THIS month, Canon Inc. unveiled a machine that promises to help open the market for small-scale color printing and copying in the office.
At present, "the market for color output in the office environment ... is nascent at best," says Bill Flynn, a technology analyst with BIS Strategic Decisions, a market research firm in Norwell, Mass.
But with color graphics becoming an increasingly common feature on personal computers, "users are getting frustrated by having to print out in black and white," says James Sharp, United States marketing director for the Canon CJ10.
Noting how facsimile machines proliferated "overnight," Mr. Sharp says the CJ10 should appeal beyond current niche markets for color printers, such as among architects and scientists. Canon hopes its machine will be used by large corporations, such as in documents for training sessions. Sharp says color printer sales are expected to grow from 275,000 last year to 700,000 by 1994.
The CJ10 "is probably the most significant product so far" in this effort to bring color printing into the workplace, says Frank Romano, editor of Color Publishing magazine. "This machine democratizes the color process."
The product is actually three machines in one. First, it is a color copier. Next, when connected to a computer, the CJ10 is both an output and input device: It can print an image from the computer or scan one into it, including from a videotape or slide photograph. Canon says the machine, which will not be available until June, will sell for "well under $10,000," including the cost of links to an Apple or IBM-compatible computer.
Although the image quality is not as high as machines at the upper end of the market that sell for $25,000 to $40,000, the CJ10 does beat price-competitive products in performance, Mr. Romano says. While Hewlett-Packard makes a color printer for around $1,000, "its resolution is abysmal," he says.
There is still plenty of room for improvement by Canon and competitors like Tektronix Inc. For example, the slow output rate of 90 seconds per page makes the CJ10, like other color printers, a low-volume device.
Whether such products will become standard office equipment depends on convincing businesses that "color is worth the trouble," Mr. Flynn says.
"Eventually all printers will be color," Romano says.