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Net service will cater to camera phone users

A planned offer from OurPictures hints at the day when camera phones could represent the mainstream way of snapping photos.

Digital photo company OurPictures plans to soon introduce a new service for camera phones, a move that hints at the day when cameras in handsets could represent the mainstream way of snapping photos.

OurPictures' competitors, including Shutterfly and Kodak's Ofoto, may respond with their own cell phones services, say sources knowledgeable about the two companies. All three companies have Web sites that offer digital-photo organization, storage, editing and printing. In May, OurPictures also launched a service for sharing digital photos on the Web.

Starting in October, the $2-a-month OurPictures Mobile will let users of camera phones that run the Microsoft and Symbian operating systems send videos and photos to an Internet site, where they will be viewable via any Net-connected PC, cell phone and computer in the United Kingdom and North America, and by some televisions in those regions, according to OurPictures.

Available to any OurPictures member, the mobile service will cater to the one in 10 cell phones that have embedded cameras. Those devices will capture 29 billion photos and videos this year, according to market analysis company InfoTrends. Cell phone cameras and photo-related services are expected to grow in popularity; by 2008, InfoTrends projects, there will be 656 million camera phones in use.

"Camera phones are fundamentally changing the world of digital photography," OurPictures Chief Executive John Paul said in a statement.

But, for now, most camera phone owners have a limited audience for sharing their tiny masterpieces because only camera phones using the same cell phone service provider can swap photo messages. The bottleneck results from cell phone service providers' eagerness to launch a hot new service, each building a slightly different version of photo- and video-messaging services, instead of waiting for an industrywide standard.

Such bottlenecks have also given rise to the use of "moblogs," which are personal Web logs made up of videos and photos shot with a cell phone, to get photos posted online when services are unavailable.