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HEWLETT-PACKARD CUTS PRICES ON NEW LINE OF COLOR PRINTERS

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced Monday new color printers for personal computers at sharply lower prices, a change analysts compare to the move from black-and-white to color television.

The new HP Color LaserJet printer has been in development three years at Hewlett-Packard's Boise campus, home of the company's worldwide computer printer operations.The Color LaserJet is aimed at the corporate market and will sell for about $7,300. The color-capable HP DeskJet 540 inkjet printer for the home is priced at $300, with an optional $45 color package.

The new inkjets will be in stores Oct. 6. The laser printer will be available in February 1995.

"They're driving color into the home and the office. They're making it affordable and easy to use," said Robert Fennell, an analyst at Dataquest Inc., Dun & Bradstreet Corp.'s high-tech subsidiary in San Jose, Calif.

Other manufacturers, including Xerox, QMS and Canon, have had color laser products on the market for some time. Prices have typically been above $10,000.

Panasonic, Citizen and Epson offer monochrome inkjet printers with color upgrades. Several companies are expected to announce new color products by the end of the year.

But Fennell said HP's aggressive price strategy is driving the market.

"What they're trying to do is make color affordable to end users," he said. "As users get exposure to the ability to print out in color and the capabilities it has, the idea is that the use of color will start to mushroom."

The HP Color Laser Jet will produce two pages per minute when printing full-color documents, compared with 10 pages per minute in monochrome. And it can handle large volumes of paper, up to 15,000 pages a month.

The advance means "color will become mainstream," said Pradeep Jotwani, Hewlett-Packard's U.S. marketing manager for hard copy products, including printers, scanners and fax.

Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has sold more than 11 million laser printers since 1984 and in 1993 held 51 percent of the $9 billion laser printer market.

Jotwani said color printers could be a $1 billion industry by 1996. "One in nine, that's a fair bet, but it doesn't replace the black and white industry," he said.

Among consumers, demand for color printing has grown as color software and monitors have become standard in personal computers. Like other new inkjet printers, the HP DeskJet 540 merely requires a change in toner cartridges to print in color.

"The printer that the 540 replaces - the 520 - was the best-selling printer in the world. Now that it has a color option, you would think it would sell even more," said Dave Wilt, a Hewlett-Packard spokesman.