HP Hopes To Build SMB Image With New LaserJets

HP's move came after a new round of products were announced in previous weeks by two of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor's key competitors. The new printers were introduced at the TechXNY conference in New York, several weeks after Oki Data and Lexmark launched competing products.

After cracking the sub-$1,000 barrier for color laser printers earlier this year, HP's latest LaserJet product salvo focuses primarily on the monochrome laser printer segment. The new monochrome laser printers range from the HP LaserJet 1160 with a list price of $329 to the 50-ppm HP LaserJet 9050 starting at $2,799.

HP also extended its color laser offerings with three new models ranging in price from $799 for the color LaserJet 3550 to $3,549 for the color LaserJet 5550.

Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group, said the channel would be at the vanguard of HP's push into the SMB market. "The only way to reach this market is through our channel partners," he said.

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Joshi added that about 93 percent of HP's North American printer business goes through the channel, but he declined to say how much of that is attributed to retail and online catalog channels and how much goes through the VAR channel.

"A lot of inkjet printers and all-in-ones are sold through retail because of the price points," he said. "But about 60 percent of the LaserJets--especially most of the mid- and high-end ones--are sold through our channel partners."

Joshi said the enhancements to HP's printing and imaging line would strengthen the company's efforts toward its goal of becoming the IT platform of choice for small business. "HP is the only company that can do this because we offer PC servers, storage and printing," he said.

Bob Parsons, president of Automated Office Solutions, an Evansville, Ind.-based VAR specializing in the SMB market, said he welcomed the new printer offerings. He said he primarily sells HP printers, but "honestly, it's really tough to make money on them."

Parsons said that with all the fanfare surrounding the announcements, customers will go to HP.com or CDW and the published prices on those sites will set the market price. "We might make two points or five points," he said. "If we are going into a situation where we are controlling the deal, we might make 10 to 15 points. Quite honestly, I make more money on printer repairs." Oki Data, Mount Laurel, N.J., and Lexmark, Lexington, Ky., unveiled several new printers a week ahead of the HP announcement. In particular, Oki Data's C7350n color laser, priced at $1,799, and Lexmark's C762 color laser, also priced at $1,799, are set to compete with HP's midrange color laser offerings.