In a bid to expand colour printer sales in the enterprise Canon Canada has released two new hybrid multifunction laser copiers designed for was it calls occasional colour users.

“”I think we’re unique and first to the market,”” said Mason Olds, vice-president and general manager of the company’s

imaging systems group, at a press conference announcing the machines.

They are aimed at environments where colour would be used in up to 30 per cent of documents.

Among the possible markets are companies with separate colour lasers machines for colour insertions, particularly the real estate and automobile sectors, he said.

The imageRunner C3100 series, which includes two models (one network-enabled) can print 31 pages a minute (ppm) in black and white, and seven pmm in colour. Aimed at small workgroups, the standard machine lists for $13,995, while the C3100N lists at $16,700.

The $37,000 imageRunner C6800 is aimed at higher volume departments and can churn out colour pages at 16 ppm, and black and white at 68 ppm.

For departments with more onerous colour needs Canon offers the pricier C3200 line.

However, the company says the new machines enable businesses to get into colour for a “”small premium””– about 10 per cent, Olds said – above equivalent monochrome machines.

That cost differential may not be great, but the cost per impression for colour is still expensive.

Olds said C3100 produces black and white at 1.9 cents a page, compared to 15 cents for colour. The C6800’s monochrome output costs 1.12 cents a page, its colour output 13.5 cents.

“”The push is to move colour into the mainstream,”” observed Keith Kmetz, program director for hardcopy peripherals at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Last year some 70,000 laser-class multifunction devices were sold in the U.S., he said. By 2008 IDC believes that will jump to 221,000.

But industry analysts also say that widespread use of colour in business will only happen when the cost is much closer to monochrome.

Among the resellers to be carrying the new Canons are Ikon Office Solutions of Mississauga, Ont. and Danka Canada of Brampton, Ont., VARs who put together hardware and software solutions. They’ll also be competing against Canon Canada’s sales staff. Olds believes sales will be evenly split between the company and the channel.

Canon Canada expects big things from the new machines, although Olds wouldn’t reveal precise sales targets. He said the company sells about 200 a month of the C3200 in Canada, and hopes sales of the new copiers “”may be twice to three times”” that volume.

Both the C3100 and C6800 offer copy, fax and scan capabilities. The C6800 comes with Ethernet connectivity, as well as collating, stapling and saddle-stitch paper handling. Stapling and saddle-stitch capabilities are offered as options on the C3100 series.

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