After dipping its toe into the water
with a branded Internet appliance, Intel Corp. is making another
foray into the pool of businesses that complement its computer
chip-making with a new dual-purpose digital camera.
The Intel Pocket PC Camera, which begins selling Tuesday, allows
consumers to take Internet-ready photos and record short video
clips at or away from the personal computer -- even set up a "spy
cam'' to take pictures and e-mail them automatically to a given
"The great thing about this camera is it's really focused on
people who want to share their life's story over the Internet,''
said Dwayne Canfield, product line manager at Intel's Connect
Products Division in Hillsboro, Ore. "You can have it hooked up to
your computer or you can disconnect the cord and take it with
Digital cameras eliminate the need for silver halide film that
has to be chemically processed, instead capturing images on chips
with tiny square sensors called pixels.
The $149 battery-operated product comes with 8 megabytes of
flash memory, capable of taking 128 pictures or two minutes of
video in the highest quality mode, which is 640 by 480 pixels.
By comparison, megapixel digital cameras, retailing for $300 and
higher feature resolution of 1,028 by 960 pixels, take pictures
almost as perfect as those made by traditional cameras on film.
Unlike these high-end cameras, the Intel device does not allow the
picture-taker to immediately review images on an imbedded LCD
"People should understand you're not going to get the
highest-quality print from this (Intel) camera,'' said analyst
Michelle Lampmann at InfoTrends Research Group in Boston. "But
this device enables affordable digital image capture -- both still
and video -- that can be detached from the PC, and that makes it
much more useful and fun.''
Amid indications that U.S. PC sales are slowing, Intel has been
moving aggressively to expand beyond its core semiconductor lines.
It formed the Connect Products Division with the mission of
producing Intel-brand consumer product, began selling an Internet
appliance -- a countertop device that allows access to e-mail,
organizer and the Internet -- to telephone companies for resale to
consumers and plans to market other consumer gadgets later this
Intel's Pocket PC is an extension of the fast-growing PC camera
business, which InfoTrends estimates is worth about $338 million
this year. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has three other PC
cameras retailing between $49 and $99.
Intel has been locked in a battle with Logitech for dominance in
the market, with each holding about a 30 percent share. Logitech
currently does not have a high-end dual purpose camera, although
several others, including Singapore-based Creative Labs Inc. and
Agfa-Gevaert Inc. of Teterboro, N.J., already are marketing
dual-purpose stationary/on-the-go models.
About 5.5 million digital PC cameras will be sold this year in
the United States, but InfoTrends estimates 50 percent of the
computers sold by 2003 will be packaged with entry-level PC
cameras, boosting the market to 38 million units.
The Intel Pocket PC Camera includes easy-to-use software that
allows people to download images to a computer and tinker with them
to adjust their quality or crop images before e-mailing them or
posting them to personal Web pages.
The point-and-shoot functionality, price and size (it weighs 8
ounces with four AAA batteries and can be shoved into most pockets)
attracted many admirers during several test outings.
Analysts also note the continuing rollout of high-speed Internet
access will lead to more videoconferencing among businesses,
friends and families. Online meetings are possible now, but images
moving through dial-up connections often are jerky and grainy.
Research firm Jupiter Communications estimates more than 4.5
million people in the United States will have high-speed Internet
access by year's end.
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