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Dell to expand printer line in 2004

The PC maker plans to work with Fuji Xerox, Kodak and Samsung to increase the number of printing devices it offers. Analysts say to look out for color laser printers.

LAS VEGAS--Dell has signed agreements with three new partners in an effort to expand its imaging and printing business this year.

As expected, the Round Rock, Texas, PC maker used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to make public its plans to work with Fuji Xerox, Kodak and Samsung to increase the number of printing devices it offers.

Dell said that the partnerships will add to its existing relationship with Lexmark, which manufactures Dell's current line of printers. That Lexmark-built printer line, which the PC maker released in March 2003, includes several inkjet, multifunction and laser printers, designed for consumers and businesses.

"Our relationship with Lexmark has been very successful for both companies. By joining talents with those of Fuji Xerox, Kodak and Samsung, we can expand even wider the breadth of imaging and printing solutions customers are seeking from us," Tim Peters, general manager of Dell's Imaging and Printing group, said in a statement Thursday.

CEO Michael Dell offered few details on the agreement during his Thursday speech at CES, besides assurances that the PC maker would continue to work extensively with Lexmark. "They'll continue to be a strong partner going forward," he said.

Dell said the new partners would help his company address new markets and build on its initial success selling printers. "We have proven the direct model can simplify the purchasing and owning of printers for customers of all sizes," he said. "We're very serious about providing all customers the best value in printing."

The PC maker has not yet released product descriptions and other details. But it is likely to add new products such as a color laser printer and a multifunction laser that can also fax, scan and copy documents, analysts said earlier this week.

"Where (Dell is) lacking is in the color laser printer market," said Peter Grant, an analyst with Gartner.

"My guess is that they're finally going to provide Dell-labeled color printers that are focused on the small and medium-size business market. That's the fastest growing segment of the laser printer market," Grant said.

Working with a number of manufacturers will help Dell take advantage of each supplier's strengths and pick the best models to offer to its customers, analysts said.

Adding more models should help Dell to sell more printers and ultimately take advantage of recurring revenue from sales of supplies such as ink and toner cartridges.

The company said in November that it is on track to finish its fiscal year in January having sold about 1.8 million or more printers.

Michael Dell spent much of his CES talk highlighting the company's recent forays into consumers electronics, including LCD television sets and digital music players. He said the company's interest in such markets is a signing of maturing technology and industry consensus.

"We like to serve markets that are based in standardizing technology...where the majority of customers have decided this is the way they want to spend their money," he said.