*NEWS*P. PRINTER MAKERS JOSTLE 4 POSITION/2004-10-22
*NEWS*P. PRINTER MAKERS JOSTLE 4 POSITION/2004-10-22
2013-06-24 at 4:36:28 am #2276
Photo Printer Makers Jostle for Position
Companies Make Big Plans to Capture Exploding Home-Printing Market
L A S V E G A S, - Now that digital cameras have moved into the mainstream and the majority of users are printing their photos at home, a host of industry players are maneuvering to control a piece of the printer market.
Rochester, N.Y., firm Eastman Kodak, for example, has said it will re-enter the ink jet market.
Camera makers such as Canon, Fuji, and Olympus are vying to develop higher and higher resolution cameras, and camera-equipped cell phones are becoming increasingly available. The result? A greater number of digital images, the prize in the struggle among printer manufacturers.
Last Thursday, representatives from four leading printer and film manufacturers joined former CNN anchor Stuart Varney at the Photo Marketing Association show here to argue about whether retail processing services could recapture the market share they enjoyed in the period up to the early 1990s, when film cameras dominated.
At-Home vs. In-Store Printing
About 80 percent of digital images are printed at home, according to studies by market research firm International Data Corp. and Hewlett-Packard. At least in the United States and China, digital film is cutting into traditional analog film sales at the rate of about 10 to 12 percent per year, Daniel Carp, chairman and CEO of Kodak, told the audience.
At-home printing offers three advantages: concern, choice, and convenience, according to Vyomesh Joshi, the executive vice president responsible for the printer business of HP, the leading vendor in the field. Users can eliminate red-eye and otherwise modify digital images, print out what they choose, and do so immediately without driving to a store.
Retail printing, on the other hand, offers consumers the advantages of bulk processing. In Japan, which the panelists agreed was about a year to 18 months ahead of the United States in adoption of digital cameras, retail printing is undergoing a resurgence, according to Shigetaka Komori, president and chief executive of Fuji Photo Film in Tokyo.
"Home printing has many advantages; it's convenient, and consumers can easily manipulate images, but on the other hand, it's expensive and slow, so it has disadvantages as well," Komori said through an interpreter.
Although the home printer market evolved to meet the needs of individuals printing text, more and more of today's printers are made to print photos first and text second. That's left companies like Kodak, a film manufacturer that also develops ink jet photo paper, a back door into the printer market.
Kodak began selling its dye sublimation EasyShare snapshot printer in April, according to Richard Stearns, the general manager of the company's home printing business, and a former HP printer executive. In December, the EasyShare Printer Dock, which produces 4- by 6-inch images, began outselling all others in its class, gaining a 40 percent market share as measured by market research firm NPD Intelect, according to Stearns, who also claimed that single product has generated $100 million in revenue.
In October, Kodak announced its plans to re-enter the ink jet market as part of a wide-ranging corporate restructuring, and on Thursday, Stearns predicted the move would happen around 2006. The Kodak exec doesn't see much difference between traditional ink jets and photo printers that can produce 8-by-10 prints. "Most photo printers today can handle basic text and graphics," he said in an interview.
Another force driving printer competition is the vast increase, over the last year or two, in the number of images camera users can store. For example, SanDisk, the developer of the CompactFlash standard, said Thursday that it will begin shipping a $999, 4 GB card in April. The card can store more than 2,000 high-resolution images, SanDisk claims.
The problem is convincing users to print those images.
A Hard Push for Hard Copies
Kodak's Carp notes that about 75 percent of shots go unprinted. Although Kodak's single home printer has enjoyed significant success, the company has invested heavily in in-store kiosks, attempting to boost the number of images printed. The most recent model, unveiled Thursday, will actually process analog film (destroying it in the process, for privacy) and transfer the images digitally to CD. As part of that effort, Kodak also announced a new line of printer paper under the Ultima moniker and colorfast inks designed to last for 100 years.
About 70 to 80 percent of the roughly 17 million cell phones sold last year in Japan are equipped with cameras, according to Fuji's Komori. But he also noted that many of those images are not even stored, let alone printed, serving only as a momentary diversion for groups of friends. He went on to say that Fuji is working to convince cell phone users to change their ways and has developed the small Eureka mobile printer to make on-the-go printing easier.
To speed the process of increasing image printing, Canon, Epson, and HP formed the Mobile Imaging and Printing Consortium (MIPC), which will drive standards for printing camera-phone photos. The standards, to be delivered to the mobile phone industry during the second half of 2004, will promote the use of Bluetooth, memory cards, and PictBridge direct-printing technology.
"We believe that most images that are printed from camera phones will be printed at home," said David Haueter, an analyst at research firm Gartner, in a statement. "A consortium like the MIPC will help to drive standards that will ultimately give consumers easier solutions for printing of their digital photos."
HP has taken a similar tack. "We have been working with cell phone manufacturers like Nokia," Joshi said. "With … cameras in mobile phones, you can get metadata — location and time — and print it right on your pictures."
* Post was edited: 2004-10-22 10:36:00