Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Sony Ericsson debuts five camera phones: The start of new branding?

Sony Ericsson today introduced five cellular phones -- all with cameras -- and The Register speculates whether Sony Ericsson will be considered a camera company. This isn't just idle speculation. In November 2003 I wrote that Nokia considers itself the largest digital camera company in the world.

Are handset vendors like Nokia and Sony Ericsson poised to be short-listed as digital camera vendors in the minds of many consumers? I think it's possible, especially as higher resolution camera phones -- with innovative designs -- begin replacing the crummy VGA handsets.

Among the camera phones debuted by Sony Ericsson is the 1.3 megapixel (1280 x 960 pixels) S700 that can be held horizontally to take a photo (see below), making it more like a digital camera.

sony_ericsson_s700_1.3 megapixel camera phone.jpg

Better ergonomics for picture-taking

Wireless/mobile expert Guy Kewney writes in The Register, "The new phones, which will roll out over the next nine months, almost all have 'dual fronted' design. One side is a phone; but turn it over, and it's a camera.

"The concept looks good, because it means that you hold the camera in a camera style: with two hands. It also means that when you turn the new S700 over and press the 'camera' button, the user interface changes from phone to picture taking."

Kewney wonders whether consumers would view a Sony cellular phone as incorporating a quality camera compared to phones that might be branded as containing, for example, a Nikon or Canon camera.

Interesting point

This raises a very interesting point in the development of the camera phone business. Should Nikon and Canon consider partnering with handset vendors so consumers would see a "Nikon Inside" or "Canon Inside" label?

Some handset vendors might want to build their own brands as makers of high quality camera phones. Indeed, Sony already has a top name in the camcorder business and also produces digital cameras, although its reputation isn't as good as some other digital camera manufacturers.

Nokia also comes to mind as a handset vendor that is more likely to build its own brand than offer co-branded phones. But for many other cellular phone manufacturers, it might be very worthwhile to promote their camera phones as incorporating Nikon or Canon or Olympus quality.

Feature-rich S700

The tri-band GSM S700 (see below) features a 180-degree swivel capability to facilitate easier taking of photos and also browsing the Web. When the S700 is turned over, it's used horizontally to take photos with a two-handed grip if desired.

sony_ericsson_s700_list_of_applications_and_graphic.jpg

When the screen is closed, it looks like a PDA and is easier for accessing information. When the screen is opened it reveals the keypad.

The S700 includes a 2.3-inch 262K TFT color screen, a flash, an 8x digital zoom, MP3 capabilities, video recording, Java and, unfortunately, Sony's proprietary and more expensive Memory Stick Pro card slot, rather than a Secure Digital slot. But, it's a Sony!

Months away from sale

The S700 won't be commercially available until the fourth quarter of 2004. I'd love one, but I don't know if I'd ever purchase another cellular phone without a keyboard, like the Treo 600.

I suspect most people will lust over the S700 -- and digital camera phone vendors should be concerned. Camera phones aren't going to kill digital cameras, but they are, without any doubt, going to eat into the market.

If you're in the digital camera business and aren't an expert in camera phones, you had better become one.

Become a camera phone expert

As an advertisement for myself, you can get up to speed at one of my two upcoming camera phone tutorials:

* A three-hour tutorial for Wireless Data University on March 21, 2004 in Atlanta, the day before the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association's huge Wireless 2004 conference in Atlanta

* A day-long camera phone "bootcamp" on April 23, 2004 during the classy and innovative Cameraphone Summit in Maui

Tuesday, March 09, 2004 in Business of camera phones, Handsets, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, March 08, 2004

Camera phones boosting sales of Japanese CCD vendors

Demand by camera phone manufacturers for charge coupled devices (CCDs) is boosting the bottom line of CCD vendors, according to an article in Electronic Engineering Times (free but onerous registration process).

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says production of CCDs in the third quarter was ¥58.48 billion ($552.14 million at ¥105.92:$1), up 11.23 percent from the previous quarter" because of demand from cellular phone vendors as well as digital camera vendors, according to EET.

The article reports, "Camera-phone makers initially preferred CMOS sensors for their low power consumption and low cost, but Sanyo's success at cutting power use spurred many to switch to CCDs, which offer better sensitivity to light and superior picture quality.

"CMOS sensor manufacturers like U.S.-based Micron Technology Inc. are trying to boost picture quality to match CCDs."

The ecosystem

As I've written many times previously, camera phones are sparking a huge number of opportunities, including opportunities for companies providing components for digital cameras.

Monday, March 08, 2004 in Accessories and related services, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Taiwanese integrated circuit vendor sees 1 megapixel ICs overtaking VGA this year

Taiwanese integrated circuit manufacturer Sunplus Technology says in the second half of this year it will ship more one megapixel controller integrated circuits than VGA (300K) ICs, according to an article in DigiTimes.

Sunplus focuses on selling to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, so the orders reflect its Asian market rather than the world. The company plans to expand into North America and Europe after 2005, according to the article.

With two megapixel camera phones already available in parts of Asia and three megapixels slated for sale some time this year, VGA camera phones will be relegated to the low end of the market in Japan and South Korea as one megapixel units hit the "sweet spot" price. Good riddance to VGA camera phones.

Unfortunately, one megapixel handsets will be the premium (i.e., expensive) product in the U.S. this year.

Thursday, March 04, 2004 in Accessories and related services, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Camera phones eating into South Korea's digital camera market

The Korea Herald reports that camera phones are eating into South Korea's digital camera marketplace. The article has fewer hard facts to back up this claim than I woud like, but reports that digital camera vendors are worried about the effects of camera phones.

The last paragraph of the article has the best information: "Officials at LG Corp., which handles the distribution of Canon cameras in Korea, said the outlook for compact digital cameras is dimming due to the fast penetration of camera phones."

Samsung and LG have already introduced one megapixel camera phones and will introduce two megapixel models during the first half of this year, thus "sounding an alarm to digital camera manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, Olympus and Nikon." More than half of Samsung's cellular phones -- 51 percent -- will feature cameras this year.

New digital camera strategies

The Korea Herald says the popularity of camera phones is forcing digital camera vendors to adopt new strategies, such as emphasizing greater resolution and more features. The article notes that Canon's new models focus on higher resolution.

"On the IXUS 500, the successor to its popular compact IXUS 400 model, the company raised the resolution from 4 million to 5 million pixels without changing other key functions or the design."

On Monday I wrote an entry about how a Nokia executive says camera phones will kill digital cameras in five years. I think the executive ought to stop smoking those "funny" cigarettes because there will be a substantial demand for higher end digital cameras with superior lenses and features.

Demand will decrease

However, as I wrote, I do indeed see camera phones reducing sales of lower end digital cameras. When two million and three million pixel camera phones are readily available, they will place even greater pressure on the digital camera market.

I am assuming that the photo quality is good enough (pixels are just one part of the equation).

What some people tend to forget is a camera phone is more than a still camera! It offers such useful and fun capablities as ringtones, a camcorder, MP3 player, PDA, TV (of sorts), SMS, e-mail, Web surfing, eBook reader and, of course, voice communications

Features will spark demand

When you add all these features into the equation -- and also figure a hefty price subsidy (sometimes) by cellular operators for signing a one- or two-year contract -- you start realizing that camera phones offer lots of advantages over digital cameras for people who are not true photo aficionados.

As The Korea Herald's article notes, "The greater pixels number means better picture quality when making large prints. But experts said ordinary users who shoot their everyday life with compact cameras do not need such high resolution.

"Just 2 million to 3 million pixels are sufficient for family albums and other general photography."

Yes, but...

What is sufficient doesn't necessarily mean good enough, at least for some people. If you crop photos or want to print them large, you want more than three megapixels. So, I would be careful about saying that any technological advance is "sufficient" -- at least for more than a few years.

But for many people, two megapixel or three megapixel (again, assuming good photo quality) camera phones will be just fine for taking snapshots. That's why digital camera vendors need to worry.

Thursday, February 26, 2004 in Business of camera phones, Future, Trends, Value proposition | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Cutthroat competition in Korea, with three megapixel camera phones on the way

The Korea Times has a fascinating article about the cut-throat competition in Korea's domestic cellular business, that provides a great look at Korean handset trends that will be or could be harbingers of what's to come in the United States and Europe.

The trends include two megapixel and three megapixel camera phones -- yes, three megapixels, as I've been predicting for Asia this year -- camcorder phones and the elimination of black-and-white screens for Korea.

The Korea Times says:

"In 2004, South Korea will be the most open, cutthroat battlefield for global mobile handset makers.

"Unless they beat rivals in the domestic market, their brands are not likely candidates for global dominance.

"This year, more than 150 new mobile handset models will be rolled out in the local market ahead of global marketing.

"Domestic mobile phone makers marketed about 100 new mobile handsets last year."

Nuggets from the article

* Samsung this year will introduce 50 handset models in Korea, including camcorder capabilities, flash and MP3 players.

* In early February, Samsung intends to introduce a rotator-type mobile handset with a 1.3 megapixel camera phone/camcorder phone with an MP3 player and a memory card slot.

* LG Electronics will introduce some 40 handsets in Korea this year. In the first quarter it will introduce a 1.3 megapixel camera/camcorder phone.

* Fifty one percent of Samsung's phones and 60 percent - 70 percent of LG's phones will be camera or camera/camcorder phones.

* In 2004, 80 percent of phones sold in Korea will be camera phones/camcorder phones compared to 46 percent in 2003.

* During the second half of 2004, two megapixel and three megapixel camera phones will be available in Korea.

* Korean analysts say that as more phones offer MP3 capabilities, sales of standalone MP3 players could be hurt. (This is the same thing, I believe, that will happen to the sales of digital cameras as cellular phone cameras become better.)

* Korean handset vendors will stop producing black and white LCDs for domestic use. Samsung and LG have already halted production of monochrome screens for Korean use. Color screens accounted for 96 percent of sales last year. Handset vendors also are drastically reducing the production of monochrome displays on cellular phones for export.

[Update] Mike Masnick of Techdirt Wireless posted the story yesterday, including discussing the difficulty of adapting a Koream CDMA handset for the international market.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004 in Future, Handsets, Statistics, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Kodak stops selling traditional film cameras in U.S., Canada, W. Europe

This isn't a wireless story but it's certainly a sign of the times. Kodak will not produce any traditional film cameras in the United States, Canada and Western Europe, although it will continue to offer one-time use camera in these markets, according to an article in CNET NEWS.com.

Kodak will stop selling reloadable film cameras, incuding the APS (Advanced Photo System) cameras, by the end of this year in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe. However, Kodak will sell film cameras in less developed markets such as China, India, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Kodak will continue to produce film for reloadable cameras.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004 in Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, January 09, 2004

Kodak tests printing kiosks for camera phones in India

I got this information from a four-month-old article but I thought it added a bit of information to the article I wrote about Kodak, Nokia and Cingular Wireless working to enable U.S. camera phone users to easily print photos using Kodak's kiosks.

Kodak is replacing its Picture Maker printing kiosks with more advanced kiosks that can print a photo in five seconds. The photos from camera phones will be transferred via infrared and Bluetooth. Kodak Mobile in the U.S. offers subscribers the ability to post photos to its Ofoto Web site for $2.99 per month after a 90 day free trial.

An article in The Economic Times in September 30, 2003 discusses Kodak's commercial ventures and beta testing in India. Kodak signed an agreement with Nokia that enables Kodak to sell Nokia camera phones in its retail stores. Nokia will incorporate a "feature" (not specified; software, infrared, Bluetooth?) that allows camera phone users to easily print photos.

So India has served as a test market for the camera phone-kiosk effort. Just thought you'd like to know!

Friday, January 09, 2004 in Marketing camera phones, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Japan Wireless Watch: The importance of two megapixel handsets

Yesterday I wrote that the introduction of Sharp's two megapixel camera phone in Japan wasn't as significant as the debut of a one megapixel handset. Daniel Scuka, the founder and now business development manager for Wireless Watch Japan, that published the article about the handset), posted some interesting comments about the value of two megapixel devices. He also sent me some follow-up comments.

In his first comments on this Weblog, Daniel says the significance of two megapixel camera phones is important because they:

* Generate greater revenues for cellular operators by transmitting more packets

* Encourage the use of cellular phones as digital cameras, sparking "convergence"

* Stimulate the use of new ways to transfer photos, such as through photo kiosks and other printing services

A total package strategy

I e-mailed a few questions about the Japanese camera phone environment to Daniel and he was kind enough to send me two e-mails in reply. Here are his valuable comments (and my questions):

Question: If the photos aren't transmitted over the air, is there much money for the cellular operators?

"Yes, this point is valid. I spoke with the head of NTT DoCoMo Europe in November, and he stated that the camera is now 'just a sales feature;' i.e., photo transmission contributes little to packet revenues. In fact, in June 2003, DoCoMo had some 15 million camera phones in use on 2G; there were 45 million photo transmissions.

"Thus, the average user sent just three photos. (Figures from DoCoMo IR staff via CSFB telecoms analyst.)

"However, by August - September 2003, camera phones comprised 42% of the overall DoCoMo fleet (2G & 3G combined). Their IR staff reported (claimed??) that these users were generating 1.5 to 3 times more packet usage than non-camera phone users. Your speculation as to why that boost exists is as good as mine.

"I think it comes from cam phone users likely being all-round heavy users --> they are early adopters who select cool new (and highly functional) cam phones and use Java, Web, email, and all other data features much more than average.

"In other words, it's a mistake to consider individual handset features individually; the mobile Internets that the Japan carriers have set up are a 'total experience' -- and the handsets, onboard features (cameras, etc.), network features, data downloads, application downloads, and voice and data billing discounts together comprise a complete envelope.

"Those who embrace any one portion also (more or less) embrace the complete package -- and the carriers are laughing all the way to the bank."

Question: Do you know what is the highest resolution photo a Japanese carrier will permit to be transmitted via its cellular network?

"It's a real dog's breakfast: it varies depending on the carrier, whether you're using a 2G or 3G handset, whether it's still or video, and whose handset you're using. For example, on DoCoMo 3G (W-CDMA), the limit for movie mail ("i-motion mail") is 100KB (~30 secs.) at approx. 15 fps and and 100 X 120 pixels.

"Still images on DoCoMo 3G are limited to 100 KB: http://foma.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/comini_03b.html"

Japanese cellular environment

"Japan carriers also have the lowest churn in the world --> typically under 2% per year.

"The ultra-cool camera phones are doubtless a key part of customer loyalty. Adding a camera is a small price to pay compared to the total ARPU if they get (or lose) a customer to competitors!!!

"For example, Vodafone only put out a few new models in the past 6 months and their net monthly adds have hit rock bottom. DoCoMo has fielded 10 or 11 new 505i and 505iS beauts and are rolling in new subs."

"Again, it's the overall service envelope that is important."

Looking at the U.S. market

Daniel's comments bring home some interesting and useful points. For example, just because a cellular operator offers a one or two megapixel camera phone doesn't mean the operator has to allow subscribers to transmit the higher resolution photos over the network.

Also, the camera is one part of an overall package. Personally, I believe cellular phones in the U.S. will become indispensable devices for both business applications and pleasure. We're seeing in Japan -- and I believe we'll see in the U.S. -- that the "Swiss Army Knife" approach of offering lots of capabilities (within reasons) can succeed with the tech-savvy and the youth.

Old fart business people can stick with their black StarTACs!

Youth, the Internet and entertainment will prevail

Certainly the vast majority of U.S. subscribers are still trying to understand how to transfer their address books into their phones, let alone exploring the various GPRS and 1xRTT data options. It's not easy to convince many subscribers to purchase fancy new phones. After all, many think, "I just want to make a phone call!"

However, slowly but surely, the American "Internet Generation" will embrace -- and demand -- that their phones offer all the Internet and entertainment functionality they can get.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004 in Future, Handsets, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, January 05, 2004

Vodafone in Japan introduces Sharp's two megapixel camera phone

From picturephoning.com I learned about Wireless Watch Japan reporting that Vodafone in Japan has introduced a two megapixel camera phone from Sharp. The Sharp V601SH (see below) has some nice features.

sharp_601sh.jpg

The V601SH includes such features as a Secure Digital card slot, a 20x zoom (I'm not a fan of digital zooms), automatic flash, the ability to bracket exposures (a very nice feature), the ability to create a collage by automatically overlapping a maximum of five photos, rapid fire shooting of up to 25 photos and the ability to shoot MPEG videos at 320 x 240 at 15 frames per second.

The handset also includes Bow-Linqual Connect software that is designed to translate the meaning of a dog's bark into text and pictograms so that humans can understand what the dog is "saying." The application is included, but to use it you have to purchase a separate Bow-Linqual Connect card.

If you're interested in this application, perhaps you'd be interested in purchasing some stock options from me!

Speed and price, not resolution

I don't think the introduction of a two megapixel camera phone is as great a leap as a one megapixel handset. As I wrote in my other wireless data Weblog, it was a landmark event when Japanese cellular operator J-Phone introduced the first one megapixel handset.

A one megapixel handset means the difference between a fuzzy 640 x 480 image when printed and a decent quality photo when printed. It's the difference between Economy Class and Business Class. A two megapixel handset certainly is nice and will encourage more people to use a cellular phone as their main digital camera -- even if they rarely use wireless to send a photo.

But the most difficult problem is not increasing the resolution but, rather, offering cellular data upload speeds that are fast enough to accommodate large graphics files and pricing the airtime/service at a reasonable rate. Data rates and pricing are not minor problems. A one megapixel photo is three times the resolution of a 640 x 480 VGA photo.

United States cellular networks will have a tough enough time supporting one megapixel uploads.


Monday, January 05, 2004 in Handsets, Trends | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, December 05, 2003

Time magazine names camera phones a runner up as coolest invention of 2003

Okay, so I'm a few weeks late posting this......Time magazine in the November 17 issue called camera phones one of the coolest inventions of 2003. The article in Time says, "Take two popular gadgets. Merge them into a single point-and-click device. Then watch the world go nuts over it."

time_magazine_camera_phones_as_cool_device_for_2003.jpg

The writer, Anita Hamilton, offers a brief roundup of uses -- good and bad -- for camera phones. "Sometimes the true measure of a technology's impact is not how quickly it spreads but how long it takes for the backlash to set in. No sooner had cell phones with built-in digital cameras caught on in the U.S. this year than they started getting banned -- primarily in health clubs and corporate headquarters.

"Abroad, concerns about misuse of the gadgets got so bad that Saudi Arabia outlawed them altogether....

"But with an estimated 80 million camera phones sold this year -- 6 million in the U.S. alone -- the cat may already be out of the camera bag. Like it or not, these hot new gadgets are here to stay."

What the best invention of 2003?

The "Invention of the Year," according to Time, is Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Friday, December 05, 2003 in Introduction to camera phones, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Newark legislature drafting law for camera phones and similar technology

The Newark Star-Ledger today reports the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would make it illegal to secretly view or videotape anyone in a private location where people undress or engage in intimate activity. The use of camera phones is one of the reasons the bill has been drafted.

"The old 'Peeping Tom' statutes, officials said, no longer cut it in an age when cameras that look like phones can be used to secretly photograph unsuspecting victims and then transmit those photos in seconds to the Internet for millions to see," reports Gabriel H. Gluck in the article.

One of the reasons for the Committee's action was a state appeals court overturning a conviction of a New Jersey man who hid a video recorder in a flower arrangement and recorded two women in his house when they undressed and showered in the bathroom. The judge ruled the current law only covered instances where someone peers into a window or other opening.

Concern about children

New Jersey YMCAs and other health clubs are concerned about camera phone perverts taking photos of children and are trying to determine how to deal with the potential problem, the article notes.

"But it is not just the ability of phones to take pictures that raises concerns. It is also the ability to transmit those photographs and post them on the Web. Unlike the Peeping Tom of another era, whose voyeurism had an audience of one, the Internet now makes it possible to record and share images for millions to see.

"State Attorney General Peter Harvey and other law enforcement officials have warned that New Jersey's current 'Peeping Tom' law is not adequate to address the threat to privacy posed by miniaturized cameras," the Star-Ledger reports.

No effect on Verizon Wireless?

The article quotes David Samberg, a Verizon Wireless spokesperson, who says new restrictions wouldn't hurt sales of camera phones. He says, "Verizon Wireless expects its customers to use common sense, be respectful, and be mindful of the laws out there."

Most customers will use common sense, but if there weren't lots of morons in the world there wouldn't be all the laws!

I will write and write and write again that the wireless industry has done an incompetent job of educating consumers and businesses about camera phones. Camera phones are being banned and laws are being written, and these very useful devices are looking pretty bad in the press.

Black eyes

The wireless industry had better damn well begin utilizing the talents of its advertising and marketing experts to provide customer education. How big a black eye does the camera phone industry want to get before it takes some action?

This is not about misleading the press. It's about doing more than running least-common-denominator TV ads. It's about promoting the value of camera phones for a variety of uses while, at the same time, providing information about how to be a "responsible" camera phone user.

Hey, cellular operators -- Do you want corporations to ban camera phones? Hey handset vendors -- Do you want to be forced to manufacture two versions of the same product (with and without a camera)? If you do, just continue to be incompetent in your marketing and public relations efforts and ignore the problem.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Security, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, November 24, 2003

Nokia's view of itself, wireless, camera phones and multimedia

Is Nokia now the largest camera manufacturer? Nokia has said, and I've pointed to the article, that it will be the largest digital camera vendor in the world in 2003. According to a slide from a Nokia executive's presentation (see below), it seems that Nokia has achieved this.

nokia_capital_market_days_presentation_camera_phone_112403.jpg

The slide is from Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president and general manager of multimedia, who did a presentation about "Driving Consumer Multimedia" on November 24 during Nokia 2003 Capital Market Days. Thanks to a pointer and discussion by Russell Beattie, I found Nokia's Web page where all the presentations are available in pdf files.

The video presentations were available on Monday (Russell listened to them). I tried to view them this evening but a note on the Web site said the presentations were being archived and would be available soon.

Nokia's strategy

For anyone interested in Nokia's strategy, the presentations could be quite useful. The slides themselves, without any audio or video, are useful.

If Nokia is indeed the largest [digital only?] camera vendor, this is indeed momentous. Shoot off some fireworks. A wireless manufacturer -- not a camera manufacturer -- is the king of camera sales.

Nokia also is a big fan of moblogs, according to Russell, who wrote about the presentations.

Nokia and moblogs

Russell writes, "The most interesting thing I heard was about Nokia's enthusiasm for moblogs! Both during the presentation and in response to a question from an analyst about mobiles in the imaging market, Vanjoki stressed that the ability to post photos online and annotate those pictures ('your life' I think he said) as an important differentiator for mobile phones with cameras.

"This is very interesting to me, as I had the idea that moblogging is a niche idea with a limited audience. But it seems that Nokia is really excited about the idea and is putting a lot of weight on the ability of people to post their pictures online, not just in a photo album, but in a way that becomes entertainment to others."

I can understand why Russell would think moblogging is a niche product. Looking at today's market, I agree. But looking at future services and assuming there will be good-enough marketing, I believe moblogs and Weblogs will evolve into what I've been calling "multimedia personal publishing" (or just "multimedia publishing" if I'm talking about corporate applications).

nokia_capital_market_days_presentation_camera_phone_definition_of_media.jpg

Weblog/moblog panoply

I believe the winners in the Weblog/moblog marketplace will offer a panoply of services. The services will include wireless and wireline posting of text, still photos, audio and video in an easy to use, modular package that enables users to pick whatever they want.

A key to success will be providing a very rich service that can be used in a step-by-step manner so it doesn't overwhelm new subscribers.

Monday, November 24, 2003 in Future, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 23, 2003

David Coursey doesn't seem to "get it" about camera phones

David Coursey, a long-time computer journalist certainly understands technology. But a recent column highlights, I'm afraid, a lack of, well, vision about camera phones. I hate to criticize David because he does know his stuff, but this time he's wrong.

David writes in his November 20, 2003 ZDNet "AnchorDesk" column, "I've played with camphones and had fun, but I wouldn't go out of my way to use one. If I know I want to take pictures, I use a 'real' digital camera.

"If I get in a situation where I wished I'd brought a camera, the camphone usually won't do the job. And on those rare camphone-appropriate occasions, I usually forget that I have one.

"I'm not exactly calling camera phones a fad, but I'm not exactly not calling them a fad, either. My bet is there will be a relatively small number of people who shoot lots of camphone pics -- in the U.S., we have a special term for these people: "12- to 24-year-olds."

A much larger group will have a camphone but never click the shutter; we call those people 'adults.'"

Looking at it critically

Let's look at what David says. David says he's used camara phones and had fun. That is a major reason why people will continue to use camera phones -- they're fun. Picture quality is less important than the enjoyment.

One simple example: You take photos of your spouse, kids, pets, new car, house -- anything you like and you'd like people to see -- and you keep the photos on your phone. Instead of pulling out your wallet to show photos, you use your camera phone. The quality isn't that important.

What's real?

Next, David says he will use a "real" camera to take a photo. I, too, have a digital camera and many camera phone users also have and will have non-wireless digital cameras. But think about how we have multiple versions of the same product for different purposes.

I have desktop computers, laptops and PDAs that offer many of the same features, but are used in different situations. People have desktop wired phones, home cordless phones and cellular phones -- same basic functionality but used in different situations.

David says on the rare occasion when he could use a camera phone, he forgets he has one. That's his fault. Once you get accustomed to having a camera phone, you're not going to "forget" you have one!

Kids versus adults

David says kids and young adults will use camera phones and adults will not. Firstly, even if that is correct (which is isn't), it doesn't mean camera phones will be a fad. How many businesses -- really big businesses -- can you name that are based upon purchases by people 24 years old and younger?

Just because "adults" don't purchase a product doesn't mean it's not viable.

Secondly, once "adults" begin to get camera phones, they will take photos, if only to store in their cameras. But sending a photo to an online album or the Web is so easy, that even adults will use them.

As for using a "real" camera, how "real" do you have to get? In Japan, there already are two megapixel camera phones. Is that real enough? I'd be shocked if one megapixel models weren't available in the United States next year.

I've written previously that I believe one megapixel will be a "tipping point" because you can print a photo and it will look good (if it's not blown up).

Longing for wireless photography

David says he longs for the time when he could transmit good quality photos via wireless. He suggests that a Bluetooth-enabled camera connected to a wireless device accessing a higher speed network could be a solution.

I agree that camera phones aren't the only way to transmit photos wirelessly. I'd like an easy way to transmit photos from "real" (heh) digital cameras. But I'd also like a way to insert text. A keypad or keyboard on a digital camera?

One of the "gotchas" of wireless is the upload data rate typically is significantly slower than the download speed. CDMA 1xRTT, CDMA 1xEV-DO, GSM GPRS and GSM EDGE all suffer from slower upload speeds, which makes it difficult to transmit megapixel files.

I don't deny the problems with camera phones. However, in a few years when hundreds of millions of people around the world are snapping billions of photos a year, I think David will admit it's more than a fad.

Sunday, November 23, 2003 in Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Camera phones set to be fastest-ever selling consumer product

An article in USA Today reports that camera phones are set to become the fastest-ever selling consumer device -- beating DVD players. (Thanks Melissa for the URL.)

The article says, "To date, 80 million camera phones have sold worldwide vs. 6 million in the USA, research firm IDC says. This year, analyst Ron Glaz of IDC says more camera phones will be sold worldwide, 57 million, than digital cameras, 44 million.

"By comparison, DVD players, introduced in 1997 and called the fastest-growing consumer tech device by the Consumer Electronics Association, sold 30 million players in its first three years, says researcher In-Stat/MDR."

The article concludes with the almost obligatory mention of camera phones being banned in certain circumstances. The reporter notes that Britney Spears demanded all camera phones be confiscated at a press party before she appeared. I have so many nasty comments about this that I decided not to write anything!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003 in Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Douglas Rushkoff lambasts TV as inappropriate for cellular phones

Douglas Rushkoff, a very smart, interesting guy who writes books and magazine articles, teaches, develops TV programs and writes a Weblog, tears apart the idea of using a cellular phone as a television in an article in The Feature.

On Friday I wrote about Sprint PCS' new MobiTV service -- Tv broadcasts for cellular phones.

Rushkoff believes the cellular industry should focus on improving voice services to eliminate the need for landline phones rather than concentrating on adding more jerry-rigged capabilities that aren't suitable for handsets.

Inch, foot and yard devices

Douglas writes in "My Cell Phone is Not a TV," that there are three types of devices based upon scale: Inch, foot and yard. "Inch devices, like cell phones, pagers, and PDAs, are for a single person's use, and are unique for their ability to help a person deliver important information from anywhere. Their screens are not for reading, but for eyeballing or copying a fact or figure that will most likely be used on that very device...."

"Foot devices, like computers, TV sets, and kiosks, permit just about as much data retrieval as data entry. They're for one to three people to collaborate. This is where you can open a file and work with it - respond to email with appropriate deliberation...."

"Yard devices are things like large screen TV's, movie screens and white boards. They're less for collaboration than presentation - or one-to-many communication."

Wrong priorities?

Rushkoff says that while it's possible for one type of device to offer the capabilities of another, devices shouldn't be designed with these capabilities in mind. Instead, wireless companies should focus on improving the killer application -- voice -- and eliminate the need for landlines.

I agree that the cellular industry doesn't spend enough time and money improving voice quality and coverage. It's an expensive, labor intensive undertaking and each cellular operator balances the need to improve coverage with the expected return on the investment.

I also agree that trying to shoehorn certain features into a device doesn't make sense, like creating a refrigerator/oven. However, I disagree with what I think might be the implied criticism of incorporating certain valuable features -- such as adding a camera or a keyboard -- to turn a cellular phone into a camera or a better e-mail device.

"Useful" doesn't have to be "the best"

We've seen in the wireless industry that enhanced features don't have to be as good as or even slightly worse than features on dedicated devices for these features to be successful. For example, the 640 x 480 "high resolution" photos on camera phones are far from good. But they are good enough for a variety of fun and useful purposes that are sparking a huge global wireless photography ecosystem.

People are willing to put up with and, indeed, even enjoy, features that are far from optimal. SMS is an excellent example. The keypad is an ergonomic disaster for text entry and being limited to 160 characters is a pathetically tiny number of words. But SMS has, obviously, become an incredible success.

The keyboards on the BlackBerry pager or the Treo 600 can't compare to a regular external keyboard. But they are good enough to be extremely useful and a major reason why people buy these devices.

Not your main TV

The "television-in-your-phone" is far inferior to a TV-only device, but that doesn't mean a significant number of cellular users might not find it useful and, indeed, a major reason for purchasing a specific phone.

I haven't tried the Sprint MobiTV service yet, so I'm reserving judgment.

Sunday, November 16, 2003 in Applications, Trends, Video | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday, November 14, 2003

Would you watch TV on your phone?

When Sprint PCS first announced it was launching MobiTV -- television broadcasts to your cellular phone -- my knee-jerk reaction was to pooh-pooh it. Slow, jerky, boring television programs on a tiny screen. Not for me -- and not for just about anyone else, either.

But I know my knee-jerk reactions are often the reactions of a....jerk.

So I didn't want to write anything about the service until I tried it myself. I have a Sprint phone I'm testing, an Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC/camera phone, but it's not compatible with MobiTV.

sprint_pcs_mobitv_phones.jpg

Russell Beattie alerts me

But Russell Beattie, whom I consider a must-read for his wireless experiences, posted a review of MobiTV by another Weblogger, Neil Eyde.

Neil writes, "The audio quality is decent, but the picture is a bit choppy. However you definitely get the experience of watching TV. If you aren't in a decent Sprint service area, the results would probably make the experience frustrating and futile."

A co-worker of Russ' has MobiTV, and here's Russ' reaction, "Update: My coworker Joel signed up and it's *AWESOME!!!!!!!* I cannot believe 1) How easy it was to set up. 2) How great it looks 3) How good it sounds. It's an *unbelieveably* cool app. Jaw-droppingly good. Everyone here in the office - who all have seen some cool apps - were pretty floored. Live TV on your phone via J2ME?!? Incredible.

"This is the first time I've ever seen anything on a CDMA phone that's made me want to run out and get one *right now*. When do we get that service on GPRS?!?!?"

Does it make sense?

MobiTV isn't cheap. It costs $9.95 per month plus the $15 per month you need to pay for data service.

LCD TVs haven't been huge sellers. Who carries them? Perhaps if you're a sports fanatic you carry one to games to listen to the commentary. But most people don't carry a TV, even the small LCD devices.

But you do carry a cellular phone. And if you have a camera phone, you carry a camera, too, because it's simply part of the phone you carry for voice calls. Well, now, that same phone also could be a TV. You might not want to carry a dedicated TV, but you don't have to -- you'll have one with you.

Filling leisure time

If you're waiting -- for a bus, a train, a plane, standing in line at the motor vehicle office, etc. -- and you're bored out of your mind, maybe you'd consider MobiTV. There are 13 channels now, but if it catches on, there'll be many more.

sprint_pcs_mobitv_channels.jpg

Knee-jerk reactions are dangerous. I'm not going to predict MobiTV's death. There are too many variables. After all, a few years ago, who would have predicted the success of SMS or camera phones?

Camera phones? Tiny, poor resolution photos? Who would want THAT?

Friday, November 14, 2003 in Applications, Trends, Video | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 13, 2003

More information about Kodak Mobile

Kodak's hometown newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., has a more detailed article than CNET News' about Kodak's camera phone strategy and working with Cingular Wireless and Nokia.

As I wrote yesterday, Kodak has established Kodak Mobile Service to provide kiosks for printing camera phone photos (among other types of photos) and also has an online photo album -- through its Ofoto service -- for camera phone users.

Ben Rand of the Democrat and Chronicle reports Kodak will be replacing its existing kiosks with new ones that can print a photo in five seconds, which is a major advancement. The first of the new kiosks will show up at CVS drug stores.

Kodak's advances, strategies

By the end of the second half of next year, about 50 percent of the Kodak Picture Maker kiosks will feature the faster printing and camera phone capabilities, the article says.

Kodak's press release offers some information I've been waiting for: How will camera phone users transfer photos to the kiosks? According to the press release it will be via infrared and Bluetooth.

Use of infrared for transferring data between cellular phones and computers has been a dismal failure in the United States, although it has been much more successful in other countries. In fact, handsets in the U.S. often seem to have infrared -- you can see the plastic infrared "window" -- but the capability actually has been disabled!

Bluetooth is slowly but surely gaining some ground in the U.S. (especially in the Apple community because Apple has made efforts to foster compatibility), although it's still a very slippery slope that's with strewn with incompatible devices.

Hmmm. If I were Kodak I might want to pay attention to the Apple community because of its relatively greater use of Bluetooth. The Bluetooth devices of choice appear to be Sony Ericsson handsets, but Kodak and Cingular, for example, could encourage use of Nokia handsets through attractive deals and good marketing/advertising.

Camera phone strategies

As a result, Kodak and/or the cellular operators and/or handset vendors will have to spend time and money educating cellular subscribers about infrared and Bluetooth. If Kodak wants to tap into the mass market of camera phone users -- and it certainly does! -- the "mass market" is going to need a lot of educating.

Kodak is working with Nokia and there will be joint marketing efforts beginning next year with the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl, according the press release. Kodak and Nokia also are working together to develop printing solutions for camera phone users.

(Just for the fun of it, I typed www.kodakmobile.com and found the page was "coming soon" at the GoDaddy.com hosting service. Checking Whois, I found it is registered to "Asia Sun," whatever that is. Is this a front for Kodak or did Kodak not think to register the URL of its new service? There are two "real" URLs for Kodak Mobile: One is at the Cingular Wireless site and the other is the "main" www.kmobile.com site. Shame on you Kodak if you didn't also register "kodakmobile.")

picturephoning.com

A thank you to Emily Turrettini at picturephoning.com for alerting me to the Democrat and Chronicle article. Picturephoning.com has had a major hard disk crash, so for the past few days Emily has been posting camera phone information at another URL.

Thursday, November 13, 2003 in Marketing camera phones, Moblog hosting, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Cingular, Kodak create camera phone photo album


cingular_kodak_photo_album_introductory_large_graphic.jpg


Cingular, Kodak and Nokia are working together to spark camera phone use, and the first product is Kodak Mobile, an online photo album, according an article in CNET News. My first reaction: Nice, but no big deal....yet. Read on to find out why there's an interesting part of the "yet."

There are a few reasons why I think it's no big deal. For example, online photo albums are no big deal. They have been around for years. Cingular is just "joining the club" of other cellular operators that offer online photo albums.

Kodak itself has an online photo album and print processing site, Ofoto, that's a nice product. I've used it, along with several other online albums, such as Shutterfly.

Online versus wireless albums

One of the reasons I'm not terribly excited about Kodak Mobile's benefits is you have to pay for the privilege of maintaining the online album. After a three-month free trial, the cost is $2.99 a month. I think that's probably being penny wise and pound foolish.

cingular_kodak_photo_album_benefits.jpg

I certainly have no problem with paying for services. Fair is fair. But you can sign up with Kodak's own Ofoto and maintain photo albums for free. Most other cellular operators (all?) in the U.S. have free photo albums.

If Cingular wants to spark the use of camera phones, should the company charge for using the album? You can get just about all the benefits, including online editing of photos, by using the free Ofoto service.

Where's the money?

Kodak doesn't care about maintaining camera phone photo albums. Kodak cares about selling prints of photos (and photographic paper). That's where much of the money is. The company also cares about selling photo-related products (paper photo albums, frames, etc.)

However, today's camera phones present a serious problem to Kodak, at least in the short term. The highest resolution of camera phones in the United States is 640 x 480, which looks pretty crummy when printed.

cingular_kodak_photo_album_editing.jpg

Kodak Mobile, from the demo I saw, seems to use the same editing features as Ofoto, so you're not being offered anything extra. It's just the same Ofoto service for camera phone users.

As I mentioned, Ofoto is a good service. But I question the $2.99 charge for Kodak Mobile.

Creating exciting services

The last paragraph in the CNET News article might be a bigger deal. The article concludes, "Starting in January, many of Kodak's 24,000 kiosks in the United States will let camera phone users download pictures via wireless technologies, or with a memory card, so that, for example, pictures can be printed out minutes after they are taken.

I don't know what "via wireless technologies" means. Do you shoot your photo into the kiosk via infrared? Nokia certainly uses infrared to transfer photos into camera phone products, as I wrote in September. Would the kiosk have an e-mail address to which you could transmit your photo?

I don't believe photo kiosks have been a big success in the U.S. Too much of a hassle. But kiosks for camera phone users have been an enormous success in Japan. Kids love to print photos on stickers, for example.

I am cautiously optimistic that camera phones could breathe new life into kiosks in the U.S., assuming the process is quick, easy and reliable, the price is right and consumers aren't disappointed by the photo quality. Indeed, I believe photo kiosks could be one viable part of the camera phone ecosystem I've discussed.

Working for the betterment of camera phones!

I am working informally with one company to develop a unique camera phone package. I won't say too much (you have to pay me for that!), but audio and video are the future of camera phones. Also, the photo editing capabilities offered by online photo albums have to be adapted for the handset environment.

Indeed, that's why I'm such a big fan of camera phones, as I continue to write. There are lots of opportunities for creating value.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003 in Marketing camera phones, Moblog hosting, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Albino Gorilla offers test moblog for text, audio, video

Yesterday I mentioned that a new Danish moblog hosting company, Albino Gorilla, had established a beta site that enables camera phone users to transmit audio and video as part of their entries. Mads Bjerre of Albino Gorilla writes in the comments section that you may test the service by signing up for a free trial.

albino_gorilla_test_site.jpg

You may send your Weblog entry to test.albigo@albigo.dk for posting.

The test URL information is in English, unlike the rest of the site. However, Mads writes that an English version is in the works. If you've ever been to Scandinavia, you know many people speak English better than many Americans, so I don't think there'll be any trouble with the English translation!

I've been to Denmark two or three times. Wonderful place. Danes are some of the nicest people in Scandinavia (not that I don't like the other countries!). Good food, especially if you like fish, and the spectacular Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Too bad there's no consulting work for me there, sigh.

[Update] From my comments section I learned that mLogs, based in the U.S., offers audio and video posting capabilities. Thanks Jay.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003 in Future, Moblog hosting, Trends | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Photo Marketing magazine reports on camera phones

Photo Marketing magazine, a publication of the Photo Marketing Association International, has an interesting article about the present and future of camera phones. I'm quoted rather extensively, but don't let that stop you from reading!

The reporter interviewed several analysts who discuss camera phones in the United States, Europe and Japan, including the future of printing camera phone photos. If you're in the photo business, you know printing is a huge part of the industry.

Today's camera phones with 640 x 480 resolution aren't really acceptable for printing. But when one megapixel camera phones arrive in the U.S. late this year or next year, I believe it will be something of a tipping point because photos can be printed (albeit small) without looking terrible.

Overseas use

In Japan, many people print photos on stickers that they paste onto envelopes, letters, whatever. One analyst, Ron Tussy, president of the Imerge Consulting Group, says when purchasing a camera phone, the Japanese are concerned first about image quality, second about the size of the device and third about battery life.

Tussy says some urban areas of China are ahead of the U.S. in use of camera phones. He notes that "China doesn’t have the user paradigms already established in North America during the past 20 - 30 years. China’s lack of landline and film infrastructures has allowed the country to circumvent the paradigms in which North America seems entrenched."

Thursday, November 06, 2003 in Future, Introduction to camera phones, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Buzz Bruggeman discusses Treo 600 in Business Week

Burton "Buzz" Bruggeman (see magazine photo below)-- real estate attorney, head of Active Words, Weblogger and gadget-man-about-town -- is featured in Business Week's November 10, 2003 article about handheld devices.

business_week_november_2003_annual_tech_buying_guide_buzz_bruggeman.jpg

The article leads with Buzz's enthusiastic reaction to the Handspring (palmOne) Treo 600. As he visits a property in Orlando he speaks to a client on the Treo 600 and he snaps a photo that he sends to the client.

"So what's the big deal?" Business Week writer and columnist Stephen H. Wildstrom asks. Answering his own question, Wildstrom says, "Lots of wireless phones have cameras these days.

"But how many also have a keyboard for typing e-mail, access to e-mail accounts, a Web browser, a player that handles not only music but also recorded books from Audible.com, contact and calendar data, and the ability to run hundreds of Palm programs?"

Blown away

Buzz says he was "blown away by its ability." Buzz helped test the Treo 600 before it was released to the public on October 15. "It comes as close as I have seen to being a truly pervasive computing device. The size is right and it does everything," he says.

I haven't played with the Treo 600, but I have an Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC that includes a swivel camera, a keyboard and can run Microsoft Pocket PC programs. It has a bigger screen than the 600 but it's also significantly more cumbersome.

For me, the G1000 is great for reading eBooks, surfing the Web via Sprint PCS' 1xRTT network (though not always fast enough) and sending e-mail (because of the keyboard)h.

What price power?

But the G1000 is expensive, huge and heavy. (I've written about it a bit in my other wireless data Weblog in August and September. It weighs 8.4 ounces and is longer than the typical PDA because of the keyboard.

hitachi_g1000.jpgThe G1000 (photo left) weighs 8.4 ounces compared to the 600's 6.2 ounces and the G1000 costs $650 compared to the 600's $600, both from Sprint PCS. I've always thought the G1000 would be a niche device. But the 600 could be much, much more popular -- but only once the price decreases by several hundred dollars.

I haven't extensively tested the 600 so I can't provide a detailed analysis. I can say, however, that the best keyboard on a handheld device is on the Research in Motion BlackBerrys (BlackBerries?). The BlackBerry PIM functionality and design, however, are from the Era of DOS.

Camera phone applications

The Business Week article doesn't highlight the applications for camera phones. The brief write-up about Buzz illustrates an important application for a vertical market segment: Real estate.

Buzz is a real estate attorney and the abilty to quickly snap and transmit a photo of a piece of property can be tremendously valuable. Indeed, some real estate agents already are using camera phones to send photos of hot properties to clients.

This will be a very useful application and I can see how moblogs designed for real estate companies could be quite useful.

Camera phones have lots of "sizzle" for the media. But there is a lot of "steak" in the applications, and there are many more meaty applications to come.

Sunday, November 02, 2003 in Applications, Handsets, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, October 31, 2003

WSJ: Motorola misses camera phone "fad"

The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an article about cellular phone manufacturers that anticipate -- and those that miss -- capitalizing on "fads" at the right time.

Actually, the word "fads" in the article's headline is inappropriate because the Journal discusses useful features rather than passing fancies. Perhaps the person writing the headline couldn't find a word that fit within the space; that happens.

Color screens was one feature that both Nokia and Motorola missed, but Sony Ericsson, NEC, Samsung and Sharp were on target.

The camera phone market

Manufacturers that don't anticipate trends can lose lots of money trying to catch up with the leaders.

Today, camera phones are hot. Nokia is ahead but Motorola is, once again, behind the curve, the Journal reports. "[T]his time, Nokia anticipated the speed with which these phones would catch on world-wide. In 2002, it introduced a camera phone in Europe and has brought out several more.

"Camera phones in August, the latest month for which data are available, accounted for 18% of cellphone sales in Western Europe by value, according to Gfk, a consulting company based in Germany."

Motorola playing catch up

The Journal says, "Once again, Motorola was caught flat-footed on its own turf. U.S. cellphone-service providers first offered camera phones in the fall of 2002, when Sprint PCS started offering one from Sanyo. A later Sanyo model is on its way to being the best-selling handset in Sprint's history, the company says. But while Motorola has marketed several models around the world, it still hasn't offered a single one in its home market."

Motorola promised both Cingular and Verizon Wireless it would provide camera phones by the end of the summer or early in autumn. Now, Motorola says Cingular won't get the phones until December and Verizon won't get them until next year, the Journal reports.

Motorola says it underestimated the difficulty of developing camera phones.

Falling prices

One problem with being late to the market is you can't charge a premium for your latest and greatest handset if other companies have introduced similar devices and are in the process of reducing costs.

The article notes that Motorola "won't be charging top dollar for its new camera phones, however. Average wholesale prices of camera phones have already dropped 20% during the past year, according to Strategy Analytics, and are projected to drop a further 24% in 2004. Sales of phones with built-in cameras are now expected to reach 65 million units by the end of the year, or about 14% of the global cellphone market.

"Motorola's share of that market in the first half of 2003: 1.2%, according to Strategy Analytics. The leaders in the market -- NEC and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. of Japan and Nokia -- have about 15% each."

My view

It's sad how Motorola has missed chances. The company was a king in the mobile telephone ("radiotelephone") business before cellular, the king in paging and the first to offer a portable cellular phone. I've used many of these products, including the first -- $3,500 -- portable cellular phone months before they were available. But Motorola has had a terrible time getting products out the door.

However, even though the company has been late in offering camera phones, it has other opportunities. The camera phone business in the U.S. is in the nascent stages. I believe we'll see one megapixel camera phones in this country by the end of this year or early in 2004 -- though not from Motorola. Also, there will be a market for camera phone accessories, such as those unveiled by Nokia.

Motorola certainly hasn't missed its chance in camera phones. But it's now in the position of being a "me-too" rather than a leader -- unless it introduces a ground-breaking product that raises the ante for other vendors as well as being a financial success.

Friday, October 31, 2003 in Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack