Kodak takes wider angle with digital images

Eastman Kodak is trying to expand the popularity of digital images by moving from the personal computer to the TV set.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
3 min read
Eastman Kodak is trying to expand the popularity of digital images by moving beyond the PC to the TV set.

The photography giant announced Tuesday an agreement with chipmaker LSI Logic to allow people to view photo CDs on televisions via DVD players. The move could greatly expand the number of people who can view digital images, IDC analyst Chris Chute said.

"Kodak's strategy has been somewhat dependent on PCs because the PC was the hub where photos had to be uploaded and viewed," Chute said. "That limited them to half the U.S. population. But to get to a larger share, (Kodak) had to get away from the idea that the PC is essential to viewing digital photos, and this LSI announcement feeds into that."

Kodak has been trying to attract consumers to its digital products for years.

Nearly 10 years ago--before the popularity of digital cameras and CD burning at home--the company attempted a similar campaign to get into living rooms with its PhotoCD device, a CD-ROM player for displaying pictures that Kodak would scan onto discs for customers. The service caught on mostly with professional photographers. Its high cost, about $25 per roll of film, greatly limited its acceptance among mainstream consumers.

Now, consumers developing film from traditional cameras can get a Kodak Picture CD with the photos for a few dollars more than the regular price of developing and printing a roll.

In addition, digital camera owners can upload their photos to the Web sites of retailers with Kodak Photo Centers, which include CVS, Kmart and Rite Aid. Digital camera owners can then order a Picture CD with 200 images for $15.

The Picture CDs can be read by DVD players that use LSI's C-Cube ZiVA-5 DVD chip. The pictures will be scaled automatically to fit the TV screen. Thumbnails of pictures can be viewed simultaneously on one screen for easier navigation, and images can be rotated for different perspectives.

LSI's C-Cube ZiVA-5 DVD chip is in production now but likely won't make it into DVD players until the end of the year, LSI spokesman Jim Chase said.

DVD player manufacturers that use previous versions of LSI chips include JVC, Samsung, LG Electronics and Hitachi. Chase would not comment on which companies have signed up to use the C-Cube ZiVA-5 DVD chip. Kodak originally signed the agreement with C-Cube Microsystems, which LSI acquired June 11 for $851 million in stock.

Related announcements with DVD player makers and other chipmakers will be made over the next couple of weeks, said Max Elbaz, a Kodak business development manager.

The popularity of DVD players has grown consistently, leading a number of market researchers to predict that DVD shipments will eclipse VCR shipments in the next couple of years. Kodak is attempting to ride that trend into consumers' living rooms.

"The television is becoming more of an information device. And by allowing consumers to view their digital photos using a DVD player, we are moving them to a room where it is more conducive to share pictures--from the home office to the living room," Elbaz said.

Elbaz added that in newer markets, such as China and Latin America, a smaller percentage of the population owns PCs than in the United States. So to get digital photography into those homes, Kodak needs to allow people to view digital images on a device that isn't as expensive as a PC.