55, 65, and 85 pages per minute respectively.

As HP pushes aggresivly for market share, competitors observed that there are differences between users expectations for digital printers and multifuction copiers.

"Were used to competing with HP in the printer business," said A.J. Rogers, vice-president of strategy for Xeroxs corporate solutions group. "Well have to see how they do in the copier business. Theyre clearly a lot stronger in the printer business. Well have to see how the performance looks."

According to Rogers, overlooked metrics for enterprise printing are the amount of strain the printers will put on an internal network, as well as the time it takes to produce the first page. Customers often focus on the number of pages a printer prints at top speed, rather than the total time needed for the printer to warm up and print.

"Sure, youre going to need to walk down the hall from your office, but you want to make sure the outputs in the tray," Rogers said.

HP will also try to position printing as something that can be centrally managed. While PCs and other devices are generally centrally managed from within an IT department, printers are not. This can result in what Katharine Roth, senior manager information infrastructure at National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., called "a mess".

In an interview with eWEEK.com, Joseph Weis, president and chief executive of Uinta Business Systems, an HP printer reseller based in Salt Lake City, said that he often does not a make a call to a single organization within a customer, such as an IT department. Instead, printer contracts are often handled by several departments, each with special needs.

In addition, HP officials said the company signed a deal with IKON Office Solutions for distribution and services of the new HP printer solutions across the U.S. market.