Dell inks out plans for attack on printer market

3 Jun 2004

CANNES: Dell has set itself the highly ambitious target of becoming the preferred choice for printing for its customers – although to do so it must topple a rival with more market share than many of its competitors combined.

Printers are now the fastest growing product line in Dell’s history, surpassing desktops, notebooks and servers. Standing squarely in its way to the number one position is Hewlett-Packard (HP), which did not get so much as a namecheck at Dell’s summer product launch in the South of France. “There are some significant leaders in the marketplace that we need to compete with globally,” said Tim Peters, vice president and general manager of Dell’s imaging and printing business. “Being in the printer market allows us to compete in the greater systems category: clients, handhelds, servers and storage.”

Dell has actually been selling printers since 1996 but until two years ago the devices carried someone else’s name – usually Lexmark’s. Even now it continues to sell some third-party products to fill out its own overall printer product offering. Dell has also been widening its range of partners and since January of this year has been working with Fuji-Xerox, Kodak and Samsung in addition to Lexmark. The company insisted however that its own printers are not simply products from other manufacturers with a different logo on the chassis. Peters cited the 1600 laser unit as containing elements that are unique to it, such as different industrial design and cartridge use. “You are not just buying someone else’s products with a Dell badge,” he said.

Currently, Dell has offerings in the inkjet and mono laser categories which the company claims will fulfil most customer requirements. Later this year – it has not specified when – it will debut its first colour laser model.

In Cannes the PC maker showcased its printer management software that monitors when the ink levels run low in a printer and alerts the user to buy a new cartridge. According to Dell, this means that its printers should, in theory, never run out of ink. It also means that users no longer have to remember cartridge numbers when buying from a computer shop, or run the risk that the store doesn’t have the correct part in stock. Instead, users can order the ink online from Dell or by calling a local number. There are some drawbacks for users however: ink cartridges from Dell only work with Dell printers and refilling cartridges is discouraged, as the management software will not work with them.

By Gordon Smith