A Snapshot of the Digital Photography Market

Digital photography solutions make sense in home and business

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Many solution providers are entering the networked home market through their commercial clients. The top corporate dog sees what a great job the solution provider did installing a digital signage or conferencing solution in office headquarters and asks if he can have a similar solution " complete with high-def displays, video and audio streaming, data storage and server devices, security monitoring, etc " in his house. No problem, says the SP, who can sweeten the deal with employee discounts and other incentives market-hungry vendors are offering.

In these cases, commercial IT integrators are simply building on their core competencies " consulting, networking, procurement, installation, break/fix, monitoring, maintenance and other services - to expand into new markets, tap broader revenue streams and generate profit. Many of the technology, products, functionality, and services people want in their homes are similar to what they use and experience during their workday: a secure, reliable infrastructure and on-call technicians to choose products and technologies and fix them when they break. In other words, if you get through the front door of a corporate client's home, be prepared to sell a full solution.

Flat-panel display installation, calibration and integration are great first steps. Digital imaging/photography solutions are also a strong, low-hanging sale for those home clients with commercial roots. And, like many consumer electronic solutions, they can be applied to commercial sales, especially in the real estate, insurance, law enforcement and legal markets. Here's what's driving the consumer digital imaging and photography market, according to Parks and Associates.

The analog to digital transition happened last year when penetration of digital cameras reached 51 percent in U.S. homes. That means the majority of your corporate clients already own a digital camera and, if they're like the rest of the population, they have hundreds of digital pictures stranded on multiple cameras, PCs and other devices. Those clients are ready to take the next step with more sophisticated solutions to better capture, edit, manage, store and share those files.

Next year, digital camera sales will hit a peak with 27 million sold and $6.5 billion generated in revenue. About 52 percent of those sales will be for replacement cameras, with the other 48 percent going to first-time buyers. Higher pixels and larger LCD screens have become standard features and no longer mean as much to replacement buyers as they once did. Instead, they'll be looking for new features such as better facial exposure, auto correction and reduced shutter delay. Camera manufactures will be scrambling to add as many differentiating features as possible. That will add to customer confusion, which could give you the chance to advise clients on the best model, deepening your role as the trusted technology advisor.

While some vendors such as Canon and Nikon offer their professional lines through closed channels, they and others such as Samsung, Sony and Hewlett-Packard are looking to drive more of their prosumer imaging solutions " such as displays, printers, cameras, storage and scanning devices " through the IT and residential integrator channels, which include broadline distributors such as Ingram Micro, Tech Data, D&H and Synnex. It's important for solution providers to make their vendor reps aware of the new markets they're selling into. You never know what sales and marketing incentives might be available. Anything that prevents the client from buying something from the big-box retailers or etailers that he could have bought from you is an advantage.

Today's consumers are also looking for more complete digital imaging solutions, including better displays and printers, more convenient storage and easy-to-use sharing devices. Vendors of those types of products " ViewSonic, NEC Display Solutions, Samsung, Sony, HP, Linksys, Netgear, Lexmark, Seagate/Maxtor, Buffalo Technology " already sell into the channel and are willing to listen to integrator proposals for additional marketing and sales support.

The holiday season is the perfect time to start pitching those solutions to current and prospective clients. We swung by the PhotoPlus Expo last week in NYC to check out the latest gear. We started off the show floor at the Bryant Park Hotel, where Samsung showcased its new SyncMaster 305T 30", ultra-wide, high-res TFT-LCD monitor. With an MSRP of $1,999 (which you can expect to drop after the holiday season), the display is a beautifully designed unit that would fit well with any professional photography, desktop publishing, gaming or CAD/CAM solution.

The Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer also launched the SyncMaster XL20, a 20-inch LED BLU (back light unit) display that reaches up to 114 percent of the National Television System Committee's color gamut. In simpler terms, that means the display is optimized to produce extremely accurate color temperature, brightness uniformity and color reproduction. Aimed at the same markets as the 305T, the XL20 also has an MSRP of $1,999.

Samsung seems to add well-designed and nicely-priced consumer and commercial gear to its line card each day. The other good news for digital integrators is that Chris Franey, ViewSonic's former channel chief, is now VP of commercial sales for Samsung's Information Technology Division. He understands the needs of solutions providers. Word has it he's also looking to expand the variety of Samsung product through the channel to help digital integrators better serve new markets. Stay tune for more on that.

Digital integrators are always looking for cool gifts to give to their best clients as a show of appreciation. Back on the show floor we found the perfect one for any photography or video enthusiast. It's called the Gorillapod (www.joby.com) and is a tripod with flexible legs that can wrap around just about anything for steady shots. It comes in three sizes and can easily fit in a pocket of small back. It's ideal for shooting in low-light situations, group photos or for video interviews. Prices range from $39.95 to $49.95.

Another cool client gift or stocking stuffer we (and a whole lot of others judging from the booth traffic) came across is the Lensbabies (www.lesbabies.com), selective focus SLR lens that brings the key area of an image in focus while gradually blurring the surrounding image. The effect helps add texture and movement to otherwise flat photos. Of course, we used to do a lot of that on our manual cameras by adjusting the aperture and shutter speed. This just makes it easier on digital cameras. The devices come in three flavors, ranging from $96 to $270.

Santa, are you listening?

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