Eastman Kodak [EK] has reached an agreement with Cingular Wireless and Nokia [NOK] to develop camera phones as part of its shift away from conventional camera film products to digital technology.
The company’s new mobile service, Kodak Mobile, will allow Cingular subscribers with camera phones to store and access photos and video. The service also allows users to beam images from mobile phones to retail kiosks equipped with printers. Kodak is Cingular’s sole provider of this service.
Kodak is also expanding its relationship with Nokia to create links between Kodak Mobile and selected phone models.
Mobile cameras phones account for just 10% of handsets worldwide, but it has been estimated that by 2006 there will be one billion camera phones, or about two-thirds of the market.
When it comes to digital technology Kodak is up against fierce competition in the form of Nikon [7731q.L] and Olympus [OOPT.F] in cameras, and Hewlett Packard [HPQ] and Sony [SNE] when it comes to printers. However, the Kodak Mobile service focuses not on hardware, but software modelled after Ofoto, its online photography subsidiary.
Kodak is hoping that gaining access to Cingular’s 23 million US subscribers will make mobile imaging ubiquitous and expects to forge partnerships with other wireless operators. Kodak also plans to develop retail kiosks, from 40,000 worldwide to 50,000.
Picture quality is also a hurdle. At the moment, camera phone images have poor resolution compared with that of digital cameras and analysts are sceptical that consumers will want to print them.
But companies are fast improving picture quality; with Casio [CACT.F] and Sharp [6753.T] already making mega-pixel mobile phone cameras that could rival digital cameras.