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Dell launches sub-$100 laser printer

Company unveils a black-and-white laser printer for $99--low enough to start a price war, some say. Photo: Dell's Laser Printer 1100

Dell has unveiled a black-and-white laser printer priced at $99--low enough, possibly, to kick off a price war in the home and small-office printer market.

The computing giant introduced its Dell Laser Printer 1100 on Tuesday. The device handles up to 15 pages a minute with a resolution of 600 dpi. Analysts predict competitors ranging from Hewlett-Packard to Lexmark will feel the pressure to offer something comparable, given that their low-end monochrome lasers start at roughly twice that price.

Laser Printer 1100

"Dell's laser is a disruptive price," said Charles Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Co., adding, "This could cause more consumers to shift over to laser."

Over the years, laser printers have lost market share to their cheaper counterparts, inkjet printers. During the first quarter, U.S. shipments of inkjet printers reached 6.5 million, compared with 1.6 million for laser printers, Wolf said.

That shift has come despite the relatively high speed with which laser printers can churn out documents of superior clarity. Laser printer toner cartridges also need to be replaced less frequently than cartridges for inkjet printers.

"Laser printers are not big in the home, but this could cause consumers to shift over to laser for big print jobs," Wolf said.

Dell is also aggressively pricing the toner for its new printer at $65 per 2,000 pages. Lexmark's cheapest E series monochrome laser printer, the E 232, carries a toner price tag of $94 per 2,000 pages.

"Dell is going to screw everybody," Wolf said.

Ink and toner serve as important, ongoing sources of revenue for printer manufacturers, who find they can sell the hardware at a discount and then more than make up for it later on in supply sales.

"Dell's intention is to consistently bring better prices to customers?I'm not sure whether this will trigger a price war," said Maggie Beery, a Dell spokeswoman.

Dell's move into printers over the past several years is part of its strategy to move beyond carrying only PCs. And with its direct sales channel, the computer giant is often able to undercut the prices of close competitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer, which rely heavily on resellers and retailers.