Battling Hewlett-Packard for the office printer crown, in Paris last week Epson unveiled its latest batteries on the corporate inkjet front. Its secret weapon is MicroPiezo technology, the inner workings of which the vendor has always held very tightly to its chest. The technology, which relies on the resonant quality of certain dye crystals to act as a micro-pump, can now deliver ink droplets of six picolitres, creating images of 1440dpi. This print quality will be available for the first time in the Epson Stylus Colour 740, aimed at the small business market and available now for #232. Already claiming the lead in the home market, Epson is using this new technology to attack the small office market. Although both HP and Epson agree that colour will become more and more important in office printing, they are approaching it in different ways. HP launched the DeskJet 2000 in June, emphasising its ability to print colour images at speeds comparable to laser printers. Comparing print speeds is always difficult. Epson claims the 740 can hit print speeds of approximately six pages per minute, basing this claim on the printing of an average page of text. In Paris last week, a demonstration of full colour image printing was considerably slower. HP demonstrated the DeskJet 2000 printing colour images at 7 ppm, but with a print density of 600dpi, which HP claims still provides 'photo-colour' quality. Tony Petford, Epson's UK director of marketing, is aware that speed is an issue that the Japanese company must improve on to be a serious contender. "We have already increased the speed of our inkjet printers and things will definitely evolve in that area. In time we will launch products that better address the business market," he said. Hence the Stylus Colour 740 also debuts Variable-sized Droplet Technology, which uses three different droplet sizes in an attempt to optimise the print speed. However, Petford believes Epson's popularity in the home will have a knock-on effect in the office. "The home market is now driving the business market," he proclaimed. "We just put our print samples in front of people and that sells our product. Now people are wanting that kind of print quality at work." Although Robert Clark, Epson's UK product marketing manager, admitted that the company's inkjet printers were not yet ideal for workgroup use, he did reveal technology that he hopes will help Epson take on HP on this battlefield. Epson plans to incorporate Internet connectivity in its office printers, enabling status updates in Email form to be sent direct from the printer to the service centre, and an engineer to be dispatched automatically if faults occur. With a similar aim, HP has addressed manageability issues by incorporating "smart chips" in the HP 2000CN printer component that it claims will manage components for consistent performance and provide information to the user on printer status across the network. The 2000CN is aimed at the small workgroup market and costs #615. As the battle grows more heated, corporate users will be able to take advantage of improved printer technology in the form of better quality colour images, higher print speeds and lower prices. EPSON NEW LAUNCHES Also launched by Epson in Paris last week was the Epson Stylus Colour 640, which provides 1440 dpi print quality at #174 for the home market and the Stylus Colour 440, at #135 including an online set-up guide for first-time users. All the models in the new inkjet range support the USB interface. Epson will attack the graphics printing market with the new EPL-C8000 A3/A4 laser printer with 600dpi printing colour images at 4 ppm. Meanwhile the EPL-N4000 will print at the same resolution but at a speed of 40ppm. Both laser printers will be available in October with pricing to be announced closer to the launch. October will also see the arrival of a new flatbed scanner range from Epson, the GT-7000 featuring interpolated resolution of 9600dpi with Epson Micro-Step Drive.
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