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HP offers $599 color-faxing device

The company's latest all-in-one offering allows a user to fax or email color images and documents from a PC.

Hewlett-Packard today introduced its newest all-in-one device that features color faxing, a novel feature and one that is not yet widely supported.

The Office Jet Series 700 line of products combines a printer with a copier, scanner, and fax machine and allows users to email or fax scanned color images and documents directly from their PC.

Though the new line provides sending of these color images, there's a catch: To send and receive a color document via fax, both the sender and the receiver must have a color-fax-enabled machine, and right now only HP offers one.

"The idea of color faxing is cool, but there are a lot of limitations to it," said Gary Peterson, an analyst at ARS. "The biggest limitation is that [the HP Office Jet Series 700] is the only machine in the world that offers it."

While HP concedes that no other vendors offer machines with color-fax capability right now, the company argues that anyone with a PC and a color printer or scanner can see the output of a color fax sent from an Office Jet 700.

"This is about color communications," said Bernadette McBrearty, future product manager for HP consumer products. "Eighty percent of users we talked to are interested in color-fax capability."

Still, anyone with a fairly recent email program can send and receive color documents, although McBrearty argues that color fax is more immediate and secure than email. "Depending on how it is routed, email is not as immediate as fax," she said.

The new line consists of the Office Jet 700 and 710, similar products priced at $599 for the club and retail channels, respectively. The 720 can make 99 copies at a time, store up to 65 pages to fax, and offers an additional software package for Microsoft Office 97, for $629.

HP's new line is priced at approximately $100 more than competing MFPs (multi-function peripherals), according to Peterson, who added that he doubts that the color-fax capability is worth the premium.

"Everybody's trying to figure out what to add to these without driving up the cost. It doesn't cost a lot to add color faxing, and it does look good on the shelf," he said. "But there is no market demand for color faxing, especially when the cheaper solution is to email."

That doesn't mean Peterson doesn't expect the products to be successful, though. "This is going to be a very popular product," he conceded. "HP knows how to make it very attractive."