Dell sets date for European printer launch

Dell has set release dates and prices for the European launch of its own-brand printer range - and is hoping customers will warm to its new method of selling cartridges

Dell plans to launch its first own-brand range of printers in the UK on 1 October, with several other European countries to follow on 1 November.

Pricing has also been set for the range of six printers, all based on print engines from Lexmark -- with whom Dell has a strategic partnership -- which were unveiled in London this week. 

UK prices will start at £60 for the Dell Personal Inkjet J740, which can print full-bleed, full-colour A4 pages, and £65 for the all-in-one A920 printer, which also scans and copies. The A940, which is an all-in-one printer with added fax, will cost £95. The three laser printers in the line-up will cost £200 for the P1500, £340 for the S2500 and £727 for the M5200n.

Abizar Vakharia, Dell worldwide senior marketing manager for imaging and printing, said that as with the US sales model, both the printers and consumables for them will be available only from Dell, and not through stores. Also in keeping with the US precedent, printers will come with pre-paid courier labels for returning old printers to Dell. Customers will also be able to order recyclable toner cartridges that also come with pre-paid courier envelopes for return to Dell. These use-and-return cartridges will be cheaper than the disposable ones. The same idea will later be applied to ink cartridges, said Vakharia.

"From the start, we said we would only sell consumables online," said Vakharia, explaining the reason for not selling them through stores. "People said, 'what about a customer who wants to print late at night but runs out of ink?' Well, we figured they probably wouldn't find a store open anyway. Even if they do, they have to get to the store, check the cartridge ID and hope it is in stock."

Although Dell's printers use Lexmark engines, Dell has no plans to follow Lexmark and others down the route toward protecting its consumables market by using chips. "The cartridges do have chips," said Vakharia, "but only to track ink levels. We believe that if third parties can build up a business that's fine, though we don't encourage it. We like to think that if we deliver the right deals, customers will be happy." Vakharia said its cartridges would be priced comparably to others already on the market, but added that the company will offer discounts to bulk buyers, and said the online buying method would keep customers loyal. On the quiet, Dell also hopes that the recycling scheme will help keep old cartridges -- which often find their way into the third-party refill channels -- off the market.

Online buying will be aided by the printing applet, which shows how much ink is left in the cartridges and features a button that takes customers through to the Dell online store where the correct replacement cartridges will be featured depending on which (Dell) printer is being used.

The printers aimed at business users can be set up for centralised or distributed ordering of consumables, and can be set to send emails to individuals or groups when ink or toner levels are getting low, said Vakharia.

Dell also believes that its build-to-order process will help alleviate some of the problems that customers have with new printers. "When we went to our support division (for third-party printers) and looked through the call logs, we discovered that calls related to setup and installation were No. 1 for the past two years," said Vakharia. "Part of this is a problem with the Windows install wizard, which often does not install all the software components properly. Because we can build PCs to order, if a customer orders a printer with their PC then we can set it up for them before it ships."