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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Dell Computer Corp. made official on Tuesday what the company has alluded to for months: The personal computer giant is getting into the printer business.

Round Rock-based Dell announced an agreement with printer manufacturer Lexmark International Inc.

The two companies will develop and produce Dell inkjet and laser printers and cartridges that will be sold directly to customers. The printer products are expected to be available for purchase in time for the holiday shopping season, Dell said.

The companies did not disclose terms of the agreement or give specific product descriptions.

Dell's step into the printer market comes two months after leading printer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. severed a partnership with the company, saying it believed Dell was planning to start selling its own printers.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP had let Dell buy printers directly from HP and resell them to Dell PC customers.

HP anticipates Dell will face challenges in the printer market where HP is an expert, said HP spokeswoman Diane Roncal.

HP has promised to grow its imaging business by 10 percent over the next year by focusing on growth areas such as digital imaging and publishing, Roncal said _ ``areas where Dell does not have capability.''

``We have strong strategies,'' she said. ``We're more convinced than ever that the strategy is dead on.''

Shares of Dell were up 27 cents Tuesday to $24.46 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. HP shares fell 54 cents, or 4 percent, to $12.34. Lexmark shares jumped 10 percent, or $4.48, to $46.95.

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On the Net:

http://www.dell.com

http://www.hp.com

http://www.lexmark.com