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Kodak, Intel team on chips, photo CDs

In addition to the consumer scheme, on September 28 the duo will also elaborate on a digital camera technology based on a lower-cost Intel design.

    Later this month at an industry event, Kodak and Intel will detail a plan to offer consumers digitized photographs on CDs and elaborate on a digital camera technology based on a lower-cost design, the first fruit of their six-month-old digital imaging alliance.

    On September 28, the two companies are expected to launch Kodak Picture CDs, low-priced CD-ROM disks intended to store digitized versions of photographs taken with a traditional camera and film.

    Additionally, the announcement will confirm that the duo are working together to develop cameras based on Intel's CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) Image Sensor technology, an alternative to the pricey Charge Coupled Device technology featured in today's digital cameras.

    "We're in the early stages of product development [of] CMOS solutions," said an Intel spokesman.

    A digital camera's CMOS-based sensors do not require separate circuits for analog-to-digital signal conversion, according to Intel's PC imaging Web site. Broad application could translate into inexpensive consumer digital cameras.

    Also, the currently unwieldy process of downloading and "developing" digital images could be significantly simplified if the camera is based on Intel design architecture, noted one analyst familiar with the announcement. "It all ties together. It dovetails perfectly," he said.

    "What's significant is that instead of [having] just another customer [relationship] Kodak and Intel have decided to partner much more closely throughout the design process," said another industry analyst. "This has broad implications--their working together will accelerate product cycles."

    The goal is to make digital pictures more palatable to the average consumer, who will be able to access digital images either through a high-end, high-powered PC, or through the Picture CD-ROMs and Intel-based retail kiosks.

    A Kodak spokesman confirmed that the September 28 event in New York City would detail the Kodak Picture CD service. Under the Picture CD plan, original images will be scanned using Intel-based technology. The digitized images can then be edited, manipulated, and printed via PC or kiosks at retail stores.

    "This will open up digital photography to the traditional photography market," said one industry source familiar with the upcoming announcement, noting that the CD-ROMs will store imaging applications in addition to the digitized images themselves.

    "There's a lot of advantages to using CD-ROM," the source said. "It's much more robust than floppies, there are more things you can do with it. You don't have to compress images as much."

    When the contours of Intel-Kodak pact were first outlined last April, it was seen as a significant step in making digital imaging more accessible for consumers. Now Intel and Kodak are ready to execute that vision.

    Kodak currently offers a service called Photo CD, which offers scanned, high-resolution images for professionals on CDs. "Photo CD features extremely high resolution images for the professional market, and it's expensive--$28 per Photo CD," the Kodak spokesman said today.

    Film developing houses such as Wolf Camera offer similar services, but on much smaller capacity floppy discs and on a much smaller scale than the coming service from Intel and Kodak.

    "It would be cool to walk up with your CDs to a photo kiosk, and with one button you've got a print," said another source with knowledge of the announcement. "So instead of one-hour photo, it's one-minute photo."

    The two companies are also expected to launch a $150 million consumer marketing campaign, promoting the Kodak Picture CDs and educating consumers about digital imaging.

    In April, Kodak said it would be revamping some of its labs in preparation for the new program. "The agreement covers...upgrading Kodak's Qualex photo-finishing laboratories with digitization equipment, based on Intel Architecture and new scanning equipment," according to the joint announcement.

    Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.