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Appendix: Insiders' Views of the Mobile Imaging Industry
Without a doubt, the most dynamic area of technology development to emerge during the years we’ve been researching and writing Going Visual is anytime, anywhere wireless connectivity.
THE CAMERA-PHONE PHENOMENON
We asked one of the most respected experts in the field, Tony Henning, managing editor of the Future Image Mobile Imaging Report, how the evolution of imaging devices from wired to wireless would affect the kind of typical business stories that we’ve described in Going Visual. He answered, “I think it’s going to affect every single one by making the communication connection easier, faster, and more efficient.”
He continued, “The camera phones entering the market today, with one- or two-megapixel resolution, can deliver a picture that is sufficient for uses like proving that your billboard is up or that your construction job is completed. This makes going around with a film camera and then taking the film in to be developed and then driving
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the prints somewhere and clipping them to a file totally obsolete. Now you can photograph it digitally and send the picture from the phone to an Internet site, coded in such a way that it immediately goes to a web page, which makes it available to everyone in the Community of Interest. Once the information is digital, you can publish it for the world. Wireless technology will also eliminate the need for digital camera users to drive back to the office, plug the card into a reader, and input the information into the system. Wireless allows you to save time and make the process more productive. Every human step is a place for somebody to make a mistake, ‘Oh, I transposed the numbers and it didn’t get attached to the Johnson account, it got attached to the Smith account.’ If you do it from the phone, and that information is all programmed in with some kind of template, you make things more efficient, faster, and less prone to error.”
Henning described how quickly camera phones, which are at the vanguard of the wireless imaging industry, have emerged as a worldwide phenomenon, and how fundamentally they are changing the dynamics of imaging, “A small Japanese phone company, J-Phone, started the ball rolling in 2000 by introducing the first camera phone, which consisted of a series of add-ons and gadgets that the Japanese market is so fond of. They started by plugging a little camera into a phone, and then they decided they could integrate the camera inside the phone. It was adopted much more rapidly than they imagined, catching the Japanese market by surprise; they were really unprepared for it. They didn’t have a branding or marketing campaign to introduce it. In six months, before they had even decided to market it, a million people had bought camera phones.
“Every quarter, J-Phone would release sales figures that showed staggering growth: 4 million, then 7 million, then 9 million, and 12 million. It put them on the map, and it got the attention of the other Japanese carriers, KDDI and NTT DoCoMo; who started offering camera phones as well. As a result, Japanese subscribers responded in droves, and today close to 95 percent of all cell phones sold in Japan
have cameras in them. It is difficult to find a cell phone without a camera in Japan. I have asked all three carriers, and all three do offer one or two models, mostly for prepaid customers, that don’t have cameras in them, but it’s virtually unheard of. If you go to any of those web sites and look at their phones, you have to dig pretty hard to find one without a camera. So, it became an absolute phenomenon in Japan. But even as this phenomenon was becoming known to markets outside of Japan, it was largely dismissed as another Japanese gadget fad. People in other parts of the world were asking, ‘Why in the world would you want a camera in a phone?’
“The answer is that the camera phone has all kinds of implications for communications, for digital imaging, for social intercourse, for business. And, sure enough, from a phenomenon confined almost entirely to Japan, it has now become absolutely worldwide. All of the major carriers in the United States and Europe support camera phones, and manufacturers are producing hundreds of different models ranging from simple VGA (640 X 480 pixels) resolution phones to smart phones with video capture and 5-megapixel (2560 X 1920 pixels) resolution and dazzling 16-million color QVGA (240 X 320 pixel) screens. Even people in so-called emerging markets like India, China, Brazil, and Russia are adopting camera phones, and they’re spending huge amounts of money, half their monthly salary in some cases, to get one. In these countries, users often leapfrog the terrible, ancient, wired telecommunications infrastructure, where it could take several years and cost thousands of dollars to get a wired phone. Now they just go out and get a prepaid phone with a phone card for virtually nothing and they are connected. Camera phones are becoming common enough and inexpensive enough that they can leapfrog directly to them.”