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Philips, Kodak team on digital snaps

The two firms announce a strategic alliance to offer Kodak's online photo services on Philips' TV set-top boxes.

Philips and Kodak today announced a strategic alliance to offer Kodak's online photo services on Philips' TV set-top boxes, including WebTV, as more companies move to offer digital photography on non-PC devices.

Philips manufactures Internet set-top boxes which run WebTV's online services. Today's agreement will allow Philips to offer online photo services to its WebTV customers, as well as owners of other Philips Internet devices.

Kodak's PictureVision subsidiary will develop a version of its PhotoNet service for Philips. Kodak PhotoNet is an online service used in partnership with photofinishers, software developers, as well as digital camera and printer manufacturers. The service allows consumers to manipulate their pictures online, as well as order reprints and enlargements.

Digital imaging allows consumers to easily manipulate and share their photographs. Until recently, the large audience of amateur photographers, especially those without PCs, has not been able to capitalize on the flexibility that digital imaging offers.

Kodak, through its partnership with Intel, and now Philips, has been aggressive in its strategy of bringing digital photography to non-PC users.

With today's announcement, PictureVision will develop a TV-based version of PhotoNet that will allow WebTV users, and owners of Philips' Ambi device, which allows consumers to share Internet access and applications between the PC and television, according to Philips. Kodak also offers its PictureVision service to America Online subscribers. AOL users can receive their pictures within 48 hours through the service, called "You've Got Pictures."

Kodak and Intel last year launched PictureCDs, which can be accessed on PCs or at special kiosks.

A growing number of companies are targeting non-PC users, or at least are working to simplify the "digital darkroom."

Recently, Digital Intelligence, a privately held spinoff of Adobe Systems, detailed plans for its Picture IQ embedded software. The software would be embedded in devices such as set-top boxes, game consoles, handheld devices, and printers. The goal: Let consumers modify, organize, print, and share photos without a PC.

Also, printer makers such as Lexmark offer the ability to plug in a digital camera's memory card directly to a printer.

Widespread acceptance of digital imaging still has other hurdles to overcome even if PCs are bypassed, however. Although digital cameras have dropped in price and improved in picture quality, they are still nowhere near as inexpensive as traditional cameras, and the images generally are not as clear.

Pricing for the Philips version of the PhotoNet service was not disclosed.

News.com's Jim Davis contributed to this report.