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Start-up Club Photo, US West get into pictures

As the market for digital photos heats up, a small start-up inks a deal with telecom company US West for sharing snapshots online.

As the market for digital photos heats up, a small start-up has inked a deal with telecom company US West for sharing snapshots online.

Club Photo, a San Jose, Calif.-based company, is expected to announce the relationship sometime this week, said Andrew Wei, Club Photo's chief executive.

Club Photo will provide picture-sharing capabilities to US West network users. The deal is similar to AOL and Eastman Kodak's "You've Got Pictures."

"Once people use the service to create photo albums for sharing with their friends and family members, they will see how convenient it is, and they won't go back to the conventional methods," Wei said.

The US West deal alone isn't particularly significant, because US West Net users can use any photo-sharing sites available. But Wei believes US West users will chose Club Photo as the site for exchanging pictures because of the relationship between the two companies.

Carl Holec, senior analyst at ARS, speculates that more such partnerships will develop as photo-sharing Web sites attempt to win users from tough competitors such as Jim Clark's latest venture, Shutterfly; Hewlett-Packard's service, Cartogra; and newcomer Zing Network.

"Photo-sharing companies are doing just about anything they can to get people to use them," Holec said. "I think we're going to see a lot of partnerships with a lot of different businesses."

Photo sharing allows people to send photographs through email or design photo albums for viewing.

The Club Photo deal also points to the emergence of a new set of competitors in the amateur photo world, said Chuck Davenport, senior analyst at Lyra Research.

"Here you have a telecom and an Internet company that were not part of the photo industry two years ago," he said. "The photo industry is completely and totally being redefined, just like the music and movie industry."

In an effort to carve a niche for itself in the crowded digital photography field, Club Photo has announced two other deals.

One is a partnership with Acer Peripherals American, which will give Acer users the ability to share photos online for free.

The other is a 50 percent discount on photographic prints--a price Club Photo claims will rival the cost of standard film prints. Photographers will be able to choose the pictures they want to print over the Internet and have them delivered to their home. The new rates range from $4.50 for an 8-by-10-inch photograph to $1 for a 3-by-5-inch print.