Lexmark International Inc. today announced two new photo printers that enable it to compete with Hewlett-Packard and Epson in terms of price per photo.

The Lexmark P915 Home Photo Printer and the Lexmark P6250 Home Photo Center All-in-One allow users to print 4-in. by 6-in. prints at a cost

of U.S. 29 cents per picture, said Rob Morris, manager of business and technology strategy and consumer printer division at Lexmark.

Morris made these comments at a recent technical press event that the printer manufacturer held at its headquarters here. Lexmark invited over 50 journalists and employees from its North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions for the event.

Aimed at small office-home office and consumer markets, the P6250 prints and scans at up to 4800 dpi and functions as a standalone black, colour and photo copier.

Lexmark also announced the latest addition to its small and medium business lineup, the X7170 All-in-One multi-function inkjet device. The MFP features up to 4800 dpi print and scan resolution and standalone copy and fax capabilities.

The printers are integrated with Lexmark software that provides users with a graphical interface when hooked up to a PC.

The X7170 also offers network support and optional Ethernet and wireless network adapters.

Both products will be shipped later this month to retail chains, including Best Buy and Staples, distributors, including CDW, Insight, MicroWarehouse, PC Mall, and solution providers.

Roberto Torok, vice-president and general manager of small and medium business division at Lexmark, said the channel is key to Lexmark’s go-to-market strategy in this segment.

“”Everything we do for SMB is in association with VARs and systems integrators,”” said Torok. “”Not only do we make available a solution, we share tools with the channel to develop the solution.””

According to IDC and internal research, the SMB market represents $30 billion in total market value with $14.5 billion in hardware and $15.5 billion in supplies, solutions and services. In terms of market participation, IDC said SMB inkjet purchases account for 26 per cent of the market.

Bill Fournier, an analyst at Toronto-based research firm Evans Research Corp., said the announcements present opportunities for the channel to sell to the SMB market.

“”Using photos is a big part of business. Digital photography it’s quite prevalent in any business,”” said Fournier. “”I don’t think they would have to buy the most expensive equipment. Photo printers are still an opportunity for small business.””

Fournier said up until these releases, Lexmark didn’t have any photo products on the market. ERC defines a photo printer as a device that is PC-independent (flash card slot or USB port) and a minimum six-ink system. In the case of a MFP, Fournier said the peripheral should also have hardware copy and fax capabilities.

ERC reported that the printer market grew from three to four per cent to 19 per cent in 2003. The market was driven in part by the advance of photo printers. The first two quarters of this year have been slow, said Fournier, adding he’s had to drop his forecast down from 13 per cent to single digits for this year. However, over the next several years, Fournier said as people replace their printers, they will be purchasing all-in-one photo printers.

The X7170 is listed at US$249, the P915 at US$149 and the P6250 at US$249.

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