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Lexmark jumps on multi-function printer bandwagon

Lexmark International will today introduce two new multi-function printing (MFP) systems and a new MFP add-on option for many of its printers.

MFP systems are essentially next-generation printers that combine the functionality of printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines all into the same unit.

The Lexmark X4500 MFP option brings MFP functionality to practically any Lexmark T-series laser printer or C750 colour printer. An add-on option approximately the size of a scanner, the X4500 can be installed by the user, according to Mike Pollard, a manager of product marketing at Lexmark.

Once attached, the X4500 lets users control the print, copy, scan, and fax functions of the MFP system through an intuitive interface located on a 7.7-inch touch-sensitive colour screen. Printers modified with the X4500 gain features such as monochrome page scanning at 23 pages per minute, colour scanning at 14 pages per minute, a 33.6Kbps fax system, and scan-to-e-mail functionality using a company's own e-mail directory.

By making MFP an option for some of its mid-range printers, Lexmark hopes to move MFP functionality closer to those who actually need and use scan, fax, copy, and print devices, Pollard said.

"We're taking this traditionally departmental-level MFP functionality and we're deploying it closer to users on our workgroup printers," Pollard said. "We also want to enable our customers to move into and out of electronic formats seamlessly and easily."

Lexmark will introduce two new MFP printers equipped with the X4500 interface, the monochrome X620e MFP and the colour X750e MFP. Both new MFP systems deliver the full range of the X4500's MFP functionality in a pre-configured setup.

Since mainstream printers began arriving with their own IP addresses in volume last year, printer companies such as Lexmark, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Canon, Xerox, and others have each been evolving their printers into MFP devices.

Although HP and Canon beat Lexmark to market with their separate MFP products, the MFP design approach by each of these vendors is significantly different. HP's MFP systems are tightly integrated, Canon's MFP systems, which are the result of a joint effort between Canon and eCopy, are partly integrated and Lexmark's new MFP offerings are modular.

"It's going to be interesting to those who watch this printer market if customers are going to gravitate towards one type of MFP configuration or another," Keith Kmetz, a program director for printer research at IDC, said.

The X4500 MFP option starts at $4,299 (£3,004). The X620e MFP system will cost $6,999 (£4,890) and the X750e $11,799 (£8,244), according to Lexmark.

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