HP colors its business printers

The company eyes the $161 billion market for in-house marketing projects.

Michael Singer
Michael Singer Staff Writer, CNET News.com
4 min read
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
SAN JOSE, Calif.--Hewlett-Packard added a splash of color to its printer business on Monday with the launch of new laser copier/printers, branded toner and services targeted at small businesses.

The announcements build on HP's monochrome multifunction laser business, which the company and almost immediately yielded positive results. The color versions of the five newly announced laser printers and two inkjet desktop printers also target companies that may want to print out their own marketing materials, such as brochures, fliers and presentations, instead of sending them to a local print shop.

Vyomesh Joshi

"Because the Internet is full of color, we are finding that these companies are also transitioning to color printers," Vyomesh Joshi, HP executive vice president, said during a press event at the Fairmont Hotel here. "The amount of color pages printed out for business is growing 33 percent every year and is expected to be an $80.6 billion market by 2009."

The landscape for multifunction printers is very tight, according to Gartner statistics. The leader is Canon with more than 16 percent market share. Xerox and Ricoh are second and third respectively with about 15 percent market share apiece. HP ranks fourth.

Joshi said that HP's current market share for the high-speed printer market is 12 percent. But the company, which has the lion's share of the home printer market, is encouraged by the decline in copier-only devices and the need to network printers. HP's overall printer business is expected to double in the next 10 years, he said.

Of the estimated 15 trillion pages printed by businesses every year, Joshi said, about 1.2 trillion are for jobs of more than 500 pages. The next-largest chunk--384 billion--are smaller jobs of less than 500 pages. Of that number, HP estimates, 161 billion can be done by small companies themselves.

Instead of launching a whole new service division to help out small to medium-size businesses in this area, HP announced it would launch a new program, Smart Printing Services. Starting Nov. 1, the Web-based site will coach companies on what printer services that they need and then allow them to lease printers and related supplies and service through a contract for a flat monthly payment.

HP color laserjet 4730 multi-function printer
Credit: Hewlett-Packard
The color laserjet 4730 printer HP hopes
will appeal to small and medium-size

The services and products could also be ordered through HP's business service partners, Joshi said, and would not interfere with any existing relationships. HP is not expected to hire or reallocate additional employees to staff the printing services division unless there is an overwhelming demand, the company said.

HP has already put much of its service strategy in place, executives said, with its HP In-House Marketing Portal, which, HP just announced, extended support for CorelDRAW's graphics software to include brochure, newsletter and postcard templates, as well as "how to" tips.

The other highlight of HP's announcement is its Color LaserJet 4730mfp (multifunction printer). The standalone unit can print, copy, scan to e-mail, scan to folder, and send an analog fax. The product can print in monochrome and color at up to 30 pages per minute. Prices for the machine start at $4,999.

Four other color laser jet printers--HP's 3000, 3600, 3800 and 4700--can either be hooked up to a company's network or stand alone. Prices range from $799 for a nonnetworked version of the HP 3800 all the way to $4,999 for a networked HP 4700 printer.

The printers will come with a full tank of HP's new ColorSphere laser printer toner. Similar to its , HP said its ColorSphere technology increased the level of details printed and can print graphics and photo-quality pages.

As it did with the monochrome laser printer, HP opted not to include support for 11-by-17-inch paper, three-ring-hole punching or advanced document binding.

HP also said its new color printers would be available without a service contract and could even be purchased through third-party printer channels.

"This is more of the same from HP and not that revolutionary," said Gartner analyst Lynn Ritter. "Their monochrome multifunction machines are not doing badly at all. They are No. 1 in Europe, and other copy vendors are afraid of it because of its price and speed of 45 to 69 pages per minute."

The foundation of the company's printing business was laid out in May 2005 with the (that machine also did not handle the 11-by-17-inch paper size, known as A3). The company followed up that launch with a $1.4 billion investment in scalable printing technology and the .

Correction: This story incorrectly described the growth HP expects over the next 10 years for its overall printer business. It also incorrectly reported the number of pages printed by businesses annually and the price for a networked HP 4700 printer.