IDC Conference Explores
Impact of Infoimaging
by Diane Berkenfeld
Topics ranged from NextGen content; the crossroads of imaging and home entertainment; the growth of mobile communications and roll out of 3G networks; and photofinishing in the digital age. Some of the speakers included Eastman Kodak's President and CEO Daniel Carp, John Scully, partner, Scully Brothers, LLC. and a host of IDC's analysts.
Whether one calls it Infoimaging or Digital Communication or Digital Visual Communication or Digital Conversation, imaging's movement into varied aspects of the population's daily lives is now said to be a $385 billion industry.
But what are consumers doing with their images?
According to some recent studies, consumers are, in fact, taking record numbers of pictures with both film and digital based cameras, images that are later printed, shared, and archived. However, consensus among analysts from IDC, one of the industry's leading market research firms, is that the retail digital photofinishing infrastructure is limited, making it one of the biggest challenges to overcome for digital imaging to become accepted by the average consumer.
The other major factors to mass acceptance are education and awareness.
As Angéle Boyd, vp of Worldwide Image Capture and Output Technologies for IDC pointed out, the key benefit of Infoimaging, is its ability to provide the ultimate in communication flexibility for both consumers and businesses. Although 65% of captured images (after deletions, worldwide in 2001) were emailed, 82% were printed at home, 15% at retail and 3% by an Internet print service, this according to IDC. Even though images are emailed, they are still, in many cases, printed because one person takes an image, prints it and shares it with others who also may print and share it.
There are photofinishing opportunities to be had as IDC estimates 31.1 billion digital images will be printed worldwide in 2006; with an estimated worldwide print revenue of $15.8 billion, almost double the $8.9 billion (worldwide print revenue) in 2001.
According to Boyd, the ease and pervasiveness of photofinishing isn't where it needs to be, at home, at retail or online.
She outlined the limitations today as: At home—direct printing capability (without the need for a computer to use a printer) such as printers with built-in media card slots; at the office—direct printing and in vertical markets, better integration with the software those businesses use on a daily basis. At retail—a networked infrastructure that is easy to use, such as kiosks and minilabs, including an ATM-like interface, support for the full range of digital camera media, value-added prints and a compelling price structure. Online—bandwidth.
As Boyd pointed out, the industry has begun to provide much of the technology needed to overcome these obstacles but a lack of consumer awareness of what's available is holding back digital photofinishing.
"Printing is as vital in the digital world but awareness isn't there and it isn't that easy yet," Boyd explained.
Boyd moderated a panel discussion on the topic of digital photofinishing; the panelists included Dan Sullivan, president and CEO of Applied Science Fiction (ASF); Joe Miller, senior director, Photo, Eckerd Corp.; Lisa Walker, co-executive director and CMO, International Imaging Industry Association (I3A); and Andy Wood, CEO of Shutterfly.
With technologies such as ASF's dry film process, Sullivan suggested that film be thought of as just another digital media format. Images captured on film and processed/printed digitally through ASF's PIC kiosks, provides the consumer with a CD of their images instead of negatives. This would expand the use of film, Sullivan argued, keeping it a viable medium while making those digital images easy to use.
Walker explained how I3A is working to establish CPXe—Common Picture eXchange-a new protocol and standard for the digital photofinishing industry. Walker added that it is the early adopters who are printing their digital images today. The industry needs to simplify the process, making it as easy to get digital images printed as it is for film, she said, noting that one-hour processing is not yet easily matched in convenience.
Shutterfly's Wood brought up another important point. "It doesn't matter how easy digital photofinishing is, awareness is needed to grow [digital photofinishing]. To satisfy most consumers, provide them with a choice of where to get their digital images printed," he said.
Eckerd's Miller echoed Sullivan's sentiments regarding film: "Digital and film are virtually one in the same with different capture modes." The end result is the same, he explained, emotional attachment in prints.