New Consumer Technologies to Drive Digital Image Use

Posted on 8/13/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Internet, as well as mobile applications, has caused an explosive rise in image use. Soon, other consumer technologies, such as surface computing and high-def televisions, will have similar effects.

For example, this week Sheraton Hotels became the first to introduce Microsoft Surface in the lobbies of five premiere properties in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. The new computer systems feature 30-inch desktops that allow interacting with data by using hands, without the traditional mouse or keyboard.

Images, combined with sound and textual data, are an integral part of the new Sheraton guest experience. The new surface computers offer visitors 360-degree satellite maps, tools to search for local attractions, a jukebox application that plays user-selected tunes and "Sheraton Snapshots," a photo library of Sheraton resorts and hotel properties throughout the world. The next steps, such as still or video tours nearby locations, are easy to imagine.

All major technology companies are working on similar systems. The timing may be unpredictable, but surface computers will inevitably replace the clunky text-based machines used today. Demand for images will increase proportionately to the public's adoption of touch-screen rich-media systems in much the same way image use continues to grow alongside Internet and mobile apps.

Though the continuous increase in the general public's thirst for images has not gone unnoticed by stock-industry leaders, few have pursued opportunities beyond licensing. Getty Images remains at the helm with JAMD, the industry's first consumer-oriented Web site, which also has a mobile application that delivers editorial imagery to iPhone users.

Corbis has been more conservative. Its only consumer offering is a partnership with T-Mobile, which allows some images from the Corbis collection to be used as cell-phone wallpapers. Though the program has been successful, Corbis currently has no plans to introduce other consumer-oriented products in the near future, said company spokesperson Dan Perlet.

Corbis' decision not to pursue a broader audience is particularly interesting in light of Bill Gates' original vision of Corbis as a company that would deliver images to be enjoyed as art on digital displays in people's homes. Though Corbis went in a different direction, GalleryPlayer, a company founded by former Amazon executive Scott Lipsky in 2003, seemed to put Gates' dream into practice.

GalleryPlayer licensed imagery from major brands, including The National Geographic, Museum of Modern Art and The New York Times, and invented a technological platform that displays these photos and art on plasma and LCD televisions. The technology has been integrated into products by Panasonic, Mitsubishi and Samsung, as well as deployed by other partners, such as Google and Microsoft. On July 30, GalleryPlayer mysteriously ceased operations; however, it is likely not a permanent demise: Lipsky's personal Web site says the company has a new owner. It is not Corbis, said Perlet.

It appears that image delivery to the general consumer is shaping up similarly to traditional stock licensing. For the moment, lines are drawn between image producers and distributors.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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