Is Printing Mobile Photos Passť?
By Carlo Longino, Wed Jan 12 22:30:00 GMT 2005

More companies have joined the Mobile Imaging and Printing Consortium, but time might be better spent on making it easier for users to share photographs digitally.

Nokia, Samsung and Siemens joined the MIPC several months ago, and now Korea Telecom, Motorola and NEC are in as well. The MIPC also counts printer vendors Epson, HP and Lexmark as members, and serves to establish standards and guidelines to support the printing of pictures from mobile handsets on home printers.

While it certainly should be easy for consumers to print out their pictures at home (though that isn't always the case), it would seem that existing standards and technologies, if properly implemented, could handle the task. In any case, handset vendors and operators would do better to focus on making it simpler for users to share their images digitally, be it through MMS, e-mail, photo-sharing services or blogs, and then use existing standards to support printing.

The article on The Register says that a concern of operators is that if it becomes too easy for consumers to print photos from their handsets, it will further undermine MMS. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but points to the restrictive thinking of some operators, and underlines the avoidance of many of the problems plaguing photo messaging. Applications where mobile photos are becoming popular -- moblogging or third-party services like Flickr -- are happening in nearly every case outside of the operator ecosystem and because of the initiative of some developers and users to seek out better, easier and more satisfying uses of photo messaging than P2P MMS.

One of the major problems with MMS is that it's not uncommon for devices not to work with it right out of the box -- a problem that doesn't seem to plague the pre-loaded photo printing applications operators put on their subsidized phones. And sending photos via e-mail or posting them to blogs over cellular data networks remain mostly confined to leading-edge users for any number of reasons, mainly the difficulty in setting up devices and services, or the uncertainty of just how much anything will cost on per-byte pricing plans.

Some applications that try to bridge the gap, like Lifeblog's integration with Typepad, are starting to emerge, and some carriers are taking small steps to integrate moblogging, but it would be no surprise if their services were undermined by high prices or the same type of usability issues that hamper MMS.

Putting an emphasis on printing photos taken with a phone -- which, lest we forget, is a communications device -- rather than making it easy to share them digitally seems a bit misguided.