Magazine Article



A Voice from the Industry Speaks Out

Blurring the Lines Between Digital Imaging and Consumer Electronics

It's No Surprise That Imaging Products Flooded the Aisles at This Year's CES in Las Vegas

by Gary Shapiro

President and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association

From the days of the black and white photo to the "Kodachrome" of the 1970s, to the Polaroid in the 1980s, chances are the photo imaging pioneers of the past never envisioned the evolution of this industry. Recently, the digital revolution has grasped the imaging industry, allowing consumers an easy means to take high-quality digital images, either still or moving, and create photographs with clarity.

Increasingly, a diverse array of digital cameras and camcorders are now available. Manufacturers are increasingly creating and offering products that are both reliable and affordable. Last year, the digital camera was the second most requested consumer electronics product behind the widely successful DVD player. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), listed the digital camera as one of the top three most requested gifts by consumers this 2002 holiday season.

In 2003, CEA projects sales of digital cameras to surpass sales of analog film cameras. Today, 40 percent of U.S. households own a digital camera, while half of all camcorders in U.S. homes are digital. The reason is simple: digital imaging allows consumers to email and post their pictures on the web, immediately view an image, erase bad photos and transfer to a variety of platforms. In addition, digital imaging affords consumers the luxury of not having to develop filmsaving time, hassle and money.

Manufacturers also have made tremendous advances in storage capacity. Today, most digital cameras use heightened internal storage capacity or a media card that can easily be inserted and removed from the camera. Many consumers may have the notion that bigger is better, but in the digital imaging industry, it's the opposite. As consumers learn more about storage and megapixels, the demand for smaller, lighter and more compact digital imaging hardware will increase. At the same time, manufacturers are developing products that are combining both digital still and video functions. Many digital cameras now produce video clips and streaming "video movies" and vice versa with camcorders able to produce still photographs.

While the digital imaging industry has continued to explode, the ramifications for the future are equally exciting. The industry is poised to maneuver further into the realm of consumer electronics, blurring the lines between CE and digital imaging with a wide variety of products and technology including a wide array of mobile devices such as cellular phones and PDAs.

Several mobile technology products allow users to multi-task, giving them the option of taking a digital photo, and at the same time, listening to an MP3 file or updating their personal contacts. In the handheld arena, many models now incorporate a digital camera plug-in. Two models of the Sony Clié feature a camera built into the hinge that connects the device's screen and keyboard. The Clié is the first Palm OS-based product, but more are on the way.

The camera/mobile phone/instant messaging (IM) capability combination allows users to take a picture anywhere at anytime and send it to someone you're talking to. Another exciting feature of these multi-compatible products is the ability to snap a picture using the PDA or cell phone and use easily attained IM software to hand write a caption directly on an image, creating an instant postcard for family or friends. Sony Ericsson, Sprint and T-Mobile are a few of the leading cell phone makers to include a camera built into their cellular telephones.

Take into account that many of these products not only will be offered in smaller models in the near future, but in a wide variety of contemporary colors and designs, and you will see that the digital imaging industry is poised to become a "fashion must" much in the way many other consumer electronics products are experiencing.

At this year's CES, Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP), described her company's role in the dynamic and rapidly growing digital imaging marketplace. During Fiorina's speech, she accentuated thinking about the whole system required to deliver the photographic experience, including the person capturing the image and focused on the role PCs will play in making digital imaging accessible. The 2003 International CES, the largest in show history, again focused largely on the digital imaging industry with several manufacturers including Danger, Fuji, HP, Olympus, Pentax, Sprint, Sanyo, T-Mobile and VEO and an exciting Imaging Technology Pavilion, showcasing the latest technologies, identifying new products and educating attendees on key trends within the industry.

As we move further into the "Digital Decade," prospects look bright for the digital imaging industry. Manufacturers will introduce 2.5 generation (2.5G) and third generation (3G) wireless networking into the digital imaging industry. This will allow camera phone users to send and receive images. Almost all U.S. wireless carriers were expected to offer 2.5G service by the end of 2002. This will allow transmission of digital photos via e-mail, multi-media messenger or to a printer or the Internet via wireless technology such as Bluetooth or infrared. What seems an end point in technology may well be the beginning to a whole new era of art and technology. ptn

Do you have an industry issue you would like to "Sound Off" about? Then contact PTN Editor Dan Havlik at 631-845-2700, ext. 360, or via email at, and submit your idea today. Remember what they say about opinions? Everybody's got one. . .