Magazine Article


About Face at ASF

"Also, we've developed the algorithms for about 60 film types, so far, covering most of the popular brands and private label, but there are still certain films not yet qualified." If a customer loads a non-qualified film, the system will reject it, he noted.

In other words, we're not ready with the D-Pic, guys, but along the way we've created a helluva digital kiosk that we feel is saleable.

As Mike Conley, ASF's vp marketing put it: "Initially the kiosk was created as a platform to evangelize the benefits of the Digital Pic process." But, he said, "the lightning bolt hit, we created the perfect kiosk as an edit station. Why not sell the edit station now in preparation for the launch of the Digital PIC?"

Enter the ASF DigiPIX Image Station.

Now we have ASF, a company with a changed mission. According to Dan Sullivan, last year he would have said the ASF mission was to "work with partners to rapidly pursue the development and roll out of the D-Pic film processor and the various image enhance software" (ICE, ROC, etc.).

New mission: "Respond to customers needs and develop what they want."

This means that ASF is changing its hat and going from a supplier of a unique technology, the D-Pic dry processor on an OEM basis, to a manufacturer of a digital kiosk that will be sold direct to end usersmaybe even in direct competition with those same folks being courted for the D-Pic product.

Dan feels that there is an 'open window' at this time for a manufacturer with the right product to fill the consumer demand for the digital services at retail. "We want those footprints in the store," he said, "so that we can connect the D-Pic when ready."

What is the DigiPIX? It can take on any combination of features, depending on the wishes of the buyer. With all the bells and whistles it will consist of: free-standing royal blue and sand gray cabinet; touch screen display; credit card or loyalty card reader; CD-RW drive for copying a CD; a Rimage CD burner with a capacity of 200 blank CDs that will output a CD with an index print on the outside of the CD; various digital camera media readers; Microtec flatbed scanner model 6800 with ICE, ROC and SHO; Nikon Coolscan IV film scanner with ICE3; two 4x6 Nidec dye-sub printers; one 8x10 Sony dye sub printer; an envelope holder; a receipt printer; and Internet capability. Price: about $20,000 plus $6,000 for the Rimage SYSTEM.

ASF Founder To Get Tech Achievement Award

Dr. Al Edgar, co-founder and chief scientist of Applied Science Fiction, will be presented the Technical Achievement Award by the Photoimaging Manufacturers & Distributors Association. The presentation will be made at the PMDA annual dinner, held in conjunction with the PMA convention, on Saturday, March 1, at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort and Hotel. Dr. Edgar, a former scientist and engineer at IBM, is the inventor of the fundamental concepts and patents that have led to the development of the ASF dry film process system and various film scanning enhancements, such as Digital ICE.

The ASF plan is to allow a buyer to customize a kiosk with any of these features and they'll be happy to use the store name on the product. Also, the software can be programmed for in-store pricing and promotions.

Mike said the DigiPIX unit will be shown to the trade for the first time at the PMA convention next month and that shipments would begin in April. Final assembly of the unit will take place in Spokane, WA.

At the low end is a DigiPIX Countertop Terminal. This is a basic preview and select concept, taking all digital media, and includes a scanner. It must be connected to some output device, which could be a minilab. Price: about $8,500.

I asked Dan about the connectivity element. Will it interface with Fuji's Frontier or a Noritsu 3001, for example? If they plan to sell these to independent minilabs such a feature would be necessary. "We're working with some minilab manufacturers to develop an interface." I'm not so sure the folks will be lending too much of a hand in this endeavor.

The market for the footprints that Dan and Mike are looking for at retail is not as available as one might think. For all practical purposes, the Kodak Picture Maker is filling those footprints pretty adequately. Well over 20,000 in place in this country. Mike said the focus will be toward the independent photo specialist, quick print and electronics retail outlets. Dan added, "A sale of just one at a time will be fine. We're not looking for a home run with each sale. Our success is not predicated on Ritz Camera."

Considering that ASF has never structured itself as a classic sales organization, but rather an R&D company with an OEM direction, taking the DigiPIX to market is going to be a challenge. The big gun retailers have long and strong commitments to established brands and products. The best opportunity is either with an independent lab owner, who will more easily switch the brand horse, or some non-photo related segment.