Vancouver — Projectors, scanners and printers as pieces of furniture are all part of Epson Canada Ltd.’s future product plans, but digital cameras may be on the block.

At Comdex Canada West, Don Cameron, marketing communications manager

for Epson, said the decision to stop offering digital cameras still has to be made by Epson in Japan. But, Cameron called it “”a stretch”” if Epson continued in the digital camera business six months from now.

Cameron added that its was tough for Epson to make money on digital cameras, especially when Epson did not offer battery packs and lenses, which would earn the company extra margins from just the initial digital camera sale. This is in contrast to the business model from its printer division, where Epson sells well over 100 different kinds of papers and ink cartridges.

Epson did have success with its one of its digital camera products — the PhotoPC 100. “”The PhotoPC 100 was on back order for half of its life, and this in limited distribution,”” Cameron said. “”It was never in FutureShop, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, and Staples. It was just through the channel and Costco.””

Epson had as many as three digital cameras on the market, but recently scaled it down to just its best selling brand the PhotoPC 100.

The move, Cameron said, would not hurt Epson at all. Back in 2000, Epson developed Print Image Matching technology, which is currently being used by every digital camera manufacturer except for Hewlett-Packard and Canon. Digital camera manufacturers pay Epson a fee for using this technology in their cameras.

“”The last digital camera will go away in May. No more cameras after that. We’ll stick to printers,”” Cameron said.

Scanners, on the other hand, could easily replace Epson’s digital camera sales, Cameron said. Epson entered into the scanner market last year and Cameron said for consumers it has made more sense to spend $199 on a scanner for digital imaging needs rather than $250 to $300 for a digital camera. Cameron has placed Epson scanner product in FutureShop and Staples.

With its projector line, Epson has released a $3,000 projector that will now be available in FutureShop, Staples, London Drugs, and CompuSmart.

“”At $3,000, these projectors are leaving the stores like it’s a notebook,”” Cameron said.

Retailers are finally seeing a market for projectors for small business, he said. The new projectors are rugged, lightweight and the bulb life will last between 1,500 to 2,000 hours.

Projectors had a growth rate of about 40 per cent on average year-over-year, Cameron said, except for last year, where they slumped once corporate spending was scaled back. This year, Cameron pegs the growth at 25 per cent.

As for the printer side of the business, Epson hired an industrial design firm to find out new ways to make printers.

Their results may see Epson producing printers that look like furniture, audio components and whiteboards. The concept behind this is the printer as a fashion accessory for the home, Cameron said.

“”We want to make printers as part of (people’s) lifestyle and make them more efficient with space,”” he said.

If these products come to market, the price tag will increase over regular-looking printers, which increase the margin opportunities, he said.

Cameron did not know specifically when these printers would be made available, but he estimated they might be 16 months away.

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