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Microsoft Launches Digital Image Software Suite

Microsoft is out with Digital Image Suite 9, a product looking to carve into Adobe Systems market lead in the digital imaging software market.

But Microsoft's digital imaging software, which has some of the same features to Adobe's PhotoShop, is neither as robust, nor as expensive. But that's the idea: Microsoft is marketing the new software package through its Home Retail Division, while Adobe is targeting more advanced consumers and professional photographers.

Still, Microsoft is positioning it as a "professional" product, saying it has "combined the power of two digital imaging software titles, Microsoft Digital Image Library 9 and Microsoft Digital Image Pro 9, into "one comprehensive and flexible photo solution."

The company claims that the new Digital Image Suite 9 is the only product available today that gives consumers "everything they need in digital imaging software, including advanced organizational and photo-editing tools, new levels of creativity with professional-quality photo projects."

In addition to providing software tools for digital photo manipulation, Microsoft is also taking steps to integrate the digital imaging applications with CD and DVD burning technologies.

In a separate release, Microsoft said it is licensing Sonic Solutions AuthorScript, CD and DVD formatting and burning engine, to be incorporated in Microsoft's Digital Image Suite 9. The companies have an existing licensing agreement, and this pact expands upon that deal.

Sonic Solutions said the embedded Sonic AuthorScript engine adds two new key features in Digital Image Suite 9. One is the ability to format and burn Video CDs that can be played back on hundreds of millions of multimedia PCs and DVD players, and the other is the archiving and burning of photos and images onto CD-ROMs.

Digital Images Suite 9 has a variety of new features, which position it to compete with Adobe PhotoShop and other imaging software packages.

"Digital Image Suite 9 offers new levels of creativity, with more than 5,000 images, 3,000 designer project templates, 200 filters (50 of which are new in Digital Image Suite 9) and a variety of mats, frames and templates for creating professional photo projects such as scrapbooks, photo albums, calendars and postcards, Microsoft said.

Specifically, Microsoft says its new software package contains "Import Pictures Wizard, which automatically detects import devices and renames and deletes photos on acquisition. Users can access photos from digital cameras as well as on CD-ROM or removable media."

Microsoft also says the new software will enable users to locate, organize and search for in new ways. Microsoft clearly aims to integrate imaging into other forms of multimedia.

The company says with what it calls "Photo Story Lite" consumers will be able to combine edited images, motion, text and even their own voice into a unique and personal photo story or video that can be burned onto CD-ROM and viewed in most consumer DVD players or sent via e-mail, Microsoft said in a press release.

The digital imaging software suite is designed for mobile applications too, which enables users to instantly resize digital photos to the correct display size for a mobile device. Photos can be resized to fit on most popular mobile phones, Pocket PC or Palm devices, Microsoft said.

The estimated retail price of Digital Image Suite 9 is $129, but the company is offering a handful of rebates and packaged deals with digital camera purchases. Adobe's PhotoShop 7.0 has suggested retail list price of $609.

Microsoft is also shipping Plus! Digital Media Edition, which includes a full version of Plus! Photo Story, Plus! Party Mode, Plus! Effects & Transitions for Windows. Movie Maker 2, and Plus! Sync & Go for Pocket PC, all for $19.95, along with the Digital Image Suite 9 software package.