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Hewlett-Packard rolls out multifunction printers


By Dan Neel

(IDG) -- In step with a trend by printer companies to increasingly blur the line between printed and digital documents, Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday introduced three new printers in a MFP (multifunction product) line that each integrate printing, scanning, copying, e-mailing and faxing, into a single unit.

HP will also step up the promotion of its portfolio of purchase, lease, outsourcing, or pay-as-you options for financing and deploying the new HP printers, said Troy Browne, worldwide shared printing products manager with HP, in Palo Alto, California.

Since mainstream printers began arriving with their own IP addresses in volume last year, printer companies such as HP, Canon, Xerox, and others have each been evolving their printers into multifunction devices that can manipulate and send documents without the intervention of a PC. INFOCENTER
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With the introduction of the HP LaserJet 3300 mfp, the HP LaserJet 4100 mfp, and the HP LaserJet 9000 mfp, HP has delivered multifunctionality on par with the performance of separate single-function print, scan, copy, fax, and e-mail devices, said Keith Kmetz, program director for printer research at IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

"This time around HP has a truly integrated device. A printer with the look and feel of a copier," Kmetz said. "What we've seen from printer vendors before was a half-hearted attempt at copying, but if companies are getting only convenience-oriented functionality, they are not going to accept that in their portfolio of devices."

The HP LaserJet 3300 mfp is targeted at small and medium-size business environments and prints 15 pages per minute (ppm) with a copy speed of 14ppm. The 4100 mfp is designed for larger workgroups and can churn out 25ppm as a printer, copier or scanner. The 9000 mfp is for large, networked business environments and runs at 50ppm as a printer, copier, or scanner, according to HP.

Each new HP printer comes equipped with a send-to-email function that can quickly scan and e-mail a document, which arrives as a .jpg, .tiff, or .pdf format attachment, Browne said.

Advanced "Digital Sending" technology will be along this summer and will be available as an upgrade to each of the new printers. With Digital Sending, users will not only have access to advanced document and e-mail management features, but security will be introduced by way of a system that sends encrypted attachments in e-mails that direct the recipient to go to a special Web for a password to open the attachment.

"Printing is becoming a convergence space," Browne said. "The lines between printing, faxing, and scanning are all blurring. It's more about what customers want to do with their printed pages and less about the individual products."

Moving in that same direction, Xerox, based in Stamford, Connecticut, along with Irving, California-based document capture software company Kofax, last week announced that the two companies have integrated Xerox's Document Centre multifunction systems with Kofax's Ascent Ricochet document capture software. This means Xerox customers will soon have the capability to manage, track, update, and deliver scanned documents within a Web browser environment, according to Xerox representatives.

Similarly, through a partnership with print technology company eCopy, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, Tokyo-based Canon has been delivering its own flavor of printer, copier, fax, scan, and e-mail convergence. In the market since last year, the Canon/eCopy technology links interfaces with the Domino and Lotus Notes platforms to tightly integrate document traffic with company e-mail networks, according to eCopy representatives.

Like the new HP printers, the Canon/eCopy systems offer a wide range of functions such as sending scanned documents as e-mails to multiple recipients, and document workflow tools such as levels of authentication for access to certain documents.

IBM, also a player in the multifunction printer convergence market, still mainly offers its multifunction systems to the high-end commercial production printing market, said IDC's Kmetz.

"What I see is a much stronger push into the multifunction market from the small to medium[-size] business printer perspective," Kmetz said. "The printer companies have been really slow in providing solutions in the workgroup and departmental segments of the printer market," the markets that companies such as HP, Canon, Xerox play best to, Kmetz said.


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