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Kodak developing software to put photos on TV

The photo giant is partnering with set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta to develop a program that will allow cable TV subscribers to send and view photographs through their televisions.

    Kodak wants to make sharing digital pictures easier than booting up a computer.

    The Rochester, N.Y.-based photo giant said today that it is partnering with set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta to develop a program that will allow cable TV subscribers to send and view photographs through their televisions.

    "There is a group of people on the Internet with their PCs, and there is a group of people that aren't and never will be," said Kodak marketing director Brian Marks.

    To attract the majority of Americans who don't have a PC, Kodak plans to team with local cable operators to offer a channel where people can view photos sent directly to them. The channel will also have advertising along with photos of local community events and other images.

    "You have the Discovery Channel; you will have the Kodak channel," Marks said, adding that the company has not yet decided on an official name for the station.

    Kodak tried nearly a decade ago to get into the living room with its PhotoCD player, a CD-ROM unit that played pictures scanned onto disc by Kodak. But the service was expensive, costing upward of $25 for a roll of film to be scanned, and caught on mainly with professionals.

    Digital photography is a critical market for Kodak. Not only does the company see the larger film-based industry moving online, but it also said that today's digital photo customers spend more than those using only traditional film.

    "Recently we have seen a wave of moves in digital imaging away from the PC," said Richard Rambaldo, a digital imaging analyst for La Jolla, Calif.-based ARS. Other approaches include Sony's CyberFrame, a standalone unit that cycles through several digital images.

    Kodak already has its PhotoNet service, where customers can have their traditional film processed digitally and made available via email or a protected Web site. The company announced a similar offering with America Online dubbed "You've Got Pictures."

    Digital camera use is also expected to grow rapidly, from about 4.7 million units in 1999 to 22 million by 2003, according to International Data Corp.

    One of the big advantages of digital pictures is that they can be edited. That's important, Marks said, because most people only get about seven good shots out of a roll of film.

    "When people can do more with their pictures," Marks said, "they actually do more with their pictures and spend more."

    Marks said Kodak has found that the average digital camera operator spends $125 per year on services and prints, compared with about $90 for film users.

    Still, Marks said the PC is not where most people want to share photos.

    "We want to bring it back to the living room, where it belongs," he said.

    Kodak expects to release the service in a few cities on a trial basis this fall. The cost of the service will be decided by the cable operator. Cable operators will also be able to sell advertising on the as-yet-unnamed Kodak channel.

    To manipulate and upload photos, people will need newer digital set-top boxes, which are only now being offered in many areas. Scientific-Atlanta, along with Motorola unit General Instrument, is a leader in that market.

    Marks said Kodak is also eyeing opportunities to share photos via a cell phone or other wireless device. The set-top box move could eventually allow people to post video, as well.

    "Any way that you can communicate with a picture, Kodak will be there," Marks said.