P>HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — Hewlett-Packard unveiled eight new printers targeting the SMB market as part of a product launch at its annual Imaging and Printing Conference today.

Three of the printers are designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses: The Business Inkjet 2800, Designjet

70 and the Color LaserJet 2800. The other five printers are lower-end and can be used in either a home office or small business.

In his keynote address to reporters and analysts, image and printing group vice-president Vyomesh Goshi said the release of the printers follows through on a strategic plan in introduced in 2002 that called for HP to become involved in four emerging markets, including colour printing in the office, multi-function printers, digital imaging and digital publishing.

“”For the last 21 years we were in that tornado mode,”” he said. “”Customers loved what we were offering and kept saying ‘give us more.’ The reality is, certain parts of our core business are slowing down and we need to extend those core businesses. We need to make sure that we find these great growth opportunities and stock them for success,”” he added.

In addition to the line of printers, HP also launched a couple of digital projectors for the SMB market – the HP mp3135 and the HP vp6300. The vendor also introduced the Scanjet 7650 for the same sector.

The product launch comes a week before HP releases its latest quarterly earnings. In the last four quarters, the digital and imaging group earned $24.4 billion (all figures US), with the SMB market accounting for $10 billion and the rest split between the consumer market ($10 billion) and the enterprise market ($6.4 billion).

Even though the SMB market has been driving the digital and imaging group, the company sees opportunity to further expand into newer markets. Cathy Lyons, senior vice-president for business imaging and printing, said HP is expanding full speed into new countries, such as Russia, India and China, adding that sales in the SMB space are burgeoning.

“”These markets are becoming so important to us, I refer to them as primary markets, not emerging markets,”” Lyons told the audience. “”With our low-end monochrome laser printers — which are growing phenomenally well in the emerging countries — the SMB customer can now get access to a reliable printer at an affordable price. This business has already become 20 per cent of our overall business in emerging geographies,”” Lyons added.

In terms of marketing to small- and mid-size companies, HP thinks its new line of printers will appeal to those looking to print brochures and other marketing documents in-house, rather than paying a printer to do it for them.

John Trisic, vice-president and general manager of HP Canada’s digital imaging group, told CDN that Canadian customers he talks to want to print their own brochures in order to save costs. Now that HP has unveiled the new line of printers, he expects new partnership opportunities to open up for VARs in Canada.

“”If you think of the value proposition that colour printing drives to our SMB customers, it’s pretty compelling,”” Trisic said.

“”In terms of do-it-yourself marketing and bringing marketing in-house, it’s the costs savings associated with that as well as the effectiveness in terms of enabling small businesses to target customers, that’s makes it a compelling value proposition,”” he added.

The street price on the home and small office printers range from $179 to $379. Prices for the SMB-designed printers range from $499 to $799.

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