Digital imaging market set to explode, say experts

The digital imaging market will explode in 2004, but the technologies need to overcome a number of hurdles to become more widely...

The digital imaging market will explode in 2004, but the technologies need to overcome a number of hurdles to become more widely accepted, according to industry executives at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Executives from  four companies discussed the problems and potential of digital imaging products, including digital cameras, camera phones, storage media and image management products to store, save and print digital images.

They agreed there are a number of problems plaguing the digital imaging market, including lack of compatible hardware and software standards, lack of user education, and the complications involved in using digital imaging products.

Users are turned off by the cost of digital imaging products, cannot figure out how to operate digital cameras and get frustrated by the number of steps involved in saving and storing digital images, according to Kristy Holch, group director at InfoTrends Research Group.

Digital camera phones and digital cameras are set to become the hottest-selling digital imaging products in 2004, said panelists.

Camera phone sales could number 100 million units in 2004, according to Michael Polacek, vice-president of imaging at National Semiconductor.

Camera phones, which already outsell digital cameras worldwide, will see higher sales in North America, where the phones have not yet caught on as well as they have in Japan or Europe, Holch said.

The problem with camera phones, according to Polacek, is a lack of local storage.

Digital cameras will be bundled into mobile phones and their cost will be partly subsidised by mobile phone manufacturers and suppliers, said Polacek.

Female and young consumers love having mobile phones and will think of the integrated digital camera as “another tool", said Furlott.

Both Furlott and Polacek claimed that digital camera phones  would be the hottest-selling digital imaging technology this year.

Digital cameras will replace film cameras as they become easier to use, said Scott Nelson, director of product development at Casio.

Worldwide digital camera sales numbered 70 million in 2003, raking in revenue of $10bn, according to InfoTrends research. InfoTrends also predicted that by 2008, digital cameras would replace film cameras.

Digital camera sales will drive the sales of photo printers, said Kathy Dow, communications manager at Hewlett-Packard. Panelists said users would both print at home and use professional photo printers. 
Polacek also predicted that CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) would replace CCD (charge-coupled device) technology in the future manufacture of digital cameras.

The panelists agreed that digital cameras and digital camera phones would coexist in the future, as they perform different functions. A digital camera can take professional-quality photographs, although it is hard to lug around, while a digital camera phone can “capture the moment" effectively.

Digital imaging companies need to work together to expand the market, the panelists said. They called for consistency in storage and memory standards and operating systems and an effort to educate users and retailers about the latest digital memory technologies.

Agam Shah writes for IDG News Service

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