Dell Computer has unveiled four printers for personal and workgroup use.
This marks its entry into a market dominated by rival Hewlett-Packard (HP). Dell also provided details of a policy designed to encourage users to purchase ink replacement cartridges directly from the company.
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Dell is undercutting its competition on price. For $139 (£88), customers can buy a combination printer, scanner and copier with 4,800 pixels by 1,200 pixels resolution. A similar combination printer from HP costs as much as $199.99 (£127) with the same printing quality, but with faxing capability, according to HP's website.
"Dell's first foray into printers will be accepted as good-enough technology by its many customers. As a result, we would expect Dell to quickly become a material player in the business printer marketplace," said Peter Kastner, chief research officer for Aberdeen Group in Boston.
Dell used to resell HP printers, but announced last year it would enter the market in partnership with Lexmark International as part of a diversification strategy.
The A940 is a colour inkjet printer combined with a scanner and copier, while the three other standalone printers are laser models. The P1500 is designed for both professionals and consumers, and costs $289 (£183). Dell is also selling two workgroup level printers that come in both networked and non-networked versions. The S2500 costs $499 (£316), while the S2500n for networks costs $839 (£532).
HP is the acknowledged leader in the printing business and commands a great deal of loyalty from its customers, Kastner said.
Dell's focus has always been on pricing and efficiency. "It does not have to have the world's most innovative technology to meet most users' needs most of the time," Kastner said.
Besides price, Dell thinks the software included with the printers sets them apart from the competition, said Tim Peter, vice-president and general manager of Dell's imaging and printing group. Users receive prompts to replace cartridges when the ink level falls below a certain mark and a link to Dell's website where replacement black and colour cartridges can be ordered appears on the user's screen. The workgroup printers send messages through the network to administrators, Peters said.
Dell is offering users of P1500 or S2500 series printers a choice between standard cartridges or cartridges that come with a use-and-return policy, which obligates the user to ship the cartridge back to Dell for recycling under a licensing agreement that takes effect when the user breaks the seal on the cartridge's package. Purchasers of the standard cartridges are not bound by the licensing agreement.