Ofoto aims to capture digital prints market

Ofoto Inc., an online photography service, will release new software that aims to streamline the process of ordering digital photographs. The software will "auto detect" prints from a digital camera and allow users to order prints before uploading the images, company officials said at Digital Focus, an event held in conjunction with Comdex 2001, in Las Vegas. The wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Co. will make Version 3.0 of its OfotoNow software available through free download via its Web site starting Wednesday.

"Currently, many people don't end up ordering prints because it's time consuming to upload pictures and a hassle to go through the whole ordering process," said James Joaquin, president of Ofoto. "We want to bridge the gap between the (digital) camera and the Web."

The updated software automatically detects digital images from the camera and gives users the option of ordering prints according to prior purchasing preferences, ranging from wallet-sized to poster-sized pictures, officials said. It also stores credit card information from previous orders so there is no need to re-enter such information.

Although Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system offers a similar order service, which allows users to order photos online through its My Photos service, Ofoto does not see it as a threat to business. "Windows XP users are given a choice of vendors (Fuji and Kodak) for print services, and since we are owned by Kodak, users who choose it will use Ofoto anyway," said Joaquin.

Ofotonow 3.0 operates on all Windows platforms but not with any Macintosh operating system, he said. While most digital cameras will be able to be automatically detected by Ofotonow 3.0, older models might not be, in which case, there is a TWAIN (Technology Without An Interesting Name) driver, which manually detects the camera, officials said.

Although international customers only constitute 2 percent of total sales from print orders, the company aims to snap up more customers with its simplified print-ordering software. The software is available only in English.

With improved photo-printer quality, and an increase in the number of people who prefer to print their digital images using printers, Ofoto is confident that there will still be demand for the "real" photographs, said Joaquin. "There will always be people who want long-lasting prints, and we print using Kodak Duralite paper, which we guarantee to last."

Ofoto said even though there is competition from companies like Snapfish Corp. and Shutterfly.com Inc., it relies on the reputation of its parent company Kodak to get customers.

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