Magazine Article


Closing the Gap Between Film and Digital: Microsoft's Mallios Addresses PMDA

Closing the gap between the old (film) and new (digital) sectors of the imaging industry may never be completely, irrevocably achieved, but Kostas Mallios—representing the most famous electronics company in Redmond, Washington—came closer than anyone so far when he addressed the monthly meeting of the PMDA (Photo Manufacturers and Distributors Association) in April. He did it by including a couple of small, almost “throwaway” weapons in the obligatory bag of visual aids most speakers bring to these events.

Ploy No. 1 came right off the bat when he approached the podium and asked if he might speak without the benefit of a microphone. No typical stuffed-shirt corporate executive he. Mallios thrives on being “one of the guys.” Slide One then flashed across the screen—identifying him as senior director, Office of the CTO & Rich Media Strategies at Microsoft Corporation—quickly followed by Slide Two, imposingly titled “The Passion Reignited.”

“Maybe that should say my passion,” he began, launching smoothly into Ploy No. 2. “I used to shoot professionally a long time ago. It’s been a lifelong passion.” When he eventually went over to digital, he sold off the proverbial ton of film-related equipment he’d amassed over the years, except for one Nikon SLR that he occasionally digs out when he wants to shoot a quick roll or two.

“We [the electronics industry] are now asking photographers to go back to a darkroom scenario, to do it in a much more complex way, to be more creative.” He feels the computer is an “unbelievable” source of creative possibilities. “The technology business is about responsibility,” he asserted. “But, despite the computer’s versatility, as an industry we can do a better job. We at Microsoft have responded to the customer. We’re giving them tools to create thousands, even tens of thousands, of pictures.” Mallios, however, does admit that manufacturers could do a better job of teaching consumers how to manage those images.

Mallios cited a recent survey showing that Soccer Mom and her peers spend about $160 per year on her picture-taking efforts. On the other hand, the prosumer drops about $4,700 on items such as inks, papers, storage media, and camera equipment. “We must meet the consumer half way. Many (revered) companies have gone out of business because they didn’t make the leap into computer technology. We must deal with the market forces. We can’t sit back and wait for the film days to come back. I don’t think they will, although I do love film. We must reinforce and reestablish brands while reeducating the consumer.”

Among the visual aids Mallios brought with him was a PC loaded with Microsoft’s Vista OS, so that those interested could “play with the company’s new photo gallery, the new way we manage pictures.” Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out another tool, a smart cameraphone with Wi-Fi with which he can “access my PC with my 300GB picture archives.”

It’s another way the user can get to what we look at as his/her digital memories and emotions. People are taking so many pictures that getting them organized is key. Microsoft must provide a solution to streamline the process, in an open way, so others will be able to plug into it. Microsoft is also trying to establish partner opportunities. “We believe,” he concluded, “that this is a big one.”

Along the way, Mallios sprinkled in a few predictions and promises: the cameraphone with digital hardware will become the most intimate thing we carry with us. As for online printing—“which is very dear to some people in this room”—must be available to everyone. Not just the big guys like Costco and Best Buy, but to the mom-and-pop shop on the corner.

Technology must—and will—trickle down to both groups, and to the individual as well. “Photography is for everyone, and the little people must be allowed to play.”

Whether it was the imposing presence of Microsoft and/or Mallios himself, with his combination of a pro’s confident grasp of his subject and a fan’s enthusiasm, the Q&A session that followed the general presentation was one of the longest and most productive during the past season, running the gamut from a simple three-word answer to a short technological discourse.

When asked whose job it is to show us how to manage our overflowing media card shoeboxes, he quipped, “All of our jobs.” As for the archival search problem, he expanded on new software for the Gallery program—a “one-punch” system. On the subject of tagging images, he revealed Microsoft has a variety of technologies, including, among others, GPS capability.

After admitting to yet another love—digital video: “I think it will take off. We now ship a very, very simple package called Movie Maker.” He summed up by declaring that “imaging is a big part of our company. Microsoft is becoming more and more a significant part of this community.”