TORONTO – Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are quicker than their larger counterparts to adopt new technology and are the fastest-growing business category in Canada. This is why Lexmark Canada Inc. has decided to focus its new

products on the SMB market, according to Hugh Dyke, director of the company’s consumer printer division.

On Monday, Lexmark Canada officially launched six new inkjet products, all under the $400 price point. But it is the four-in-one series of printers that is targeted at Canada’s SMB community. The primary products designed for this market are the X6170 four-in-one printer, which includes faxing, scanning and copying features for $399, and the X6150, priced at $299.

“”Seventy-five per cent of all businesses in Canada have fewer than five employees, and 90 per cent of all businesses have fewer than 50 employees. Small and medium businesses account for over a million businesses in the country … and they’re looking for quality at a low investment,”” Dyke said.

Most all-in-one printers are priced above the $400 mark, he said.

Frank Albanese, a research manager at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said that most peripheral companies are seeing the SMB sector as a green pasture in today’s economy.

“”Along with the crash in PCs, printers followed suit. The buzz around small and medium businesses is a reaction to the fact that the enterprise space is currently full of technology and there’s no margin in it, so companies want to exploit other market areas,”” he said.

Increased white-collar unemployment has made way for an increase in small and medium businesses, which need technology, Albanese said. This, he said, has made the marketplace a feeding frenzy.

“”Overall, it’s going to be a battle. Dell has also entered the space, so we’re looking at a ferocious market share battle brewing between Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Lexmark and Canon,”” he said.

Dyke noted that one-half of all inkjet products currently sold by Lexmark are all-in-one configurations. Albanese said this is a clear trend that is accelerating rapidly because consumers are interested in the increased functionality for the same price, in many cases, as a single function unit.

Companies such as Lexmark have chosen to provide such low price points as a selling strategy, Albanese explained.

“”Competition is such that they’ve decided to either break even or lose money up front in hopes that you’ll buy consumables – paper and ink – for your printer, ideally branded the same as the printer,”” he said.

Despite the high costs often associated with these consumables, consumers are still behind inkjet technology over laser printers. According to Albanese, inkjet printer sales make up for approximately 80 per cent of sales in Canada.

Lexmark also released the X1150, an all-in-one printer priced at less than $200, the P707 Photo Jetprinter, designed for printing digital photography, and two low-end printers for less than $100.

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