Lexmark Challenges HP

Lexmark International has faced off against rival HP by announcing new monochrome laser printers and multifunction printers. The new offerings boast a number of features and carry relatively low price tags. At the same time, Lexmark unveiled management tools for its Optra printers.

At the low end is the new Lexmark Z52 Color Jetprinter, Business Edition, which prints 15 pages per minute (ppm) in black and 7 in color, and carries a three-year warranty. It is priced at $199.

Additions to the Lexmark Optra line include the Optra E312, a 10-ppm monochrome laser printer, priced at $399. That makes it "the industry's first sub-$400 10-ppm monochrome laser printer with both USB and PostScript emulation," according to Lexmark. The new Optra M412, for small- to mid-size workgroups, is "the industry's first sub-$800, 17-ppm monochrome laser printer with both USB and PostScript emulation," Lexmark claims. Lexmark boasts other "industry firsts"—the new OptraT614nl, a network version of the T614, featuring built-in Ethernet and selling for an estimated street price of $1,519, and the new Optra C710, a 1200x1200 dpi color laser printer that sells for less than $1,900. OptraImage T614s, new versions of Lexmark's multifunction printer that enables printing, faxing, scanning and copying from a single device, sell for an estimated $4,749.

Lexmark also slashed prices on several of its existing Optra T laser printers by up to 36 percent. It reduced the price of the T610 from $999 to $899, the T614 from $1,729 to $1,099, and the T616 from $2,299 to $1,899.

Lexmark's pricing in the 16- to 20-ppm laser printer segment is a direct challenge to market leader HP, especially to the HP LaserJet 4050 and 2100. Industry analysts expect HP to respond by reducing prices on its printers.

Management tools unveiled by Lexmark include Version 4.0 of NetPnP, a Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 tool that automatically installs new devices onto networks to eliminate installation time and get printers up and running. Another tool has also been enhanced. MarkVision for Intranets allows administrators to diagnose and solve printer or multifunction issues via the Internet. Capabilities in the new Version 5.6 allow IT managers to solve problems remotely. The new MarkVision Windows Installer allows IT managers to deploy software upgrades across thousands of users by simply clicking on a button.