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HP camera simplifies e-mailing photos

The company will release a new digital camera with software and services that it says will simplify how photos are shared.

Hewlett-Packard on Thursday will release a new digital camera with software and services that it says will simplify how photos are shared.

The Photosmart 812 is HP's first camera to feature Instant Share, a combination of in-camera features, PC software and Web services. By clicking Instant Share buttons on the camera, photographers can designate a list of e-mail recipients. The next time the camera is connected to a PC, photos are automatically sent out.

Instead of receiving photos as an e-mail attachment, however, recipients get a message with thumbnail images of each picture embedded in the message. By clicking on the thumbnail, they can access a high-resolution version stored on an HP Web site, which, initially, will be free.

The e-mail process eliminates having to deal with attachments, which can frustrate some customers, said Holly Williamson, HP's program manager for Instant Share.

"There's been a lot of attention on making it easier to send photos," Williamson said. "But if you really want to drive the sharing of digital images, there has to be equal emphasis on ease of use for the receiver."

A recent report by research firm IDC identified ease of use as one of the top issues for continued growth in digital camera use.

HP will provide 200MB of online storage for Instant Share users, with photos staying on the site for 60 days.

HP is evaluating offering Instant Share service with other cameras, Williamson said, but she did not have specific plans for expanding the service. "I think it's safe to say it's something that's going to be around for a while," she said.

Andrew Johnson, an analyst for research firm Gartner, said HP can also use Instant Share to boost revenue by encouraging people to order prints of photos they view on the Web site. HP announced in February that Shutterfly would provide printing services through Instant Share.

"The key to making money from online photo services is getting people to order prints," Johnson said, noting that only 10 percent to 15 percent of digital camera owners print their own images.

The Photosmart 812 sports resolution of 4 megapixels and a 3x zoom lens. It sells for $499, another sign of falling prices for high-end digital cameras.