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Kodak, Intel join on digital cameras

The two will try to spur digital photography to the mass market, offering lower-cost imaging solutions for shutterbugs lacking PCs.

Kodak and Intel announced a joint marketing and development alliance today to promote digital imaging.

The two companies will try to spur the coming of digital photography to the mass market by offering lower-cost digital imaging solutions for shutterbugs. The agreement includes joint development of new products, an upgrade of Kodak's photo development labs with Intel products, and a joint $150 million marketing campaign.

Kodak eventually will offer "Picture CDs" made using Intel-based computers. These picture CDs will allow consumers to store their photos on CDs and print them at kiosks or retail stores.

Digital photography, which allows users to store and manipulate images on their PCs, is widely expected to grow in popularity during the next year. Prices continue to drop for high-resolution cameras and easy-to-use applications for manipulating images are beginning to proliferate.

While multimedia PCs are now enabling the digital imaging market, eventually they are going to limit growth, according to Bill Jackson, manager of the original equipment business at Kodak's digital and applied imaging division.

"Obviously, the digital camera market is exploding: 3 million units will be sold this year, and that will double by next year," Jackson said. But that isn't a big piece of overall market--20,000 pictures are taken every second, he observed yesterday at a panel discussion on digital imaging at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

A serious barrier to the use of digital cameras is that "people are still somewhat tied to the use of a computers in order to take full advantage [of the devices]," Jackson noted.

He predicted that the advent of printers that can read and print directly from cameras would be one key technology that could help the digital imaging market take off.

Other factors inhibiting the growth of the market include cameras that aren't easy to use, short battery life, and image quality as issues that need to be addressed.

Kodak and Intel declined to describe specific initiatives, saying they would be fleshed out later this summer.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.