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Dell lines up its first printers

The company is set to launch two laser-jet devices and a multifunction inkjet that will be priced in the same range as similar models from rival Hewlett-Packard.

Dell Computer will jump into printers next week as it continues its plan to think out of the box--the PC box, that is.

The Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker intends to launch its first three printers next week--two laser jets as well as an inkjet that can print, fax and copy documents. The multifunction printer, one of the hottest types of printers on the market nowadays, will largely be aimed at consumers and small businesses.

Dell has two goals for its printer push: boost its own sales and hurt archrival Hewlett-Packard. Printers, and consumables such as printer cartridges, remain the crown jewel in HP's product arsenal. At one time, Dell was one of the largest resellers of HP printers.

The prices of Dell's new printers will likely undercut or match HP's prices. Dell is expected to sell its multifunction printer for between $150 and $200, or close to the price of HP's similar PSC 2110, which sells for $199.

In the past year, Dell has also entered the PDA market, increased the size of its services operation, pushed its own line of communications products and expanded into storage by striking an alliance with EMC. Some of the actions have angered former partners.

Dell has also started making "white box" PCs for regional dealers and opened up kiosks in retail outlets. In the past, Dell has eschewed stores and dealers, preferring to sell its products to customers via the mail.

Some of the company's past side ventures have succeeded. For example, Dell became the largest workstation manufacturer in the world after just a few years in the market. But Dell has stumbled too. One of its first forays into storage occurred via a buyout of ConvergeNet. But Dell closed the ConvergeNet operations after two years. It also sold off a Web-hosting unit.

Analysts are mixed on whether Dell will succeed in the printer business.

Lexington, Ky.-based Lexmark will make Dell's printers under a partnership announced last September.

Along with the multifunction printer, Dell is expected to launch two monochrome laser printers. The least expensive model, priced at $300, will be geared toward small businesses and home-office buyers, sources said. The other model, $500, is aimed at larger companies. It may include an Ethernet network connection for an additional fee, sources said.