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Kodak President Charts Future of “Picture Business”

New York — With the rapid adoption of digital still cameras, the imaging market “is reaching a new customer base who doesn’t care about technology, but cares about what the technology can deliver,” said Bernard Masson, Kodak’s president of digital and film imaging.

Masson spoke at a press conference here where he sketched out where he felt the “picture business” was going in three keys arenas: ease of use, mobility and open infrastructure.

The overall business was in a state of transition, and as such was poised for tremendous growth, Masson said. His own unit at Kodak is illustrative. Masson, a former Lexmark executive who was hired by Kodak in 2002 to jump-start the company’s move to digital, is responsible for both the surging Easy Share line of digital cameras, docks and printers, and the sagging consumer film business.

“We have made tremendous progress in making digital imaging easier, but there is still tremendous progress [that needs] to be made,” Masson admitted. New technologies that make image taking and processing even easier, such as cameras with integrated GPS that can record the exact coordinates of where an image was snapped for future retrieval, are innovations that Kodak and others are working toward, Masson said.

Thanks to the rapid growth of mobile phones with integrated cameras, especially among younger consumers, true “image communication” is now possible, Masson said. “We’ve finally found a way to get young people excited about photography.”

The effort must now be focused on developing a seamless network that will allow all imaging devices to communicate between all platforms, from consumers to retail and back again, so that the entire market can benefit, Masson said. He likened the evolution necessary for digital imaging to succeed to the ATM in the early 1970s. Initially a disconnected terminal placed at a branch location, these cash machines did not become popular until they were all networked, allowing anyone anywhere to access and use them regardless of which bank they used.

“We have to walk a fine line between profitable control points and encouraging an open system where we all grow,” he said.