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New color laser printing products coming from Canon Inc. and Dell Inc. next month are priced with small and midsize businesses in mind.

Canon in September is expected to unveil a color laser MFP (multifunction printer) priced at $999, according to sources. The ImageClass MF8170C can print at 16 pages per minute in monochrome and 4 ppm in color, as well as copy, scan and fax, they said.

Canon officials in Lake Success, N.Y., declined to comment on unannounced products.

The product will be the first color laser MFP priced under—or even in the same neighborhood of—$1,000, said analysts. "This is a revolutionary product. No one else has figured out how to do it," said Gary Peterson, an analyst with Gap Intelligence Inc., in San Diego.

It remains to be seen, however, whether such a device will catch on with small businesses. Skeptics point out the slow color-printing speed. For example, Xerox Corp.’s lowest-end color laser MFPs, which start around $9,000, have color-printing speeds of 13 ppm and mono speeds of 24 ppm.

"For small businesses, this may be suitable," said Tom Bonanno, acting IT supervisor for Stafford Township School District, in Manahawkin, N.J. "Those printing speeds are pretty slow, but, for the price, that’s really not too bad."

Click here to read more about color laser printers from Dell.

For others the falling price of color lasers could make buying separate devices even more cost-effective, said Dod Bateman, a real estate agent with Re/Max International Inc., in Mission Viejo, Calif., adding that he doesn’t like having to rely on a single multifunctioning device. "I don’t want one machine to be able to take me down," he said.

Meanwhile, Dell next week is planning to hit back at rival Hewlett-Packard Co. with the release of a color laser printer priced at $449, the 3000CN, which prints at 5 ppm in color and 25 ppm in monochrome, said sources. HP released its most inexpensive color laser printer this summer, the $499 Color Laser Jet 2550, which prints at 4 ppm in color and 20 ppm in monochrome.

Also this week, Dell is expected to launch a color laser printer aimed at larger businesses, the 5100CN. Priced at $999, the 5100CN increases the printing speed to 25 ppm for color and 35 ppm for monochrome, said sources.

Dell officials, in Round Rock, Texas, declined to comment.

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