Camera-phones to outsell digital and film cameras combined

Camera-phones to outsell digital and film cameras combined

By Stuart Finlayson

The recent phenomenon of the camera phone has captured the public's imagination in such a dramatic fashion that the format is expected to sell more units than traditional film cameras and standard digital cameras combined by mid-2004.

In a report entitled "The Camera-Phone Phenomenon," author Tony Henning, of independent imaging research group Future Image, says: "The forecast for 2003 for `pure-play' digital cameras is about 32 million or 35 million units sold worldwide. For film cameras, excluding single-use disposables, there could be up to 60 million units sold. That adds up to about 95 million units.

"Sales of cell phones with cameras embedded could reach 50 million units and phones that have cameras as a separate attachment could see another 40 million units, so this year is probably a toss-up as to who sells more, but next year is no contest."

In Japan, where electronic gadgets are a way of life, more than 30 million Japanese consumers own camera phones. It is actually quite difficult to buy a cell phone over there now that does not have a built in camera.

"The big hurdle (in North America) is interoperability," Henning declared. "Right now, the sender and receiver of a cell-phone image have to be on the same network for instant, peer-to-peer messaging. The hurdle is not technical; it's economic and political.

"It comes down to money and territory," Henning added. "The various carriers have to decide how to divvy up the revenues."

Henning will be among the speakers at the upcoming Seybold Enterprise Publishing Conference, which takes place next month in San Francisco.

Alexis Gerard, president of Future Image, says part of the challenge at the event is getting the message across to executives that digital imaging is a valuable tool for business, as essential as the laptop computer and email.

"When you're at a meeting and people capture the discussions on a white board, it's not part of the culture for participants to take a digital picture of the board, yet there's no simpler, cheaper way of capturing the information for recording purposes and to share them with colleagues," he said.

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