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All digital cameras are not alike

A San Jose start-up lines up support for a platform that will make it easier for digital cameras and other peripherals to manipulate and share images.

San Jose, California-based start-up FlashPoint has lined up support for a digital imaging "platform" that will make it easier for digital cameras, printers, and other peripherals to easily manipulate and share digital images--with or without the help of a PC.

Establishing standards is expected to become a premier issue next year as both demand for better graphics and the technology to produce them come to the fore.

FlashPoint, which acquired its core technologies and a number of employees from Apple Computer, announced that Eastman Kodak (EK), Minolta, and Sharp Electronics have licensed its "Digita" technology.

Digita essentially functions as an all-in-one imaging communications system for peripherals. Through Digita, peripheral manufacturers can develop standard graphical interfaces for devices that will be recognizable to other Digita-enabled devices. Digita also gives these devices the intelligence to manipulate, catalog, search, and send image files to printers, scanners, or even a Web site without the use of a computer.

With Digita-enabled devices, for instance, one user could employ special effects software to create calendars or greeting cards using the camera itself instead of a PC, thus saving processing time.

The company will demonstrate Digita for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 8.

FlashPoint, however, isn't alone in its efforts to establish interoperable parameters for digital imaging technology.

Nine companies--including Microsoft, Intel, Canon,Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Kodak--earlier this year formed an industry group to jointly develop interoperable software and technology for digital photography. The group will oversee the FlashPix file format, which specifies how cameras and software handle digital photos.

The members of the Digital Imaging Group are working to ensure that vendors of digital cameras, photo-editing software, and other equipment will use the same technology standards.

While tipping its hat to the goals of Digital Imaging Group, FlashPoint executives maintain its approach to imaging is more comprehensive.

"We are looking at the entire image processing chain. A lot of these other initiatives deal with issues such as file storage type, while others like HP's JetSend deal with a communications protocol," said Dan Torres, director of product marketing for FlashPoint. JetSend is a technology promoted by HP that basically allows printers, fax machines, handhelds, and other devices to intercommunicate with each other.

FlashPoint, by contrast, aims to provide technology for everything from the camera to the printer (plus developing technologies) to allow these devices to communicate with the desktop and each other, Torres said. Additionally, Digita can incorporate support for new file storage formats if and when such technologies become industry standards, he noted.

Improved image quality and declining prices are already fueling sales of digital cameras. According to International Data Corporation, sales are expected to grow 37 percent by the year 2001.