Buoyed by the strong performances of both the inkjet and inkjet MFP segments in the fourth quarter, the printer market was very strong in not only the fourth quarter but also across 2003.

Vendors shipped 924,610 units in the quarter, which was 21 per cent greater than in the third quarter and

15 per cent higher than in the same period in 2002. For the year, the final tally was 2,704,000 units – up an incredible 19 per cent over total shipments of 2,266,136 units in 2002.

The inkjet and inkjet MFP segments expanded by 21 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, when comparing fourth quarter shipments with the totals in the third quarter.

Although the single-function inkjet market in the fourth quarter was actually down 11 per cent compared with the same period in 2002, the segment performed considerably above expectations, not only in the fourth quarter but in 2003.

Inkjet MFP shipments in the fourth quarter of 2003 were roughly double the total for the same period of 2002. Moreover, 2003 shipments were 147 per cent higher than in 2002.

The other printer segments, for the most part, behaved pretty much as expected.

The question that has to be asked with respect to the printer market is “why did the printer market demonstrate such explosive growth in 2003?” The answer to this questions was discussed in detail in the third quarter report, but should be briefly discussed here. Simply put, consumers and businesses began to purchase printing devices for applications other than “general purpose” printing. On the MFP side, consumers were buying MFPs for copy, fax and scanning functionality. On the single function inkjet side, consumers and businesses finally began to buy inkjet printers almost exclusively for printing photos. These new applications dramatically increased the demand for printers in 2003 and the trend is expected to continue for at least several more years until these devices themselves become a market based primarily on replacement units.

As a result of these new applications, ERC’s forecasts through 2007 were adjusted significantly — particularly within the MFP segment. In 2004, ERC expects total printer shipments will approach 3.1 million units — representing growth of 14% over 2003. Although annual growth is expected to slow to single digits the market in 2007 may be as large as 3.6 million units.

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