By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Eye-Fi has begun selling a Wi-Fi-enabled SD memory card for use in digital cameras.
The 2GB Eye-Fi SD card lets digital cameras connect to wireless home networks and online photo sharing sites. After a four-step configuration, images can be automatically sent from the camera to a PC/Mac and online simply by turning the camera on within range of a user's wireless network, said Jef Holove, Eye-Fi CEO.
During an initial configuration, with the SD card connected to a computer, the Eye-Fi card is configured to access a user's wireless home network. Consumers choose a folder on the computer where new images will be stored and an online destination, such as Walmart.com or Shutterfly, where photos can be uploaded. When the card is inserted in the camera and the camera is turned on and in range of the network, images stored on the card will be automatically sent to the computer and the Web.
Any new images added to a computer are stored in a new sub-folder and organized/titled by date. The company has partnered with 17 photo sharing sites, including including Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, Wal-Mart, Snapfish, Photobucket, Facebook, Webshots, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug, Flickr, Fotki, TypePad, Vox, dotPhoto, Phanfare, Sharpcast and Gallery.
Consumers can alter their computer or online preferences after the fact, but can only configure the card to upload to one online destination at a time.
"We wanted to make the early launch as easy as possible," Holove said. The card does increase the drain on camera batteries when connected to a network and uploading files, though the impact will vary widely, Holove said.
The card will launch initially through e-commerce channels, including Amazon.com, Buy.com and Walmart.com and through photo specialty stores such as B& H Photo and J&R.
Holove argued that Eye-Fi would succeed where Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras had not because of its ease of use and the breadth of its online partner network. "For the most part, wireless hasn't been easy." Conversely, the Eye-Fi card "saves times and gets images out of the camera."
The company chose to launch with an SD card because of the format's broad popularity, but Holove would not rule out incorporating the technology into other form factors. "We're keenly aware of which formats are rising and which are declining." The company would not rule out cards designed to connect to a single online service, but Holove said the value proposition of Eye-Fi lay in its wide scope of partners.
According to a recent study conducted by IDC and sponsored by Nikon, wireless connectivity ranked sixth or seventh out of eight features on consumers' digital camera wish list. Still, IDC noted that consumers would be more inclined to purchase a camera if it had wireless connectivity, and pay up to $78 more for the privilege.
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