Dell introduces colour laser printers

Dell Inc. added a splash of colour to its laser printer lineup Wednesday with three new models for businesses and home-office users.

Printers have been part of Dell’s product line for over a year, but the three new models are the company’s first colour laser models. The company’s printing business has come along steadily over the past few quarters as it tries to lure customers away from its chief rival, Hewlett-Packard Co.

HP has controlled the printer market for several years, and its printer group is usually the most profitable division. Dell hopes to chip away at HP’s market share lead with low-cost printers that it can sell alongside other enterprise IT equipment such as servers, storage and PCs.

The company has focused on consumers and small to medium-size companies during the initial growth of its printer business, said Tony Mara, senior product marketing manager for Dell.

That strategy makes a lot of sense, since HP dominates the market for large enterprise customers, said Jennifer Thorwart, senior analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass. Those customers are used to HP’s products and comfortable with the pricing and features, she said.

The Dell Laser Printer 5100cn is a networked printer that can print up to 35 black and white pages per minutes or up to 25 colour ppm. It costs US$999, and is available immediately for enterprise customers that wish to use it in workgroup settings.

Replacement cartridges for the 5100cn cost US$169.99 each for the color cartridges, and US$49.99 for the black and white cartridges. Those cartridges should print between 8,000 color pages and 9,000 black and white pages before needing to be replaced.

A notification message alerts the administrator that the toner is running out and provides a link to Dell’s Web site where replacement cartridges can be ordered.

The 5100cn is significantly cheaper than a comparable product from HP, the HP Color LaserJet 4650 series, Thorwart said. The 4650 printers start at US$1,799, and a network card on that base model is an optional feature, she said. Operating costs for both printers are about the same, she said.

The other new models, the 3100cn and the 3000cn, are also available immediately. The 3100cn is designed for offices that don’t require as much printing capacity or speed as provided by the 5100cn. It costs US$549.

Smaller offices are the target for the 3000cn, which has a little less capacity than the 3100cn. That model costs US$449.

Most modern printers are very similar, and choosing a printer often comes down to pricing and channel availability, Thorwart said. Dell generally does well on pricing, but HP has an advantage with its network of resellers that are always pushing HP printers, she said.

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