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Managing Digital Photos Next Industry Hurdle

New York — First came the excitement of digital photography; now comes the grunt work.

That was the assessment of Ross Rubin, NPD’s industry analysis director, who presented a study titled “Digital Imaging: The Developing Picture” in conjunction with Wired Magazine, here, today.

“We’re past the point of worrying about the quality of the image, about how many megapixels it has,” Rubin said. “Now we have to figure out how to manage all these images.”

Rubin said adding more metadata to an image file could help consumers better organize and sort through their mammoth digital archives. Other technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, could help in “field sharing” Rubin said, allowing users to beam photos from various picture taking, and picture displaying, devices.

“Camera makers have to realize that maybe camera phones aren’t a threat to sales, but they are becoming the ‘digital wallet’ — a way for consumers to carry and display their pictures. Better integration between a digital camera and a camera phone makes sense,” Rubin added.

Another key issue in photo management is printing, which digital cameras are doing more of as it gets easier and less expensive, Rubin said. One of the unalloyed specification success stories was the rapid rise of the PictBridge standard, which lets cameras print directly to printers through the USB cord. Through November 2002 to October 2003, a mere 600,000 cameras were sold with PictBridge compatibility. In the same period in 2004 close to 4.5 million PictBridge cameras were sold.

The rise of digital photography has not been as kind to the scanner market, which has seen a steady decline in unit sales since 2002. Rubin noted that “scanning is becoming more of a feature in an integrated device, not a stand-alone device.” He pointed to the fact that in 2002, scanners and multifunction printers (MFP), which include scanners, were at a near parity in unit sales. Since then, MFPs have surged from 3.5 million units to 9.8 million, while scanners have dropped from 3.5 million to 1.8 million units.