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Have phone, will print

Telecoms & Mobile

Digital printing on the spot from mobile phones and PDAs: with camera-phones rapidly growing in popularity, here's an equally popular Japanese idea to cash in on this craze.

Digital printing on the spot from mobile phones and PDAs

Camera cell phones, which are red hot in Asia (sales topped 16 million in Japan and South Korea last year), are only now being introduced in Europe and the US (with Vodafone taking the lead in Europe, signing up 380,000 members for its Vodafone Live service, and hoping to reach the one million mark end of next month, March 2003). Want more numbers? According to research from Strategy Analytics, camera phones are expected to make up 11 percent of phone sales by 2004, while 50 million MMS handsets will be in the European market by 2004. It is also estimated that there will be 147 million camera phones in existence world-wide by 2007. That’s a LOT of snap-shots! However, while taking pictures whenever and wherever is good fun, and instantly sending them on to others will no doubt rival the ‘SMS’ explosion, what if you want instant prints? Springwise hasn’t spotted a camera phone with a Polaroid-style printing option yet, but Japanese Omron’s Sassoku Print service comes close. A Tokyo based trial lets camera phone owners instantly develop pictures taken with their camera onto a sheet of stickers, at 200 yen a sheet (less than 2 dollars/euros). Omron aims to expand the service to 55 stores soon. Rivaling service Melutte Pri, owned by Mitsubishi Electric Corp, started a similar service at ten locations around Shibuya in Tokyo in December 2002. Users email the pictures to a specific email address, then receive an ID and password to operate the Melutte Pri printer kiosk. Meanwhile, in the US, instant in-store printing solutions for regular digital cameras are taking off fast: digicam owners who either don’t have top-of-the-line photo printers at home or don’t want to wait for days when using an online printing service, increasingly flock to high-tech processing kiosks.Fujifilm’s Pintpix Kiosks take images from memory cards, zip disks and CDs and immediately print them. Kodak boasts roughly 17,000 similar Picture Maker units across the US. Pixel Magic has 6,000 of them. And electronics giant Sony hopes to install 20,000 of its Picture Stations in the next three years.

Opportunities

The boom in digital printing on the spot, whether for regular digital cameras or phone cams, is a massive opportunity, especially outside the US and Asia.Machines can be placed in mobile phone shops, fast food restaurants, photo shops, family restaurants, electronic stores, convenience stores, game centers, shopping centers, train stations, CD/video rental shops, movie theaters, theme parks, book stores, internet cafes, drug stores, etc. Someone is going to do it sooner or later, so why not you?Useful linkswww.j-phone.com

Website: www.vodafone.com/, www.omron.com/

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