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Intel, Club Photo to give digital photography double exposure

Intel is launching a $99 digital camera, while Club Photo focuses on turning Palm Pilots into photo albums.

Chipmaker Intel hopes to push digital imaging more into the mainstream with a low-cost digital camera and software package, while another company called Club Photo wants to put digital images in your palm--literally.

Intel is set to announce on Monday a new digital camera that is designed to make it easier to take and share digital photos through email and the Internet.

Among other features, the camera has built-in connections so users can capture images from camcorders or VCRs without purchasing a separate card. Used while tethered to a PC, the camera also has improved sensitivity for taking pictures in low-light conditions.

Also included are several software programs for sending images via email, building Web pages that can include snapshots that are taken and posted automatically, and creating movies or presentations that have digital images.

Intel said the PC Camera Pro package will sell for $99, while an older model with fewer features will cost $79.

With digital camera prices on the decline, the market is set to heat up. Intel cited a forecast from Cahners In-stat that 2.5 million cameras will ship in 1999. That number could double in 2000, according to In-stat.

That trend will hold for all digital cameras, according to InfoTrends, a research group specializing in digital imaging. InfoTrends forecasts that digital camera sales will grow at an annual rate of 38 percent through 2003, reaching more than 6 million units in North America, in part due to the introduction of user-friendly products and price reductions.

A company called Club Photo hopes to capitalize on another trend--the popularity of handheld computers from Palm Computing. San Jose, California-based Club Photo provides photo organizing, sharing, and finishing services.

Later this month, the company is expected to release software for Palm devices that allows them to double as photo albums. Users will be able to download images stored at the Club Photo site or on a PC for viewing in up to 16 shades of grey. The software also creates special effects such as screen wipes and fades on individual photos or as part of a slide show.

Club Photo says the images can be beamed to other PalmOS devices via built-in infrared ports.