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Compaq plugs "all-in-one" printer

The new machine acts as a combination printer, scanner, fax, and copier, the first such offering from the company.

Compaq Computer today moved to build on its printer business, introducing its first "all-in-one" machine.

The new Compaq A900 acts as a combination printer, scanner, fax, and copy machine, the first such offering from the company. Compaq has enjoyed success bundling its branded printers with PCs, and is likely to enter the MFP (Multi-Function Peripheral) market as a major player.

Compaq's expansion in the peripherals market is also part of a larger trend of PC makers aggressively exploring alternative revenue streams as they try to offset the rapidly dwindling profit margins in the PC business. Dell Computer and Gateway, for instance, are both beefing up their online sales to include peripheral and software sales.

Compaq's A900 is priced lower and offers more features than similar products, analysts say, which is also likely to give Compaq a boost. To aid complicated jobs, Compaq added a Control Form, which allows users to check off their preferences with a pen or pencil. The machine then "reads" and executes the instructions.

Compaq also added Distinctive Ring Pattern Detection, which means the machine rings differently depending on whether a fax or phone call is incoming.

The Compaq A900 is priced at $349, about $50 less than similar machines, according to Gary Peterson, an analyst at ARS, who wrote about the upcoming Compaq entry into the peripherals market. Compaq is targeting the A900 at small and home office users and consumers, the company said.

"In order for a new entrant to be successful in any peripherals arena, the new entrant must offer a product both better and less expensive than the current players in the market," which include Hewlett-Packard and Canon, according to Peterson.

Although Compaq is not expected to topple the two printer giants, the PC maker is likely to bundle the new machine with its PCs, which will be a compelling retail package, Peterson wrote.

"While Compaq does not have the same name as HP and Canon in the retail?market, the Presario A900 will likely have the same success as its inkjet printers," he wrote.