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Report: Kiosks to drive digital imaging

Retail printing stations will help popularize digital cameras because they offer quick, convenient printouts, IDC concludes.

People will likely use digital cameras more as retail kiosks proliferate, according to a new research report.

The kiosks, which give instant printouts of digital images, make getting photos more convenient, says a report released Thursday from Chris Chute, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"Digital cameras haven't hit the mass consumer yet, because most people are still using film, but the convenience of kiosks and minilabs should help to attract the average film user," he said.

The move underscores the need for digital-imaging companies to offer more than digital cameras to stay competitive.

Last year, film prints outnumbered digital-image prints in the United States, but that is expected to change by 2006, the analyst said. Prints from film made up 80 percent of the market; that should drop to 65 percent by 2006 as home and retail printing increases. Among the companies to benefit from the change are Eastman Kodak, Fuji Film and Sony, all of which are stepping up their kiosk efforts.

The improved convenience of printing digital images should also help camera shipments to rise, according to Chute. Global shipments are estimated to increase from 27.9 million units in 2002 to more than 33 million in 2003, with 3-megapixel cameras topping sales. The strongest sellers in 2001 and 2002 were 2-megapixel cameras, but 3- and 4-megapixel cameras have been quickly gaining ground.

The worldwide market share leaders were Sony, with 20 percent, Olympus, with 16 percent and Canon, with 15 percent.

The report noted that camera makers are likely to appeal to consumers through better features rather than through a price war.