The Digital Imaging Big Picture

While 3G [define] technology and its applications — specifically wireless imaging — may be in its infancy in the United States, it’s already a way of life in Japan. InfoTrends Research Group has found that Japan accounts for almost all (98 percent) of the wireless imaging market that is forecast to grow from 6.6 million in 2002 to over 160 million by 2007, representing a compound annual growth rate of 93 percent.

In Japan, over 5 million people already carry cell phones with embedded digital cameras — that’s half the worldwide number that Strategy Analytics estimates were sold in the first nine months of 2002. The research firm further expects the number to grow to 16 million sold worldwide by the end of the year.

“Three million more camera phones will be sold this year than PDAs, emphasizing the importance of this emerging market. Japan and Korea are the world’s leading camera phone markets right now, where 96 percent of camera phones were sold in the first nine months of 2002,” said Neil Mawston, senior analyst with the Global Wireless Practice, Strategy Analytics.

Worldwide growth would be higher if prices were lower, notes Strategy Analytics Vice President David Kerr. “Camera phone retail prices, at an average $300-plus in Western Europe, are a huge barrier. It is essential to move prices beyond the high-end into the mid-range at retail prices below $150. Operator subsidies will be needed, but device vendors who can drive down cost curves the fastest will gain market share.”

Yet, as camera phone prices remain an obstacle to high consumer adoption, the costs of traditional digital cameras fell, spurring growth in that market. InfoTrends projects that worldwide revenue from low-end digital camera (under $1,000) sales will reach 24 million units in 2002, capturing 28 percent of total worldwide camera sales (not including one-time use cameras), and is forecast to reach 51 million units in 2007— equaling $11.8 billion.

While Japan may be leading in camera phone adoption, North America accounts for the highest sales in traditional digital cameras at 39 percent, with Europe following at 27 percent. Japan, which used to represent the largest digital camera market, has dropped to the third position with a 26 percent share, largely due to the competition from embedded camera phones.

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