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HP unveils low-cost corporate copier

With streamlined multifunction device, tech giant aims to gain ground in business copier market.

A new copier-printer from Hewlett-Packard appears to be based on the old less-is-more adage.

As part of a broader printer product launch Tuesday, HP announced a multifunction device for corporate customers that doesn't require a service contract and is designed as a low-cost alternative to expensive and complex copiers.

"HP found that 80 percent of customers are paying for copiers overloaded with features and functions that are rarely used," Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group, said in a statement. "The HP LaserJet 4345mfp delivers the performance and reliability customers want but doesn't make them pay for the extras they don't need."

HP said its new LaserJet 4345mfp can spit out up to 45 pages per minute at a third of the cost of comparable devices. The product, which is small enough to fit on a desktop and which prints, copies, scans and faxes, is priced starting at $2,599 and slated to be available Nov. 30.

Keith Kmetz, an analyst at research firm IDC, said HP is competing against copiers with similar performance that cost more than $10,000. HP is able to offer a lower-priced product by not including 11-inch by 17-inch paper in the device and skipping features such as hole-punching, he said. While copier machine purchases typically include a maintenance contract, HP is offering a more flexible approach that allows customers to decide to service the 4345 on their own, he said.

"The 4345 is a revolutionary approach to targeting the copier opportunity," Kmetz said. "If they are successful at displacing more copier activity with the 4345, that's a huge win for them."

But Kmetz cautioned that the new product could end up replacing network printers rather than copiers, resulting in a smaller victory for HP.

As it stands, HP holds less than 5 percent of the U.S. market for workgroup devices that handle multiple tasks including copying, according to IDC. Major copier vendors include Xerox and Canon.

HP has long had a dominant market share in printers. But that market is expected to decline over the next several years as multifunction devices become more widespread. HP also faces growing competition in printing from rival Dell.

The fate of HP's new printing products is vitally important to the venerable computing company, because the imaging and printing group contributes the lion's share of the company's overall profits.

In addition to the 4345 device, HP on Tuesday introduced new higher-end multifunction products. The company also announced a color multifunction device and new software.