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HP makes color printing push

The company unveils a color laser printer for under $500, as well as other products and partnerships aimed at home and office customers.

In a bid to expand its printing business, Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday announced a slew of new products and partnerships focused on color imaging and printing.

HP is targeting both consumers and businesses with the offers, which include a new color laser printer in North America that the company plans to sell for $499. The company also announced joint efforts with software company Adobe Systems, Apple Computer and Microsoft. HP said it is working with Microsoft to offer small and midsize businesses tools for creating marketing materials.

"Three vectors have come together allowing HP to bring a more holistic color experience to nearly every customer: digital photography is widespread, imaging devices are affordable, and technology now can provide rich, powerful color at prices customers can afford," Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's imaging and printing group, said in a statement.

Larry Jamieson, an analyst at research firm Lyra Research, said HP has targeted a fertile field and that the company was wise to team up with software partners to make color printing more efficient for customers.

"People don't want to lose time...trying to create documents," he said.

HP's printing and imaging division is in a sense the crown jewel of the company. It raked in $6.1 billion in revenue and $953 million in operating earnings for the company's most recent quarter. The division accounted for 30 percent of HP's total revenue and a whopping 69 percent of total operating earnings from the company's various segments.

In printing, HP is fending off challenges from companies such as Epson and Dell, which entered the business with its own models last year.

HP estimated that office color printing already represents a $7.1 billion market and that it will grow annually by 20 percent to $10.2 billion by 2006. The company said businesses can save up to 50 percent of their current outsourced printing budget by "going in-house."

Among HP's announcements was a plan to offer online workshops to help small and midsize companies learn about color topics, including methods to develop professional color documents.

New products from HP include:

• The HP Color LaserJet 4650, a color laser printer aimed at small and midsize businesses. It offers speeds of up to 22 pages per minute and is priced at $1,799.

• The HP Scanjet 5590, a scanner featuring a 50-page automatic document feeder with duplexing capabilities, priced at $399.

• The HP Officejet 4215, an "all in one" device with print, fax, scan and copy capabilities, priced at $149.

• HP Laser Specialty Media, which lets customers "reliably and affordably" print in-house graphics and marketing materials "with professional-looking results," the company said.