Myron Kassaraba's weblog about digital photography on the web

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Microsoft Captures Seadragon

The Seattle Times: Business Technology: Microsoft acquiring Seadragon Software
Via Seattle Times. This looks similar to some other attempts at navigating large data sets using a visual interface. (See Geophoenix). This certainly fits into Microsoft's efforts in image and data management. I haven't taken a look at the patent applications but they are recent, I'll be interested to see the novelty of their approach.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

MemoryMiner - New Mac Photo App

John Fox used to develop enterprise digital asset management solutions for Webware Corporation (acquired by Clearstory Systems in 2003) where he was CTO. He has broght this experience to MemoryMiner, a new Macintosh application published by his new San Francisco-based company, GroupSmarts.

MemoryMiner is off to a great start, winning the Best of Show award at the recent Macworld Conference.

Even though MemoryMiner is still a 1.0 product, and is Mac only - it shows great promise and is jam packed full of some very innovative features. I bought an iMac G5 last fall mostly to do video editing but was not blown away by iPhoto. After playing with the MemoryMiner demo for 15 minutes I went and got my credit card (GroupSmarts is offering a $15 discount on the $60 price until 1/31/06).

MemoryMiner is all about telling stories with you pictures (which is one of the major reasons we take them in the first place!). It integrates seamlessly with iPhoto and automatically syncs with your photo library. As anyone who has tried to publish a photobook, one of the biggest challenges the storyteller faces is selecting and organizing the photos you want from all of the photos you have. This is where MemoryMiner really shines - in making it easy to tag your pictures with a focus on people and places. There's nice integration with mapping of places and then your photos tagged to those places that reminds me of GeoSnapper.

Once you have tagged and selected the photos for your stories you can use MemoryMiner's built-in tools to create a slide show (with a nice Ken Burns effect) or you can export your story as XML to use in other applications (I've yet to try this but it looks very interesting). Right now the "authoring" aspects of the app seem thin but I'm sure there will be more options in the future.

John says a web service to connect MemoryMiner's and a Windows version is in the works. This is a great start for an app that really gets how people with collections of photos over time want to organize them to unlock their enjoyment potential.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Carbonite: Online Photo Backup

I've been trying out a new service from a Boston-based startup called Carbonite for backing up your photos automatically to their servers. Founded in 2005 by two experienced entrepreneurs, David Friend and Jeff Flowers, Carbonite is funded by the angel group Common Angels.

Backup of home PCs is a huge issue/opportunity that has to date seen solutions that have been either too complicated, too expensive or both. In my initial experience the cost has not been an issue since it is a free trial (though pricing is said to be around $2.50/month for unlimited storage) and the Carbonite team has done a good job of minimizing the complexity. The intial product focus is pictures though Outlook and document backup is coming in the future.

The Carbonite client app needs to be downloaded and installed on your system and it searches your system for pictures and automatically starts backing them up. I took advantage of the exclusions option accessed through the Carbonite InfoCenter to restrict the backup to the My Documents and My Shared Documents folders which still resulted in an upload of 25,000 image files. The client app can be set up to run in the background and there is even a Performace option so that it makes less use of your bandwidth if you are running VOIP. That's a nice touch.

Once Carbonite has scoured your system for picture files they are marked with a little yellow dot which means they are awaiting backup. Once they have been uploaded, they dot turns to green. I have to say it feels quite comforting to look at all my folders in My Pictures and to see all green dots. I backup regularly to a 250 Gb external firewire drive but it is not the same as having them off in a virtual vault. I guess the real proof would only be discovered if you ever needed to recover your pictures.

This is very neccessary element to deal with the explosion of personal digital media. Carbonite's challenge is to build a trustworthy and simple to use service that will fill this need at a price consumers are willing to pay. One of the other challenges they face is their startup status. Some people have already experienced their data being lost when their service locked their doors one morning when the investor's pulled the plug. Carbonite has been smart to gain distribution through Stapes which is a trusted brand. Is this something best offered by a Kodak or a Microsoft? Maybe so, in the meantime Carbonite should keep developing their technology and growing their user base to make themselves an attractive "buy vs. build" option for one of those companies.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Kodak & Motorola Try Again.........

Motorola and Kodak Announce Global Mobile-Imaging Partnership: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Kodak and Motorola announced a 10-year mobile-imaging partnership at CES yesterday. There is a bit of irony in this announcement as Kodak & Moto had worked closely in the 90's on developing CMOS image sensors. This original parnership grew out of George Fisher's taking the helm at Kodak from his position running Motorola. It never really yielded the expected results. Now Motorola will be buying CMOS image sensors from Kodak that are based on both internal and aquired technology (Kodak bought Nat'l Semi's imaging sensor group in 2004) and manufactured at IBM fabs. Motorola has been moving further and further away from semiconductor manufacturing. They have spun out Freescale and their IBM PowerPC partnership is loosing Apple, its anchor customer, to Intel.

In my opinion this is a great move for Kodak since they can add value to the Motorola partnership beyond just being a component supplier and the CMOS imager market is brutally competitive. They get a high volume customer for their sensors while gaining an opportunity to create stronger linkage to some of their other products and services. Moto also gets access to Kodak's extensive patent protfolio in online and mobile imaging which will come more and more into play in the future.

The biggest question I have with this partnership is the role and cooperation of the carriers as they have proven to be an obstacle that has been difficult to overcome. Ultimately, it is the carriers who purchase and sell Moto phones to consumers. They have shown a desire to control services such as picture messaging and sharing vs. partnering. Kodak Mobile is offered by some as an optional application, not the default. This is where Kodak's patent portfolio can become a useful stick to nudge the Carriers to broaden their views.

As someone who ran Strategic Alliances at Kodak, I wish then luck. Partnerships like this are a challenge to manage but hopefully their history working together in the past will make this one a success. These are two US companies that I for one would like to see as winners.