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Lexmark gear takes aim at HP

Lexmark International unveils a slew of new products as it tries to make further inroads into the market for business machines that act as copiers, scanners and printers.

Lexmark International is unveiling a slew of new products Monday aimed at battling Hewlett-Packard and making further inroads into the market for business machines that act as copiers, scanners and printers.

As first reported by CNET, Lexmark is hoping the launch will do more than help it hold ground against HP. The No. 2 printer maker is aiming to steal market share from copier makers as companies look to replace aging analog copiers with digital gear that can handle multiple tasks. In all, Lexmark is introducing 11 new products, including five monochrome laser printers, one color laser printer, three multifunction devices, as well as a new printer driver and option for secure printing.

"The push that Lexmark is making is clearly in the MFP (multifunction peripheral) world," said Chris Barnes, a printer analyst at market researcher ARS.

As part of the effort, Lexmark is announcing two new devices that, when attached to a Lexmark printer, allow the gear to also act as scanner and copier. The new attachments offer faster print and copy speeds as well as higher resolutions.

While other companies have taken a more integrated approach to such devices, Lexmark has a more modular approach, offering scanning attachments that turn a printer into a multifunction device.

"The modular approach we take to our MFPs is a key differentiator," said Jeanne Talbot, a Lexmark spokeswoman. "If they deploy our regular monochrome laser printers today and later decide they want to upgrade to multifunction capability it's very easy for them. They just add a scanner, and they are ready to go."

Some of the machines still look as if the scanner attachment is simply bolted onto the printer, but Barnes said that Lexmark is improving the integration of the devices and the improved software reflects the fact that the company is on its third generation of combined devices.

"They've gotten better actually," he said.

Plus, Barnes said, the odd look can even be an advantage for the printer maker. Many of the multifunction devices made by copier makers look so much like copiers that few people at the companies use them as printers, he said. "It takes (people) awhile to get over the way in which they (are used) to using these devices. They get in kind of a rut."

Lexmark's T632 laser printer

As for its new single-function laser printers, Lexmark said it is continuing its strategy of trying to offer the same features as HP at a lower price or more features for the same price. For example, Lexmark is touting that its $749 T630 will offer the same 35-page-per-minute printing as HP's $999 LaserJet 4200, while for $999 Lexmark is offering the 40-page-per-minute T632.

Of course, printer makers are constantly adding features for the same price and bringing the same features to a lower price, Barnes said. "It's kind of like the printer world's version of Moore's Law," he said, referring to the principle in the chip world that performance will double every 18 months. "All the printer makers have to adhere to that or they will fall by the wayside," he said.

Lexmark's new printers follow HP's introduction last week of two new printers as well as price cuts to other products in HP's line.

At the low end, Lexmark is introducing two printers that compete against the Lexmark-made models that Dell Computer introduced last month. For example, Lexmark's new $299 E321 is likely to compete against Dell's $289 P1500. Although the machines have similar black coloring, a Lexmark representative said the machines are different and have toner cartridges that are not interchangeable.