Seiko Epson Corp. says it hopes to double its share of the U.S. home-use inkjet printer market with a range of new products designed to claw back ground lost to Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Lexmark International Inc.
The company is pinning its expansion hopes on products that can produce photo-quality prints and multi-function printers that tie together printer, scanner and copying functions, company executives said this week.
“Our (U.S.) market share is around 10 percent and I am not satisfied at all,” Saburo Kusama, president of Seiko Epson told reporters at its headquarters in Suwa, Japan on Wednesday. “HP and Lexmark are very competitive in the U.S. When you look at the market you see both are on a low-cost offensive, selling at a low price and trying to make money on consumables.”
He said Epson is aiming at more advanced printers used for photo printing and has seen its market share eroded because it cannot match HP and Lexmark on price. However, Kusama said he thinks the photo printing market in the U.S., spurred by increasing use of digital still cameras, is about to begin expanding and that Epson will be able to grab more market share when it does.
“We are differentiating our print quality from our competitors and aiming for the photo market,” said Norio Niwa, executive vice president of Epson. “Japan is the most advanced market from home (photo printing) so we can get a 54 percent market share. In the U.S., the digital still camera has become popular just in the last couple of years and there is also a big opportunity to increase in Europe.”
“I agree, I am not satisfied,” said Niwa referring to Kusama’s remarks. “I think we can get at least 20 percent market share in the U.S. shortly. Last month we had an 11 percent share of the inkjet market.”
That 11 percent share represents a drop from the 19 percent that market research company IDC estimated Epson enjoyed in 2002. Company executives attribute some of the drop in market share to a US$99 single function printer launched by HP in the middle of the year, which caught them napping and took some low-end customers and brought down average selling prices.
“I didn’t think that HP would launch a cheaper single-function printer so soon,” Minoru Usui, director or Epson’s imaging and information products operations division, told IDG News Service. “In two years I thought HP could produce such a cheap single-function printer.”
However, the company, which is based in rural Nagano prefecture in central Japan, won’t commit on when it thinks it can claim 20 percent of the U.S. ink jet market.
“We have started new product sales, we launched two new products in September, but our new models have been late,” said Niwa. “We can’t do it this fiscal year with these products but we already have new products in place (to be launched) with which we can.”
The company has recently launched several new home-use printers in Japan including the PM-A850, which combines a printer, copier and 2,400 dpi (dots per inch) scanner capable of flat-bed, photographic slide or film all-in-one. It has become the best-selling multi-function printer in Japan after three weeks on sale with a 13 percent market share, according to Epson.
It features a 2.5-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) on which images can be viewed prior to printing. It can be connected to a computer via a USB 2.0 connection and also accepts any of 10 memory card formats for PC-less printing. The PM-A850 costs around ¥35,000 (US$320).