Give me a colour laser, hold the colour

As vendors continue to drive down the prices of colour and colour-capable printers, the days of selling monochrome-only printers to business now appear to be numbered. So smart printer resellers are realigning their businesses accordingly.

"We believe colour capable laser printers will account for more than 50 per cent of the business printer market within the next three years," Marcus Heron, Corporate Express' national product manager for hardware and software said. "Having a machine that is colour capable opens a new scope to the corporate printer market."

Driving the growth in colour printers are dramatic reductions in price points across different product ranges.

At the recent launch of a range of new colour and "colour-capable" printers, Tektronix announced its intention to price colour products so low that even customers who don't think they want colour yet will be interested.

Won't consider non-colour

But it's not just that the premium for colour printing has been all but eliminated that will fuel demand - the market soon won't consider a non-colour capable product, according to Tektronix.

Indeed, David Bates, the vendor's sales and marketing manager, argues that describing business printers as "colour" will soon be redundant.

Just like what happened in the home market when the price premium disappeared, business printers will soon include colour - want it or not.

Bates claims that with the savings on black toner consumed in current monochrome lasers alone, products like the new Tektronix solid ink Phaser 840 will deliver a knockout blow to its colourless competitors.

Until that actually occurs though, there are options to bridge the gap. Tektronix's new 740L colour-capable printer is a monochrome printer that can be upgraded to colour at any time.

And at just $400-odd more than a comparable monochrome Hewlett-Packard Laserjet 4000N, it presents a viable option for many companies, according to Joe Arcuri, NSW sales manager for systems integrator BCA, which markets a range of business printers including Tektronix and HP.

"For businesses with a vision for colour printing, but want to retain standards in drivers, consumables and network management, Tektronix will be very attractive," he said. "There will still be a demand for the higher performing [monochrome] network printer."

Tektronix recently expanded its distribution channel. While it still deals directly with its resellers, Tech Pacific is also now establishing a distribution channel.

Charles Batt, Tech Pacific marketing manager, said that since the start of the year, the Tektronix business has been growing at 50 per cent per month for Tech Pacific, and he has placed orders for four times the current run rate.

"The Tektronix range is positioned just right and will help resellers gain a mindset towards colour printing," Batt claims.

Corporate Express' Heron also reported great demand from his customers for Tektronix products. He claims to have 45 sales staff flat out with appointments for Tektronix demonstrations.

The first weapon in Tektronix's armoury is the Phaser 740L colour-capable laser printer at an estimated selling price of $2995 (ex tax). Launched last week, it is a 16 page per minute (ppm) monochrome printer which, by the addition of a colour kit, becomes enabled as a five page per minute colour laser. It can also be sold up front as a 740 which already includes colour at an ESP of $3995.

The Phaser 840 solid ink printer, with a stated 10 pages per minute, and "no cost" black ink, is claimed to virtually pay for itself, while adding the colour dimension to the workgroup. ESP (ex tax) is $4995.

At the top of the Tektronix colour range is the Phaser 780, an A3 colour laser printer claimed to break through price barriers at an ex tax ESP of $9995.

In search of colourful sales

Tektronix last week called on the Family and Friends of Missing Persons Group to provide a launch theme - the Search Party - and demonstrate the value of colour printing to a gathering of resellers and prospective users.

The not-so subtle point made by the group's spokesperson, Maree Dawes, was not lost on the Sydney gathering - colour pictures are more effective than black and white.

The message for the channel, though, might have been lost in the process. Tektronix is trying to put colour - or colour capability - into a grey area in which monochrome-only printers will not survive.

One prospective clearly corporate buyer in attendance told ARN that his organisation spends $30,000 per year on instant outside colour print services. If even a fraction of this is replaced by the acquisition of a black and colour business printer, the payback sale is easy to calculate.