!"> The gating factor is the price of an entry-level digital camera. In India, China, the Philippines, and similar markets a cheap analog camera with two rolls of film included costs around $15. An equivalent digital camera starts at ten times that price and is useless without a photo printer like those in HPs PhotoSmart range. But the wireless camera-phone will change that. Network carriers will, as usual, sponsor the devices, and so those phones will be available even to markets where the average wage is under $1,000 a year. And the growth of the public service mini-lab will, the paper makers are convinced, explode behind this. The current battle for the hearts and minds of the digital camera user is focused on the so-called "100-year lifetime" print and increasingly on "waterproof" paper. The battle for instant-drying ink is moving into the past, taken for granted."The market for ink-jet printing is developing more slowly than we thought it would," admits Ilfords Jones. "When we started moving from silver halide to ink-jet paper coatings, back in 1993 and 1994, it was a long shot, and while it looks obvious, with hind-sight, it was quite possibly a mistake at the time. A lucky mistake, of course; as Napoleon is supposed to have remarked, a brilliant General is no match for a lucky one." But even if the digital camera revolution has been slower than hoped, it is inevitable. The result will certainly be that thousands and millions more photographs get taken thanks to the invention of the photo phone. And some of those photos will be printed out, with repeat prints for Uncle Jim and Aunt Myra and Bill the gas station guy and even the family dentist. Wireless as a way of selling paper? It wouldnt be the strangest development of the next 10 wireless years.
Exactly how wireless technology might help at the point-of-print sale is not yet clear. Kodak has invested some of its rapidly diminishing R&D funds into switching over to the coating technology designed to produce professional quality prints with ink-jet rather than silver halide, equipment. So the battle isnt over.