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Wal-Mart develops Net photo service

The retailing giant debuts a disposable camera so that customers without access to a digital camera can still view and send their photos online.

Wal-Mart debuted a disposable camera on Monday so that customers without access to a digital camera can still view and send their photos online.

The one-time use cameras are being sold at Wal-Mart stores and include the company's Pictures Online service charge as part of the price. The film canister is "tagged," so that when people drop the used camera off at a Wal-Mart store, workers will know to process and upload the pictures to the Photo Center.

The camera is the latest move by Wal-Mart to find more sources of revenue, which it hopes will add value to its struggling Web presence. The company has had problems in the past with, which it shut down in October for a redesign--the second one in less than a year. Soon after, the site crashed several times.

Wal-Mart said it sees a bright future in providing ways for their customers to make prints from digital photos. The market for prints from digital images will grow 261 percent from 2001 to 2004, according to research firm IDC.

Although digital photography has become more popular with consumers, the industry has seen some consolidation during past years as companies try to save themselves from the dot-com meltdown by merging with other photo companies or technology companies.

Last month, online photo site Ofoto was acquired by Eastman Kodak. In April, Shutterfly struck a deal with Dell Computer to offer new computer buyers photo software.

Wal-Mart is targeting consumers who do not want spend money on a digital camera, but want to be able to print digital images. The company has priced the disposable camera at $6.84, which includes a $2.74 charge for the online service.