Kodak has announced the development of a 16-megapixel digital camera. The Kodak Proback will ship next year, said Daniel Carp, Kodak chairman and CEO, in a keynote address late Tuesday. The camera is capable of taking a photograph with a print eight feet by 12 feet without pixelation, Carp said.
Though filled with schtick, including "Hexo," the stage hypnotist-comedian and pokes at Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison and Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, Carp's keynote focused on future uses of digital photography.
The Internet will transform digital photography from simple electronic image-making into a more fluid and pervasive medium, Carp said. Kodak's recent emphasis on digital photography reflects the vendor's perceived need to transform itself into a new-economy company.
The company has been hit hard by some old-economy problems - a combination of weak foreign currencies affecting sales and rising costs in raw materials. Kodak missed analysts' early earnings estimates for its third-quarter financial results, driving its share price down about 25 per cent in September.
Heavy competitive pressures have hit Kodak from high-tech companies involved in digital photography, including Sony and HP, as well as traditional rivals such as Fuji Photo Film and Polaroid, which has dived head-first into digital imaging.
Therefore, Kodak is looking for its salvation in digital photography, wireless image transmission, and the Internet.
Carp said the functions of digital devices such as cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), MP3 music file players and cameras would converge. Using wireless Internet connections, people could take photos anywhere and transfer them to online storage, or access any photo from any location.
This convergence will turn digital images into more flexible and more useful tools than they are now, he said.
"Capturing images will become easy and ubiquitous," he said.
The process of searching for photos will also become easier using "metatags", Carp said. Metatags allow photographers to easily add background information to digital cameras, such as dates and times, names, descriptions, or the e-mail addresses of the subjects. Pictorial search engines will be able to latch on to the identifiers on these "smart images" as they troll the Internet for a photo.
Digital images will also have built-in digital watermarks to allow for digital rights management, Carp said. Strong watermarks will prevent unauthorized copying and will survive image manipulation intact, whereas weak watermarks will break down with the first alterations, permitting digital images to be authenticated for official uses.
"As soon as something becomes digitized, it becomes easier to pirate," Carp said. Kodak's watermarks are virtually bulletproof, he added. "Our technology is supremely tamper-proof," he said.
Carp also unveiled Kodak Digital Preservation Solutions, a service that will allow users to send images to Kodak over the Internet. Those images will be accessible over the Net as well as being archived in a physical form. The service will become available next year, he said.
User reaction to Carp's presentation was wide-ranging from the negative to the positive.
"This is supposed to be a convention, and not a Las Vegas entertainment show. Everything (in the keynote) was calculated. Nothing was honest," said Rene Labrosse, founder of Canadian company Alpha In Time Management Systems. "If they can play around with us in the show, then they can play around with us in the future as well," he added, ridiculing Carp's vision of digital imaging.
At the other end of the spectrum reaction was Andre Schoeman, a technical consultant. "It was a great show," he said, stressing the word 'show'. "He (Carp) had a good inkling of where the future of digital imaging is headed. He had speculation mixed in, which was also good."
Others attendees found the entertainment factor in the keynote somewhat of a relief. "The keynote was edutaining. This was the most entertaining of all keynotes," said Werner Raith, a developer with Austrian company Silva System Services. "The technology industry is too technical. It needs to loosen up."
Raith was particularly impressed with the Kodak CEO's 360-degree presentation of a glass container that was the result of 60 images put together. "I hope that is the future of digital imaging."