Kodak looking to a digital future
By BEN RAND
Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle
By BEN RAND
NEW YORK — If you think you've seen everything digital photography has to offer, just wait: The photo industry is on the cusp of an era of innovation that could do for picture-taking what the Apple iPod and devices like it did for music.
Over the next five years, if the industry plays its cards right, consumers will find it point-and-click simple to tell stories with their pictures both online and in print, executives from Eastman Kodak Co. said last week in a presentation to journalists held at Rockefeller Plaza.
Kodak said software will analyze pictures and automatically sort them into groups according to the user's preference.
In fact, Kodak announced it already has technology that will allow picture-takers to convert shoeboxes of old prints into digital archives organized by decade, via a high-speed scanning service now being tested at Wegmans Food Markets. Kodak hopes to take that a step further in the future, offering software that could sort images by the year they were taken.
The presentation was held to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Kodak's EasyShare digital camera system, which pioneered the concept of one-button simplicity in digital photography and is now the top-selling brand in the United States.
But it was also intended to show off the company's technical prowess through the introduction of two new digital cameras, as well as its commitment to leading the industry through the "second chapter" of digital photography, Kodak said.
"With every technology, once you get past the first chapter, you have an explosion of consumption," said Pierre Schaeffer, chief marketing officer for Kodak's digital photography business. "We're unveiling the next innovations in consumer digital photography that will allow people to take, share and archive pictures in ways they never thought possible."
Soon to emerge from the company's research labs, Kodak said, are software applications that will recognize and remember a face to make it easier for consumers to find pictures of friends and family.
The company is also working on software to automatically place images into specific computer folders based on their content, as well as a photo-blogging prototype to make it simpler for groups to share images.
Kodak's two new products fit into these concepts. The new EasyShare V610 camera is the second to contain two lenses and two image sensors, one for regular zoom, the other for wide-angle picture taking.
The V610 has Bluetooth wireless technology, so users will be able to transmit pictures from the camera to other Bluetooth devices up to 30 feet away. The V610 will be available in May.
The other new product is the next generation of the EasyShare-One, which was the first to allow users to e-mail images directly from the camera using Wi-Fi technology.
In the new version, the wireless card becomes optional, but the camera continues to offer room to store 1,500 pictures and view them on a 3-inch LCD screen. The new version's suggested price is now $299; the original had a suggested price of $599. The latest version will be available this summer.
Kodak's glimpse at technologies still under development dovetails with the company's belief that digital photography is now moving into the next phase of development. Earlier this year, chairman and chief executive officer Antonio Perez suggested that the digital camera of today is a "dinosaur" — essentially an electronic copy of a film-based system.
The industry, Perez said, needs to focus on making it easier for consumers to share, store, retrieve and print pictures.