Thanks mainly to growth in retail and Web printing services, more photos will be printed from digital images than film within two years, according to the report released Wednesday by research firm IDC.
IDC estimated that of the approximately 86 billion images printed worldwide this year, 31 billion, or about 36 percent, will originate from digital files, compared with 55.5 billion prints from film.
The balance will shift in favor of digital in 2006, IDC estimated, when 56 percent of images printed worldwide will originate from. The proportion will jump to 71 percent by 2008, according to the company.
Retail and Web-based photo printers will gain the most from that growth, said IDC analyst Chris Chute, as do-it-yourself printing of digital images fades.
A total of 69 percent of digital images printed this year will be produced by, he said, with 19 percent coming from retail photofinishers and the rest from Web services. The home-printing share is down 10 percent from last year and will continue to decline, Chute said.
IDC estimated thatwill drop to 43 percent of the market by 2008, with retail services growing to 33 percent, thanks to broader offerings and more aggressive marketing.
"Retail services are much more prevalent, and it's in a store's best interest to promote them," Chute said. "They're starting to see film volume decline significantly, and they need to make that up."
Makers of home printers and supplies will compete as best they can, but economics will continue to favor retail and Web services, which produce prints for less than half the cost of home printing.
"There's never been a price war in the inkjet (printer) market, and there's not going to be," Chute said. "Once they try to kill each other, the whole ship goes down. But they'll try to make the value look better. They'll makeappear to be less expensive. They'll cost less, but they'll lower the yield."