Software firms to deliver photo services via TV

NDS Group and MGI Software plan to enable consumers to electronically order photographic prints and services or view, edit and share digital images over a digital TV or set-top box.

Consumers may soon be using their TVs to get photo processing or share pictures with grandma and grandpa.

That is the plan of two companies--one British, the other Canadian--that are developing a system for connecting to online photofinishing labs.

NDS Group and MGI Software today announced later this year they would begin marketing NDS Interactive Photo Applications, which would let consumers electronically order photographic prints and services or view, edit and share digital images over a digital TV or set-top box.

Heathrow, U.K.-based NDS will capitalize on its experience selling conditional access software and interactive TV systems to digital pay-TV and satellite broadcasters, digital cable operators and set-top box manufacturers. News Corp. is NDS's major shareholder.

"While digital photography has been rapidly gaining popularity with consumers, the current technology basically limits this experience to PC screens and printers," Abe Peled, CEO of NDS, said in a prepared statement.

Peled envisions a more interactive and familiar experience, where consumers connect digital cameras to TVs or set-top boxes rather than PCs and transmit digital images electronically to relatives or to photofinishing labs for processing.

For its part, Toronto-based MGI will provide digital imaging and video software, which would be integrated into received decoders and digital TV sets receiving satellite, terrestrial, cable or xDSL transmissions and services.

"For the first time, consumers will be able to view, edit, order and receive prints with the same comfort and ease they experience while watching their TV soap opera or ordering a pay-per-view program," MGI CEO Anthony DeCristofaro said in a prepared statement.

MGI, which markets two retail digital imaging products, PhotoSuite and VideoWave, has aggressively pursued partners for its technology. Besides cutting deals with Compaq and other computer makers to preload its software on consumer PCs, MGI has courted game and other software developers looking to enhance their products with digital image or video capabilities.

MGI and NDS hope to cash in on the increasing popularity of set-top boxes and the convergence of PCs and TVs.

In a study released yesterday, market researcher Dataquest said 2.1 million U.S. adults watch TV programs on their PCs. Dataquest said the number of adult consumers watching TV and surfing the Web--what it called "telewebbers"--had increased to 27 million last year from 8 million in 1998.

The companies will initially market the solution directly to broadcasters. Neither company would disclose exactly when this year the product would reach the market.