Kodak, Motorola sign camera deal

Industry giants to develop new solutions in bid to tap booming global demand for innovative cameraphones

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By  Published  December 1, 2006

Digital imaging giant Kodak has signed a deal to supply Motorola with core technology for the handset vendor’s next generation of cameraphones. The announcement of the deal coincides with the publication of a report by industry analyst Gartner, which estimated that cameraphones accounted for almost half of all global handset sales this year, or 460 million units. The company predicts that this figure will rise to one billion annually by 2010, accounting for more than 80% of the total mobile handset market. Discussing the Motorola deal, Eastman Kodak S.A. chairman and general manager of the company’s EMEA consumer digital systems group, Jaime Szulc, said Kodak had agreed to provide the US handset giant with a host of technology, from firmware and lenses through to the all-important CMOS sensors. Szulc claimed mobile phones would soon replace low-end digital cameras to become the defacto imaging solution in the entry-level consumer market. “Mobile phones will leap over low-end digital cameras in this sector,” he said. “We believe digital images taken on cameraphones will captivate consumers just as SMS messaging did in the past. We believe this sector provides us with huge commercial opportunities. “Image archiving, or picture sorting, will become increasingly important. You now have consumers with hundreds if not thousands of digital images that are often left unsorted. Developing solutions for managing these files provides us with a major opportunity.” Meanwhile, Gartner claimed that the ‘megapixel race’ involving cameraphone vendors would gather pace as consumers apply the same judgement when selecting a camera phone as they do to choosing a digital still camera. “Consumer perceptions that a higher pixel count translates to a higher quality device will encourage mobile phone manufacturers to continue to raise the megapixel count,” said Carolina Milanesi, principal research analyst at Gartner. “A camera is a feature that consumers expect to see in new devices whether they are interested in using it or not. With the development of high-quality camera phones, users can enjoy viewing pictures on their PCs, printing them or uploading these images directly from their mobile handsets to their web-blog, thanks to services such as Flickr.” Milanesi said manufacturers were also aware that compact handsets were favoured by most consumers. This trend was promoting the development of new technologies such as liquid lenses, which provide sharp images in a compact format. For the past three years, Milanesi said the market had been dominated by sales of cameraphones equipped with lenses of less than one megapixel quality. However, this category’s market share would slip to around 50% next year, as new and improved mobile handsets equipped with better quality lenses hit the market, she explained.

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