CVS Launch Disposable Digital Camera With LCD

CVS have launched a new disposable digital camera with a 1.4” TFT preview screen. Customers can new take up to 25 pictures, preview them, delete the ones they don’t like and take it back to a CVS store for printing.

The camera is fully functional and features an automatic flash, self timer and automatic exposure all for US$19.99 (€16.27). Digital cameras have come from being expensive high technology items to throw away entertainment items very quickly indeed.

Now, I know these things aren’t really disposable – they get recycled and sold onto the next person, and the advantage is that they’re cheap and you don’t worry about losing them. The key difference between this camera and a non-disposable camera is that there’s no way for the end-user to get their pictures off – they have do trot down to CVS and hand the camera back. That US$20 you’re paying isn’t really for the camera – it’s essentially a deposit. I give it a week before someone reverse engineers the electronics in the CVS camera and works out a way for consumers to get the data off.


Picture Messaging Slow in the UK

Although picture messaging seems very popular with troops in Iraq at the moment, the service is yet to make any impact in the UK, says a survey by NOP.

Texting took a while to take off – but look what happened when it eventually did. Network providers are hoping for much the same thing – in fact, Sicap, who provide messaging products to mobile operators are rather hoping that Euro 2004 and the Olympic games will lure customers into MMS adoption.

There are two main reasons given for the lack of messaging: 45% don’t have a handset (kind of crucial, really – and also applies if your friends don’t have any either), and 17% don’t know how to send them. Odd then, that they would go to the expense of buying such a well-featured phone. But given that I still receive text messages THAT LOOK LIKE THIS, then it’s not surprising that people only have a limited amount of patience in learning how things work.

Indeed, on the rare occasions when I venture out, there seems to be little use of picture phones in real life situations. Phone users tend to take a few snaps when they first get their new phone, but after a while apathy, privacy infringement fears and the hail of tutting from those nearby soon dampen any enthusiasm for sending your mates a picture of the great time you’re pretending to have.

“The findings of our survey highlight that we will still have a lot more to do as an industry to encourage consumers to embrace MMS in the same way as they have SMS,” said Per-Johan Lundin, Head of Marketing, Sicap. “The first goal is to drive as many MMS compatible handsets into the hands of users as possible. Secondly, the services need to extremely user friendly like Vodafone Live. But the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle is compelling content. Some of this will be generated by users themselves but a lot will need to be generated around the content that consumers are really interested in like sports.”

If picture messaging is this slow in the UK, then you can bet it’s nowhere in the US, which tends to drag behind Europe in the mobile market.


CeBIT: Digital Camera Market Expanding Rapidly

The digital camera market has expanded rapidly in the last five years. In Europe alone, CAP Ventures estimate that sales will from from 14 million sold in 2003 to 26.3 million in 2008 – and by then the market will be worth some €20 billion. Digital photography has already changed the market – Kodak will stop making non-disposable film cameras and concentrate on fun film cameras and digital devices. It won’t be long before other manufacturers follow.

Kodak and Olympus used CeBIT to launch new additions to their digital ranges. Kodak is showing off the Easyshare LS743 and LS753, with 16mb x 4 megapixel and 32mb x 5 megapixel resolutions respectively. Olympus are demonstrating their ì410 camera – this new camera features TruePic turbo which they claim improves image clarity, contrast and colour.

The growth in digital cameras has created a demand for peripherals, services and consumables – photographic printers, inks, memory cards, online services, and special papers to name just a few.


The ì410

Digital Photography Review on Kodak’s LS753

School Bans Camera Phones

West Lothian Council has banned mobile camera phones from all 11 secondary schools and 66 primary schools in its area. The council stated misuse of the cameras as its motivation for the ruling – images can be used for bullying or more sinister purposes, though the council has yet to receive any complaints involving the phones.

The Gartner Group estimate that soon 80% of phones sold will feature cameras, and this is causing security problems in companies, as well as personal security issues. Many companies simply do not have the infrastructure, staff or budget to protect their business and employees from misuse of digital camera phones.

Information Week reports on Gartner

BBC News

Europe’s first mega-pixel camera phone launched by Vodafone

Vodafone has beaten the rest of the market to be the first to bring a mega-pixel camera to Europe. In a further development of their relationship with Sharp, it will be Sharp GX30.

Not content with being just a mega-pixel camera, this quad-band (GSM) phone of many features incorporates an MP3 player, offers Bluetooth support, has a removable SD memory cards and provides video message functionality. The screen on the handset has been significantly uprated to be capable of displaying 262,144 colours, four times its previous model, the GX20. It will be available in retail stores from March 2004.

Breaking the mega-pixel barrier is significant. At this resolution the photographs start to become useful beyond simply sending them other phones. The quality is sufficient to print them out and services such as Pixology (We QuickLinked earlier), are planning to take advantage of the always increasing resolutions.

The other direct benefit for Vodafone in higher resolution cameras’ becoming the norm is in increasing their call income – the higher the resolution, the more data there is to transmit, the higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Raising ARPU is the mantra for mobile operators.

Vodafone’s global presence means it has tremendous clout and purchasing power enabling it to secure exclusive deals with phone manufacturers. It is known in the industry that Vodafone is keen to develop its own, branded phones in an attempt to break the power of Nokia on the phone market. They want to move their users from identifying with the make of handset, “I’ve got a Nokia” to “I’ve got a Vodafone”. Extending the relationship with Sharp is a further step towards that.


Sharp phones

T-Mobile Launch TV to Mobile via GPRS

T-Mobile, the worlds second largest mobile phone service provider, has launched a service in Germany enabling their subscribers to watch television over GPRS to their mobile phones. A first for Germany, the service with the very catchy name, “n-tv mobile live TV”, will initial be offering a live stream of news direct to the handsets that have the Real player installed. Currently their Windows-based PDA offerings, T-Mobile MDA or T-Mobile MDA II and Symbian Series 60-based platforms, Nokia 3650, a Nokia 6600 and Nokia 7650 support this.Interestingly there will be no additional charges made on top of the cost of GPRS data transmission, although it should be noted that video is the most dense and bandwidth hungry form of data.This new service follows hard on the heals of a deal between T-Mobile and Kodak that enables their subscribers to send MMS-photographs or other digital photos to be printed at Kodak then deliver via post. To use “Fotoservice”, some software has to be installed on the Symbian-based handset that uploads the images to a private storage area. Given the current low resolutions of phone-based camera, there is an option to place a number of photos on the same 10×15 print.

Microsoft Announce Partners for Portable Media Centers (nee Media2Go)

Microsoft has been talking about portable devices for a while that would enable owners to watch videos, view photos, play music, labelling them as Media2Go.

This week they have announced not only a new official name, but two companies that will help them create designs. AboCom Systems Inc and Tatung Co. will be the original design manufacturers (ODMs) of the now re-christened Portable Media Centers.

These designs will then be passed on the manufacturers, who are already lining up to get involved. So far Creative, iRiver International, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., SANYO Electric Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp have thrown their hats in to the ring – others are expected to follow.

Intel has had this type of device, labelled a Personal Video Player (PVP), in development for a long time ($100 ZVUE!.

We imagine that Microsoft will hope to win the consumer, via strong integration of these devices with their operating system and the content owners, by highlighting their Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Archos Video AV320 information

Buy Archos Video AV320 at Amazon US and UK

Sony Launch Compact 5 mega pixel Camera

Up until now, most pocket-sized cameras have compromised on the features that they offered, now Sony has announced a five mega pixel camera, the Cyber-shot DSC-T1.

They have also addresses a number common complaints – the delay between turning the camera on it being ready to take a photo has been reduced to just one second; it takes one 5mp image a second and can capture four high-speed burst shots in less than two seconds.

The back of the camera is dominated by a large 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder, vital for taking considered photos. The storage is Memory Stick PRO Duo, the small form of Sony’s Memory Stick, which can currently hold up to 512Mb.

To keep the size of the camera small, the Carl Zeiss operates within the camera rather than extending out, with the result that the camera measures about 0.8 inches deep.

The Cybershot DSC-T1 is expected to hit the shops in January and retail for $550.

Nokia Show Wireless Digital Photo Frame

Back in 1999, Sony brought out the first digital photo frame, not that you would probably know about it as there aren’t that many around – it cost $900. Since then many more companies have brought them out for considerably less that Sony’s initial offering, many of them new companies but also from more well know brands such as Kodak.

Most have used removable memory (Memory Sticks, SD, etc) to get the photos in to the frame, others have had phone sockets on them.

Nokia have now entered the business and have announced the Nokia Image Frame SU-4 and SU-7, which makes perfect sense given their camera phones.

The SU-4 received photo’s via an Infra-Red port. The SU-7 is more interesting as it adds to the IR transfer by allowing a SIM card to be inserted into it and use MMS to send photos to it.

Nokia have made no comment on pricing but with it being reasonable, we can see these getting popular.

The frames that don’t need to physical need to you to load the content on to them – you can upload images remotely – are the ones with the better future. Those who have bought this type, such as the dial-up Ceiva, for relatives and friend have nothing but praise for the concept.

Nokia SU-4

Nokia SU-7


Kodak give online photo print service, Ofoto, a UK launch

We’re believers that the physical printing of digital photo will continue to be big business, at least until the home printing of photos progresses beyond the unsatisfactory ink jet printing currently available. Home produced prints are slow; expensive; require a number of prints to get the colour reproduction correct and, then after all that, the inks fade in sunlight.

Not surprisingly Kodak are keen not to loose the profits they collect from analogue film cameras and are launching their online print service, Ofoto, in the UK on 22 September. Working in the same way as rival services, the photos are simply uploaded to the site and the option is given to crop the photo or apply finishing touches such as removal of red eye. The images are then passed for printing and return in the post, printed on Kodak paper, as per a normal film camera, bringing the same longevity to the print. The photos are also available on the Web – cleveryly making it convenient for friends and relatives to buy further prints.

The service has been available around the world since 1999, has won a couple of US accolades – “Best Photo Service” by Time magazine, and winner of a CNET Editors’ Choice Award – and to date eight million people have used it. They have also coined a new term, infoimaging, which apparently is the convergence of imaging and information technology – a new one to us.

The one-off print prices are reasonably competitive, but strangely discounts for multiple prints are not offered, as most of their competitors do, however this is slightly balanced by competitive delivery prices.

Link Ofoto UK, Ofoto US