11:26 AM

Dell Branches Out

The No. 2 PC maker is moving into the printer market with four offerings, as well as replacement cartridges. The new printers put Dell head-to-head with market leader Hewlett-Packard, which also holds the lead in PCs.

Dell Computer is now in the printer business.

The PC maker, a close second to Hewlett-Packard in PC sales, began taking orders Tuesday for its new line of printers and cartridges, a move that could expand its presence in the IT market.

Dell is offering four printers for home and business use, as well as replacement ink and toner cartridges. The company, which has been criticized by some environmentalists for not taking a leadership role in cleaning up E-waste, also unveiled a companion program to recycle printers.

The printers, made by Lexmark International Inc., will be priced from $139 to $839. The lowest-end printer is an all-in-one machine that includes a scanner, a copier, and fax software. Ink cartridges will start at $29.99 and toner cartridges at $74.99.

The printers and cartridges are competitively priced compared with rivals such as HP, which has nearly 60% market share and has sold more than 260 million printers. Companies such as HP, Lexmark, Canon, and Epson generally sell printers at a low price and make their profits on sales of ink cartridges.

"These four printers are just the first models in what will be a broad line of products that meet the needs of all customers, from individuals to large corporations," says Tim Peters, VP and general manager of Dell's imaging and printing division.

CEO Michael Dell promised last fall that printers and their cartridges would get cheaper once Dell started selling them. The four printers Dell is offering aren't being sold at a substantial discount, the company says.

Peters says the company's selling and servicing of printers and cartridges, including an online system that detects when ink or toner is getting low, makes its products stand out.

HP, which last year ended a deal to make printers for Dell, has said it's not worried about Dell getting into the printer business. Printers are a profitable business for HP, Dell's biggest competitor, and one that Dell had eyed as it diversified into businesses such as computer servers, handheld computers, and network switches.

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