Each of the four new models comes equipped with various Internet features, including abilities to remotely manage printers and supplies, print directly from wireless devices and scan documents directly to the Web.
"The world is moving from PC-centric to services-centric computing," Vyomesh Joshi, president of HP's Imaging and Printing Systems Group, said during a Webcast. "In this world, the Internet is an extremely important part of the infrastructure we want to use to transform imaging and printing."
Of the four models, the Laser Jet 4100 is the most sophisticated. Targeted at large and medium-size businesses, it contains an embedded Web server and an embedded virtual machine. These technologies allow an administrator to access and control the printer from any Web browser by typing in the URL of the machine.
This printer will also automatically notify an administrator by e-mail in the event of a problem. This machine, which replaced the HP LaserJet 4050, retails for $1,099.
The LaserJet 2200, targeted for small and medium-size business, comes with a built-in infrared port that allows people to point a handheld computer at the machine and print. This model, which replaced the LaserJet 1100, retails for $799.
The other two models, the LaserJet 1220 and 3200, come with an optional snap-on scanner module, which allows people to scan a document directly to an e-mail message or Web site. The 3200 model also comes with a fax machine. The 1220 model retails for $529; the 3200 sells for $599.
Printing and imaging accounts for a large portion of HP's revenue. In the three months ended Jan. 31, 2001, the company derived approximately $5 billion, out of a total of some $12 billion in revenue, from this segment. By comparison, the company generated $4.8 billion from its computing systems segment and approximately $1.8 billion from IT services.
HP's new printer line marks an attempt by the company to keep its printing and imaging business vibrant and growing. "The key objective we have is to profitably grow this business," Joshi said during the Webcast.
Analysts, however, suspect there will be little immediate demand for some of the features offered, including the "walk-up" printing from handheld devices.
"I don't think users right now are really demanding (these services) yet, so I think (HP) is offering these features as a convenience," said Weili Su, printing and imaging analyst for IDC. "It takes awhile for these to catch on."