After several years of blazing growth, digital cameras and video camcorders are now almost as ubiquitous as cellphones. As a result, most consumers who want them already have them. But consumers still want new options for displaying and sharing photos, and electronics and technology companies and retailers want to keep revenues flowing from the huge base of digital camera and camcorder users.
“It’s a wide open space, with lots of room to grow," said Kevin Winneroski, vice-president of digital imaging at Best Buy Co. Inc. “We think helping customers to do more with their pictures and videos is going to be very important.” Today’s big sellers at the retail chain include digital photo frames and storage options for those big image files such as portable hard drives, memory cards and server computers. In the future, they could also include subscriptions to websites where users can store, share and edit their photos and home movies. Some of the areas they’re looking at most closely include:
SHARING: Of course you can use YouTube or similar Internet sites to share videos, but a growing number of new sites give users more privacy and control over who sees their stuff. Best Buy recently opened a website (www.bestbuy.mydeo.com) where consumers can store share home videos with friends and relatives for $7- 10.50 (approx. Rs275- 415) per month. The company already had a photo-sharing site. Another new site, called Tubes, (www.tubesnow.com) lets users drag and drop to share big files of any sort—movies, photos, music, etc. One gigabyte of storage at Tubes (the name comes from pneumatic tubes once used widely by banks and department stores to shuttle information around) is free; more storage costs from $6-21. Sites such as Filmaroo (www.filmaroo.com), meanwhile, let users share video with friends and family for free—but you may have to have to put up with advertising and other distractions.
FIXING: Free or cheap photo editing software is commonplace, but what about video editing? If you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for professional video editing software, you may want to check out Fixmymovie.com. Upload video from your computer camera or cellphone at the site, and it will automatically enhance it in a few minutes. The site’s software lightens up dark areas, improves resolution and makes other changes—though bad video will still come out as not-as-bad video. The site is free on a trial basis.
FRAMING: Digital photo frames are getting bigger, cheaper and, as a result, more commonplace. Last year, digital photo frames typically were in the 6-inch range and could cost hundreds of dollars. Now, similar-sized frames go for less than $100. Hermitage, Tennessee-based Bigeframe (www.bigeframe.com) meanwhile, sells 15-inch models for $450, 20-inch whoppers for $570 and a 19-inch WiFi wireless frame that can automatically fetch pictures or movies and show them off in style for $1,200.
STORING:Hewlett-Packard Co. just started selling its $600 HP MediaSmart Server computer designed specifically for home users to store and share their home videos, photos, music and other entertainment. With a remote control, you can access anything stored on the server from any computer or other electronic device on a home network. Remote users—grandparents or other family members —can also access photos, movies and other data on the server over the Internet.
SUPPLIES:For retailers and electronics companies, flash memory cards have become the equivalent of razor blades to razor makers. Now that many people have digital cameras, they need the memory to store pictures. Accessories are also helping make up for declining digital camera sales. Sales of digital camera zoom lenses and camera cases have increased the worldover in recent years.
Bob Keefe/©2007/The New York Times