Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Wonderful World of Digital Photography and their Providers

Being a photography enthusiast, I'm really curious to see how the digitial photography market is shaping up. There are the manufacturers - the Kodaks of the world - fim makers and camera makers - the Canon's of the world. There are the consumers - like you and me. And then there is the Internet for the new virtual showcase.

Lets briefly list the players here who want to be our virtual showcase : Ofoto, Snapfish, Yahoo! Photos.

And then there are ones who want to help "organize" our virtual shoebox - Google, TypePad(from MoveableType), Microsoft and of course the 800 lbs gorilla - Adobe.

And then starts the great convergence war. Kodak - the maker of traditional films wants to be the leader in the new digital medium to avoid obsolescence. They acquire Ofoto.

Google looks and this and says - hey! We are the leaders in search, so we should go acquire someone so that when people want to search for photos, they will absolutely use Google. And oh - let's make it available free of charge so that there the ultimate form of vendor lock-in - free funtional product with high emotional investment value.

So what is Microsoft doing - why researching to make this experience easier of course. In this article entitled "Life of a digital Photo" MS reasearchers are hard at work in crafting a next gen software called "Media Browser" - which BTW will be completely renamed when the product marketing guys get their hands on it - whic allows quick identification and classification of photos - time cluster views, subject/topic views etc.

Since classification is a primary nut to crack for all these management software, here's another vendor that claims to do this, ableit for web search. Now the prospects of lasting against Google or MS - you can guess.

The latest vendor to jump into this is Flickr. Offering tons of new services, this is a service I have my eyes on at the moment.

And there always are the niche vendors - PaintShop Pro, Adode and others who really want to stay on the tools side of the business in making the experience of editing photos much better rather than get on the search side of the business.

The real question is - is digital search the future of photos ? Perhaps. I'm not convinced yet that we have seen the end of the competition in this space. Im still expecting the digital version of Creative Memories, and the makers of shoeboxes to wake up one day and go "Hey - we need to go digital!".

What are the pre-reqs of this business - One is disk space, the other is computational capacity, third is management. So I would predict storage companies like EMC, Processors like Intel in the first two categories to do very well. The third layer of management is very muddy right now with all the vendors mentioned above.

Add to the vertical integration confusion strategy with all major vendors wanting a piece of this digital phot0 pie (including HP, and the ability for the iPod to store photos) will be very interesting to watch.

And not to forget - what about the cell phone manufacturers with embedded photo phones ? It is only a matter of time when Motorola and Samsung and others embed 3.1 Megapixel camera phones and then they demand management and organization tools as well.

So as consumers - the best is yet to come. Who would I bet on ? A vertically integrated cradle-to-grave company or pure photo management company ? Right now it would be the latter.

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