Kodak Takes WiFi Camera to Market

What do you get when you combine two of the hottest consumer electronics technologies and put them into a single device? It’s the WiFi digital camera, according to Kodak.

The company claimed it was first to release such a device, dubbed Easyshare-One, a 4 Megapixel, 3x optical zoom digital camera capable of connecting to the Internet or PC for photo sharing via 802.11, or WiFi-enabled hotspots.

The US$599 camera, as well as similar, WiFi-enabled digital cameras from Nikon, should get a warm reception from consumers, who are increasingly using wireless technology in their homes and on the go, industry analysts said.

“It should make it much easier to transfer your files from device to computer,” Ovum research Vice President Roger Entner told TechNewsWorld. “It’s an enhancing feature for existing digital cameras, which are under assault from cell phones already. It should make it better [for digital cameras].”

Shoot and Share

Kodak stressed the ease-of-use and sharing capabilities of the new device, which can e-mail, print and store pictures online or on PCs. The new camera has a 3-inch, rotating LCD screen, 256 megabytes of internal memory, and features the ability to view PC or online picture collections while synchronized wirelessly.

The camera also features a Macromedia Flash interface and video taking and sharing capability.

Kodak said retailers, including Circuit City, CompUSA and Ritz Camera, will be selling the Easyshare-One and companion picture printer next month. The camera will come with free WiFi “camera-specific” trial connectivity at WiFi hotspots from preferred providers T-Mobile and Australian provider Telstra, with more hotspot providers expected in Europe and Asia, Kodak said.

Convenience and Cost

Ovum’s Entner said that, while mobile phones with digital camera capabilities have managed to cut into the growing digital camera market, the addition of WiFi connectivity and the ability to easily and wirelessly send and store pictures may give back an advantage to cameras.

“With a mobile phone, you either have to pay 25 cents or you have to take your memory stick out, which is always a big endeavor,” he said.

Yankee Group senior analyst John Jackson said the Kodak camera’s WiFi technology made more sense than trying to build CDMA or other mobile-phone connectivity into a digital camera.

“It’s a very logical addition to the digital camera,” Jackson told TechNewsWorld.

Driving Value and Price

Jackson added that, while there is always a danger a device such as the Easyshare-One will be trying to do too much more than it was originally designed for as a digital camera, the WiFi connectivity is likely to attract consumers who are adopting both digital cameras and WiFi technology in droves.

“The key here is that the camera has a liberated distribution channel,” Jackson said, adding that the device also allows for a higher price-tag on a digital camera.

“There are very few precedents for consumer electronics devices to appreciate in price,” he added. “The digital camera guys are trying to reverse that.”

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