"This combination of HPs leadership in digital imaging and home printing with Snapfishs leadership in online photography will provide our customers and partners with an expanded mix of quality, value and voice that we believe no comparable business can provide," Snapfish president Ben Nelson said in a statement.
Snapfish boasts more than 13 million registered members, all of whom have access to the sites myriad services, including free online photo sharing, photo storage and management; free editing tools; online print ordering; a wireless imaging service for camera phones; and personalized photo products such as mugs, calendars and blankets.
Snapfish also offers its photo infrastructure services to other companies and has formed strategic partnerships with Circuit City, Comcast, Earthlink, Netscape and Verizon Wireless, among others.
Jennifer Pershall, HP worldwide PR manager, said the acquisition also will directly benefit HP customers by giving them "a great choice" for sharing and storing images.
"Say you come back from vacation and take a ton of pictures on, hopefully, an HP digital camera, and you want to share them with family and friends. You can upload images and invite them to view those photo albums," she said. "Then you might decide to get prints. Or you can order photo merchandise, like mugs, blankets and ties."
For Snapfish users, Pershall says the site still will offer the same services as before but will have more HP branding.
"There wont be significant changes for the customers; itll be the same experience that theyve known all along," she said. "And for Snapfish as well; it will retain employees and continue operations out of San Francisco."
HP bought the company for an undisclosed amount, and the deal is expected to be finalized this April.
Mums the word on HPs future plans with Snapfish. But Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research, said he wouldnt be surprised to see HP use Snapfish in ways reminiscent of Kodaks recent developments with its EasyShare cameras, which work seamlessly with its online photo service, Ofoto.com.
"It would not surprise me to see HP take some of these directions, like with their PDA devices, smart-phone devices and other things they have that may or may not have a camera, but do have connectivity—just pop a memory card into a phone, and two clicks later, send them to Snapfish," he said. "Were going to see a lot of tight integration with connectivity with digital photography."
Gartenberg said this acquisition announcement and that of Yahoo and Flickr are just another indicator of the recent growth in digital photography, one that leaves space for companies such as HP to expand their business into the growing sector.
"Talking about photography and HP, this is not a conversation wed be having a short while ago, especially in terms of who the players are—brands like Kodak, Nikon," he said.
"Itll be especially good for HP in terms of driving digital cameras and digital camera accessories forward."