Xerox has announced a series of new printers, software and business plans for the road ahead.

The printer company's overall view is that it will lead the way for a new generation of "smarter" documents that, for example, can be tagged with information and automatically routed through a company's workflow.

"Documents are containers that have information for human processing," said CEO Anne Mulcahy. "The vast majority of documents are dumb as the day is long. They don't know where they're going and don't know how much damage they can do if they get into the wrong hands."

And with this outline, the company announced three new "imaging services centres" in The Netherlands, Spain, and Japan, to go with existing locations in the US, UK, Brazil and Singapore. The centres will scan and convert hard-copy documents to electronic documents.

Currently services, including high-end business process services as well as traditional maintenance, account for about 20 percent of the company's revenue - or $3.3 billion out of annual revenue of $15.8 billion.

Xerox also announced the DocuShare Developer's Environment, a set of tools designed to let developers customise the company's content management software and create workflow applications.

For example, XML can be used to create documents whose content can be automatically reused in business forms. Templates can also be used to personalise blogs and wiki pages while adhering to a common business look and feel. "The drive toward personalisation is a great opportunity," Mulcahy said, noting that all sorts of businesses are personalising marketing messages to the point where they address individuals. "Wheaties can put your picture on the cereal box," she said.

A number of printer manufacturers, such as Canon and Ricoh, have kept the pressure on Xerox, especially in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, noted IDC analyst Riley McNulty. "But it's really Hewlett-Packard that has the real breadth and scope that Xerox has," he said.

A new printer was also announced - the WorkCentre 4150 black-and-white multifunction printer aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. The 4150 costs $2,199, and is capable of up to 45 pages a minute, with simultaneous copy, print, scan and fax functions, and queue-management functions.