HP unveiled several new products and partners yesterday in a move intended to help bring rich digital colour into consumer photography and small-business marketing materials at a lower cost.

Most people prefer colour images, but high-quality colour laser printers have been too expensive for many small businesses and home photographers, said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president for HP's Imaging and Printing group. New laser printers, digital cameras, and even paper will help small businesses spice-up their presentations and brochures with affordable colour images, he said.

The company's renewed focus on digital colour extends beyond new products. HP intends to work with imaging companies such as Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and Quark on new software with improved colour-management technology that will help consumers and businesses edit digital images and publish documents.

HP is introducing new papers – including laser-specialty media, matte postcards and labels – to complement its complete colour printing system, bringing customers professional print quality and reliability whether they are printing everyday general office documents or professional-looking marketing materials, the company says.

'The year of colour'
"Three vectors have come together allowing HP to bring a more holistic colour experience to nearly every customer: digital photography is widespread, imaging devices are affordable, and technology now can provide rich, powerful colour at prices customers can afford," said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president, Imaging and Printing Group, HP. "HP is harnessing these factors to make 2004 the year digital colour goes mainstream," he added.

Just about every computer company has focused on products and services outside the core PC market as it has matured. HP's historical strength in printing and imaging has led it to emphasize digital photography over other consumer electronics products such as music players or digital televisions touted by companies such as Apple.

The Imaging and Printing group at HP is generally its most profitable business. In the second quarter of this year, its $953 million in operating profit accounted for the vast majority of HP's total operating profit of $1.4 billion.

Dell's recent push into the printer market has caused some analysts to wonder if Dell can harm HP's printer margins with its less-expensive products. In response, HP has emphasized its research and development efforts into new enterprise printing products, such as the focus on digital colour highlighted yesterday.