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HP launches color copiers

The company enters the $23 billion copier market with an eye toward small businesses and home users.

Hewlett-Packard (HWP) introduced today a line of InkJet-based digital color copiers that analysts say could help it win a sizable share of the U.S. personal copier market.

The machines are aimed at small businesses and home users, who usually must travel to a photocopying shop to make color copies, often at a price of $2 per sheet. Buying a color copier isn't an attractive option either, as it involves paying $15,000 to $50,000.

By contrast, the estimated street price for the HP Color Copier Series 100 is $699, and the 210 LX is about $1,300. The new models are available immediately in the United States.

The Series 100 model can make up to seven copies per minute using black ink and up to three in color, while the 210 LX can make ten black-ink copies per minute and up to six color copies. The 210 also has an automatic document feeder--leave it off and the price drops to $999, the same price as HP's OfficeJet Pro 1150c all-in-one printer-copier-scanner.

Stuart Schaffer, business development manager at HP's consumer products group, said the copiers were designed to capture customers who now use similarly priced monochrome copiers. He also said the machines could rejuvenate the personal copier market.

According to IDC Link, sales of personal copiers in the U.S. slumped 3.6 percent in 1996. But analysts at the research firm believe the HP copiers will help boost the market by 11.4 percent in 1997 and 12.2 percent in 1998.

Richard Norton, president of DocuTrends, a market research firm in Saratoga, California, says HP could take 10 to 20 percent of the personal copier market in the next 12 months.

According to Norton, Canon holds about half the market, Xerox about a third, and Sharp the remainder.

"I don't think this product is going to explode a segment or add a new segment just because it's there," he said. "HP will do well just because they're HP."

To get the best results, analysts noted, customers will need to use specially coated paper that the company said will cost from 10 cents to $1 per page.

As with other HP InkJet products, sales of copier cartridges--estimated at $35 each--and other supplies are expected to account for the most lucrative part of the business, analysts said.

Personal copiers are only a small portion of the $23 billion overall copy machine market. Analysts said they do not expect HP's machines to compete with $15,000-plus laser-based models.

Nevertheless, the copiers could add tens of millions to HP's total revenue during the next 12 months.

"They're inexpensive alternatives for color copying," said Bob Leahy, an analyst at Peripheral Insights in Boston. "They will be successful with it, but it will be a low-profile part of HP's product line."

HP said all the machines use a flatbed copy surface and are equipped with zoom technology to reduce and enlarge documents from 50 percent to 400 percent.

Until now, HP has not fully entered the market with stand-alone copiers. The company has been challenging copier makers for years with all-in-one products like the OfficeJet Pro 1150c and with mopiers--printers designed specifically for producing multiple original prints.

Reuters contributed to this report.