HP and Lexmark Battle Over Office Market With a Bevy of New Machines

by Charles Brewer | Actionable Intelligence

Back in October Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark unveiled a remarkable number of new machines aimed at the office. It appears that the two firms independently decided that there will be some recovery in the office equipment market in the new year and they’d better have the goods to take advantage of any pent-up demand.

HP’s and Lexmark’s new printers and MFPs total more than 100 different models, and the massive rollout of new products suggests the two archrivals are destined to go toe-to-toe in 2013 as they battle over market share.

Lexmark was the first to release new office hardware, with one of the biggest product launches I’ve ever witnessed. On October 18, the Lexington, Ky.-based hardware manufacturer released a total of 15 new color printers and MFPs and a whopping 61 new monochrome printer and MFP configurations. Lexmark also released dozens of new toner cartridges featuring new low-melt monochrome and color toners that support higher print speeds, provide improved image quality and consume less energy.

HP was in the spotlight on October 30, a couple of weeks after Lexmark’s “great unveiling,” introducing its own new A3 and A4 models, including a new line of high-speed inkjet machines that are due out next year. While the number of machines may not have equaled Lexmark’s release, HP’s hardware launch was not insignificant because of the new technologies and functionalities the machines incorporate.

For both companies, winning big in the office is of paramount importance. Each has struggled as the markets have remained weak. Like all printer and copier manufacturers, HP and Lexmark have had limited success selling new gear to businesses for at least several years. The persistently crummy economy and resulting lower employment has driven down demand for hard copy in the office along with the machines that produce it. But the market for new office machines is expected to improve as the economy does, and the demand for replacement machines should surge as white-collar workers return to work. It appears HP and Lexmark are set on a collision course as each seeks to grab as much of this anticipated bonanza as it can.

Lexmark’s leviathan launch

Lexmark refreshed most of its office product portfolio back in October. Almost every category of the firm’s A4 office devices saw some sort of an upgrade. The new machines have been optimized with functionality to meet today’s office users’ demands. They are designed to capture pages and support business solutions that automate workflows and enhance productivity. The new color machines also provide business users with the ability to produce professional-looking documents in-house. Most of the new units are available in different configurations so that consumers can find a specific device with the precise feature set they require.

Lexmark retired its C540 series of entry-level color laser printers and replaced the line with the new CS310, CS410 and CS510 single-function units. Similarly, Lexmark released the new CX310, CX410 and CX510 color MFPs as replacements for the X540 color laser MFP series. The new color printers are available in seven configurations, and there are eight versions of the new color MFPs.

A new 800 MHz dual-core processor was deployed in Lexmark’s new color devices, which supports improved print speeds and better print quality. (The older units employed a 500 MHz processor.) Lexmark’s new color machines also feature color-matching enhancements such as Pantone color calibration. In terms of speeds, the new color units are peppier than the earlier machines. The CS310 and CX310 offer a 25-ppm black-and-white and color top print speed versus 21 ppm for the previous generation of machines. The CS/CX410 and CS/CX510 have a top speed of 32 ppm for monochrome and color jobs, up from 21 ppm delivered by the older C540/X540 units.

With the release of the new MS310, MS410, MS510, MS610, MS810, MS811 and MS812 single-function printers and the MX310, MX410, MX510, MX610, MX710, MX711, MX810, MX811 and MX812 MFPs, Lexmark also upgraded its entry-level monochrome laser portfolio. The new machines replace Lexmark’s E260/E360/E460 and T650/T652/T654/T656 printers as well as the X264/X363/X364/X463/X464/X466/X652/X654/X656/X658 monochrome MFPs. Moving upmarket, Lexmark replaced the T65x printer family with the new MS810, MS811 and MS812 monochrome laser printers; and the new MX710, MX711, MX810, MX811 and MX812 MFPs replace the X65x MFP line. The higher-end mono units are designed to support larger workgroups with 13 or more users.

Like the color machines, the new monochrome units are faster than their predecessors and provide other enhancements. The new MS310/MX310 models offer print speeds of 35 ppm, and the MS410/MX410 are 40-ppm devices. The MS510/MX510 and MS610/MX610 models are 45- and 50-ppm units, respectively. The older X264d was a 30-ppm device; while the E260, X363, X364 were 35-ppm units; and the E360, X463 and X466 were 40-ppm machines. The MS/MX810, MS/MX811 and MS/MX812 are 55-, 63- and 70-ppm devices, respectively. The MX710 is a 63-ppm machine, and the MX711 has a top speed of 70 ppm. The older machines they replace had print speeds ranging from 45 to 55 ppm. The new monochrome printers and MFPs feature a faster processor and offer more robust duty cycles along with paper-handling improvements.

HP’s fall launch

Like Lexmark, HP’s latest office machines offer enhanced document management and workflow automation. The firm released HP Flow CM Professional technology in October, which allows small to medium-size businesses to manage, store and access information securely from the cloud. For larger business clients, the firm also introduced HP Flow CM Enterprise solutions, which is a suite of tools developed by Autonomy. The tools, which are supported by some of HP’s new hardware, allow clients to access and control enterprise-wide information, mine and manage content, and locate documents and information quickly regardless of geographic region.

Included in HP’s release was the entry-level print, copy, scan and fax LaserJet Pro 200 color MFP M276nw along with the new LaserJet Pro 200 color M251nw single-function printer. Both units are A4 machines targeted at small workgroups and are capable of printing color and black-and-white jobs at up to 14 pages per minute. In addition to the entry-level units, HP released the LaserJet Pro 500 color MFP M570dn, which is a print, copy, scan and fax MFP that can print color and monochrome pages at up to 31 ppm.

The firm launched two midtier MFPs that are billed as a “new class of device.” In addition to delivering hard copy, HP says the LaserJet Enterprise flow MFP M525 and the LaserJet Enterprise color flow MFP M575c are designed to provide an “on-ramp” to digitizing content as business users transition from paper to digital format. The MFP M525c is a monochrome device that delivers up to 42 pages per minute, and the MFP M575 is a color unit that delivers 31 pages per minute for monochrome and color jobs like the other new LaserJet 500 unit noted above. The machines provide print, copy, scan and fax functionality and support the new HP Flow CM Professional and Enterprise content management solutions. End users can capture, manipulate and store content securely in the cloud with the machines. The MFPs feature an 8-inch touch screen as well as a pullout keyboard so end users can enter data and manage jobs.

In addition to the new A4 hardware, HP released the LaserJet Enterprise 700 M712 printer series and the LaserJet Enterprise 700 color MFP M775 series. The new M712 family of A3 single-function printers are monochrome devices capable of printing standard letter-size sheets at up to 40 pages per minute. The new M775 A3 MFP line is made up of print, copy, scan and fax color devices that print both black-and-white and color jobs at up to 30 pages per minute. The M775 units provide an 8-inch touch screen that allows end users to incorporate scanned paper documents into digital workflows at the device as well as perform other document management tasks.

In the midst of all the new LaserJet products, HP also announced a new line of office inkjet printers and MFPs, which will be out in the first half of next year. The new Officejet Pro X series includes the X476 and X576 MFPs and the X451 and X551 single-function printers. The X551 and X576 have a top speed of 70 ppm in the general office mode, and the 400 series machines are capable of printing up to 55 ppm, making them HP’s fastest desktop devices to date. In addition to being speed demons, the machines have a feature set that should endear them to office users. For example, they provide standard duplexing and a robust, fully pigmented ink set. To keep intervention rates down, the X series units feature super-high-yield ink tanks, including a black tank that delivers 9,200 pages, and each color tank has a 6,600-page yield. With an optional input tray, paper capacity of the new business-class inkjets can be expanded from 500 sheets to 1,050 sheets.

It will be interesting to see how well HP and Lexmark do in the market next year. Clearly, each firm has great expectations of the new year, and each offers an impressive product portfolio of office equipment. Unfortunately, economic recovery in 2013 is anything but certain, and ultimately, the economy will rule the market (as it has since 2008). It is hard to get folks to buy hardware when they are not sure where their businesses will be in a year.