RealTime IT News

Microsoft, AOL Jousting in Digital Photography Arena

Microsoft Corp. and AOL Time Warner are staking out digital photography as the newest skirmish area in the ongoing clash of the titans for consumer attention.

Microsoft Tuesday hosted a Windows XP event gathering more than 20 digital photography hardware and software solutions vendors to demonstrate their wares on the Windows XP platform, which supports picture transfer protocol (PTP), an industry standard that allows communication between digital cameras and computers and printers.

"This is a great opportunity for Microsoft and leading companies in the industry to work together to deliver end-to-end digital photography experiences for consumers," said Chris Jones, vice president of the Windows Division at Microsoft. "By linking the power of the PC with the best solutions in the digital photo arena, Windows XP lets consumers share their pictures with friends and family as easily as they can take them."

Participants included ArcSoft Inc., Canon USA Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Corel Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., Epson America Inc., Fuji Photo Film USA Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Lexmark International Inc., NEC-Mitsubishi Electric Visual Systems, Olympus America Inc., Picture It! on MSN Photo, SanDisk Corp., Sony, Shutterfly, The Learning Company, Ulead Systems Inc. and Umax Technologies Inc.

But while Microsoft and friends were touting XP's imaging features as consumer-friendly and easy-to-use, one of those companies -- namely Kodak -- was also helping Microsoft rival America Online launch the new version of its "You've Got Pictures" service.

To celebrate the event, the two companies announced a national photo contest called MY TOWN, with the winner's hometown receiving a free concert with the Bangles and Dream.

To generate more interest in the contest, the two companies have invited a number of celebrities -- including Edward Burns, Melanie Griffith and Peter Fonda -- to participate by sharing never-before-seen photographs of a day in their lives. The pictures will also be put up for sale in a special auction event on eBay, with the proceeds going to the celebrities favored charities.

The "You've Got Pictures" service now features unlimited online photo storage for active members who visit the service at least once every six months, one-stop picture sharing and storing, and simplified design and navigation intended to make picture viewing faster and sharing easier.

It also features a new pricing plan in which consumers can drop off film at participating Kodak retailers and get both prints and online pictures via the service for one price, likely $8.99 if retailers follow the suggested price.

"AOL has become the world's leading online service by listening to consumers and delivering the ease and convenience they want," said Katherine Borsecnik, president of AOL Brand Programming and Product Operations. "According to a recent AOL/Roper Starch Cyberstudy, 92 percent of online consumers are interested in sharing photos online with friends and family. With improved features and simplified pricing, the enhanced "You've Got Pictures" service makes getting your photos online and sharing them with friends and relatives even more fun and convenient."