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Singing shutters: Kodak unveils MP3 camera/video cam

The photo giant's new portable device is aimed at a relatively young audience interested in creating music videos of friends.

    Photo giant Eastman Kodak unveiled on Monday a portable device that combines a digital camcorder, an MP3 player and a digital still camera.

    The new Kodak mc3 lets people preview and review both video and photos. It also allows them to combine music with the images to create multimedia movies or music videos. With the device, consumers can record up to 20 minutes of video using QuickTime on a 64MB Compact Flash card. The mc3's files can be transmitted via e-mail.

    In addition, Kodak said the mc3, which plays up to 1.5 hours of music with a 64MB memory card, provides people with the capability to convert music from CDs to the MP3 format through the RealJukebox software. Kodak said the $299 mc3 will hit retail stores March 15.

    One of the drawbacks, however, is the camera's and video cam's relatively low resolution: 640 by 480 pixels and 320 by 240 pixels, respectively.

    Kodak unveiled the product Monday at Demo 2001, a high-tech conference in Phoenix.

    The mc3 is part of Kodak?s initiatives to add new features to cameras but also represents the company?s latest effort to target youths.

    ?When you think about these kids, these Gen Y-ers, they were raised on MTV,? said Nancy Carr, a vice president of marketing at Kodak. ?They are used to music and video, and a digital still camera may not be their first choice when they go out to buy. We?re concentrating on this market as part of our youth effort to build products that they will use for everyday life where it?s more about the moment than the memory.?

    An analyst said mc3 is a positive move for Kodak, but pointed out that the product is not the first of its kind.

    ?Kodak is falling onto a product category that Fuji identified first and that?s been doing rather well for (Fuji),? said Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based market researcher. ?It?s the phrase: The second mouse gets the cheese."

    In September, Fuji began shipping its FujiFilm FinePix 40i digital camera to retail stores for $699. The device combines a digital camera, MP3 player and digital camcorder. Fuji?s product includes RealJukebox software and Adobe Systems' ActiveShare photo editing software.

    Fuji may have done a lot of the market education, Doherty said, but Kodak?s name and its lower-cost product may do much better than Fuji in the next few months.

    ?It certainly does give (Kodak) a combination product for a lot of young people to think about if they haven?t already bought an MP3,? Doherty said.

    Kodak said its product has a longer battery life and is smaller than Fuji's.

    Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak also announced Monday that it has acquired Pakon, a Minneapolis-based company that develops scanners. In addition, the company said it has partnered with LifeFX, which develops 3D digital images of people.

    In related news, Polaroid introduced on Monday the PhotoMax PDC 640 Modem camera, which has a built-in 56kbps modem and a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. The camera can be attached directly to a phone line, allowing people to send images to the Web without using a PC. The $249 camera is set for release in April.