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Laser Printing Made Affordable

16 Oct, 2001

Laser Printing Made Affordable

With all the inexpensive and easy-to-use color printers hitting the market in recent months, you might think that the laser printer business was sliding when it comes to home users.

Not true, says Lyra Research, a market research firm in Newtonville, Mass. Analysts there are saying the market for personal laser printers will top $3.4 billion this year and continue to grow over the next three to five years.

Low prices have a lot to do with that. Hewlett-Packard , which sold $4.3 billion worth of printing and imaging equipment last quarter, said yesterday it is entering the market for low-cost laser printers. Its LaserJet 1000 will cost about $250, $150 less than the LasertJet 1200, which at $400 had been its most inexpensive laser printer. It's breaking into some well-worn competitive territory. Companies like Samsung , Lexmark and Brother already have low-cost laser printers in the range of $200 to $300.

It can print up to ten pages a minute, at a resolution of 600 dots per inch. It's slower than most consumer-oriented color printers, but when you want that cover letter and resume to look sharp, nothing beats a laser printer. Plus your toner cartridge will last longer and cost lest to replace than the expensive replacement cartridges for color printers, making the overall cost per printed page a lot less over the long term.

HP has made this printer easy to install. It connects to your machine using the Universal Serial Bus connection port and will work right out of the box when you plug it in. It supports Microsoft operating systems, including Windows 98, 2000, ME and XP. But in an apparent oversight, it won't work with computers running Apple Computer's Macintosh operating system. All the software driver programs that tell the printer what to do reside on the printer itself and aren't installed in the PC. HP hasn't seen fit to include one that speaks Macintosh, though it would probably be easy to do.

It's small enough to fit on a desktop and, in an improvement over the 1200, has a protected 250-sheet paper tray. HP says it's shipping to retailers in the U.S. and Canada now.

Low prices are a good thing in a depressed market for electronics. In its most recent quarter, HP said printing and imaging revenue declined 10% over the same period a year ago, and operating margins in the segment declined a few percentage points as well. LaserJet sales were down 12% over the previous year, but the low-end of HP's LaserJet product line has needed a refresh for some time now. It's also paying increased attention to home users and has been advertising its home-oriented imaging and printing products on TV. A healthy bump of holiday season sales would be welcome news.

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