Kodak Moves Into Camera Phones
By Carlo Longino, Wed Nov 12 20:15:00 GMT 2003

Kodak today launched its Kodak Mobile service for camera phone users and said it would add wireless capabilities to its photo-printing kiosks.

The new service is an extension of the photo giant's Ofoto site, with one key difference -- it's not free. Kodak wants $24.99 per year or $2.99 per month from mobile users for the service, which, as far as I can tell, functions pretty much identically to Ofoto, except that mobile users can e-mail their photos directly to the service, and albums on the site can be viewed from a mobile phone.

Kodak's trumping deals with US carrier Cingular and Nokia regarding the service, but the only "benefit" for Cingular users appears to be that they can have the $2.99 charge put on their monthly bill, and the Nokia deal is just a marketing agreement that seems like it will just result in a Kodak Mobile bookmark or something similar on some 3600-series handsets. (Nokia already included materials and a "special" offer from Ofoto with some 3650s.) Alan Reiter's got a pretty much spot-on take on the service, pointing out that many carriers already offer similar services for free

The most interesting part of the announcement, though, is that the company says it will install wireless capabilities in its Picture Maker photo-printing kiosks. The company's already got 24,000 of the machines across the US, and they're used to print and edit digital images, scan and reprint photos, and so on. Kodak says it will equip the kiosks with Bluetooth or infrared, and users will be able to print a 4x6 photo in 5 seconds.

Being able to print a 4x6 in that time is impressive, but at the moment, pretty useless. The top resolution of the camera phones sold in the US today (640x480) makes pretty nasty 4x6s, but the fact that these kiosks will already be on the ground when 1-megapixel phones make it to the States is key. But another nice touch would be to enable the kiosks to print smaller images, like people are used to from photo booths, and stickers, like have become so popular in Japan. If these machines were capable of such things, priced properly, and put in places where teens converge, like shopping malls and movie theaters, I've got no doubt they'd go down well here.