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Combo slides Kodak back into printers

The photo giant inches back into the consumer printer business with a combination camera dock-printer, as the imaging industry releases a pre-trade show flurry of products.

    Eastman Kodak is inching back into the consumer printer business, with a new device that works as both a docking station and as a photo printer.

    Unveiled Thursday, the $199 Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 can send photos to a PC or television as well as make standard 4-by-6-inch prints. The device uses a dry-ink technology known as dye-sublimation, which offers continuous-tone prints as well as a water-resistant coating.

    Kodak used to sell a line of inkjet printers but discontinued that effort, focusing instead on just making paper for other company's inkjet printers. Despite the new release, executives say Kodak does not see itself as a printer maker.

    "We really see this as more of a digital camera accessory than a printer," said Philip Scott, director of marketing for the Americas region at Kodak. Kodak introduced its first docking devices a year and a half ago as a way to avoid having to use cables to connect a PC and camera.

    Initially, the printer dock will work only with Kodak's new 3-megapixel DX6340 camera, which is also being introduced this week. However, Scott says that future Kodak cameras will be designed to work with the combination device. The printer dock and new camera is slated for release in May.

    Kodak's move comes amid a flurry of product introductions ahead of the PMA 2003 photo industry trade show, which starts Sunday in Las Vegas.

    Canon on Thursday announced seven digital cameras, two digital video camcorders, three Bubble Jet printers, and two flatbed scanners. The new products include the PowerShot S50, the company's first 5-megapixel consumer camera as well as a 6.3-megapixel professional model, the EOS 10D.

    Sony, for its part, introduced nine new cameras, including a 5-megapixel DSC-P92 camera for $500. It also released seven new camcorders. In addition, the company plans to announce new versions of its Memory Stick flash memory cards as well as new partners for its photo kiosk business, in which a Sony machine allows customers to print their digital pictures at outlets like grocery stores, drug stores and college bookstores.

    Meanwhile, Fuji introduced new digital cameras last week.

    In addition, Olympus plans to announce and show off its latest crop of digital cameras and other products at the show, a company representative said.

    Hewlett-Packard will also introduce new cameras at the show, as well as announce improvements to its Instant Share technology, which allows customers to program their cameras to e-mail or print specific photos once the camera is connected to a PC.