Applications: Thanks For The Memories - InformationWeek

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10/19/2004
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Applications: Thanks For The Memories

"Scrapbooking" trend opens opportunities for end-to-end digital photography solutions.

My boyfriend abandoned me for a plasma TV.

It happened recently at a local consumer-electronics store. I needed to do some shopping and left him with a small crowd of men enraptured by the newest plasma models on display in the television section. My other half, so overwhelmed by the quality and size of this new TV option, forgot why he came to the store and walked out—only to return a few minutes later when he discovered I had the car keys.

I had no choice but to forgive him. He, like many male “early technology adopters,” lose their heads over the latest large-screen flat-panel TVs or souped-up gaming systems. That’s what many digital home integrators are banking on. The problem is that women, still just a minority vote in the early adopter party, don’t often lose their heads (or credit cards) over televisions. Most are motivated by other things. Take, for instance, digital scrapbooking.

Today, transforming a stack of vacation photos into a imaginative book of memories, complete with textured embellishments and printed narration, has turned into an obsession for a large number of women. Scrapbooking parties bring together like-minded women who arrive with a box of photos, scissors, paper and decorations and leave at the end of the evening with a completed photo album. Entire stores are dedicated to the scrapbooking practice.

What some home integrators may be overlooking is the potential of digital technologies to enhance the scrapbooking experience. In addition to the image-editing software as the base product, large-format photo printers, extra storage, new personal servers that make sharing large files easy, custom systems, flat-panel displays and CD burners are just a few examples of add-on sales that accompany the digital scrapbooking discussion—not to mention the strong customer relationship such attention can build.

In other words, niche solutions such as digital scrapbooking have the potential to bring decision-making females into the digital home conversation. For those women less interested in home theaters and wireless networks, digital scrapbooking demonstrates technology’s relevance. Entire scrapbooks can be assembled electronically and distributed to friends via e-mail or CD-ROM. Images can be edited, printed at home with a photo printer, and then pasted into a traditional scrapbook. The home server, wireless network, flat-screen display or digital projector can replace the old slide projector. A scrapbook can be assembled in slide-show format and streamed over the wireless network to share with family and friends.

At the root of the solution, though, lies the image-editing software integrators can offer to scrapbooking afficionados as the entry point for reaching a whole new customer base. Digital Connect experimented with some of that software, and here’s what we found.

One of the most important jobs is choosing editing software that matches customers’ skill level. Installing Photoshop CS, a high-end application, for novice computer users is a quick way to kill enthusiasm for digital imaging. For first-time users, we liked Jasc’s Paint Shop Photo Album ($45 download, $49 boxed). The software guides novices through popular image-editing functions, such as photo cropping and resizing, correcting red eye and adjusting focus. Several scrapbook pages are built into the package. Simply drag and drop images into the photo placeholders. The photo’s size isn’t an issue: Photo Album automatically adjusts the image so that it fits properly on the page. The assembled album can be moved to a CD-ROM, or for the less technically inclined, the book can be printed and bound professionally through a deal with MyPublisher.com. A simple calendar creator works on the same principle.

Another cool feature is the archiving option. Images can be archived by event, date or storage size. They also are cataloged this way on the hard drive so that they are easier to locate in the future. The program walks users through the setup steps and reminds them when it’s time to archive. Archiving is an essential conversation when setting up a digital imaging package. It would be awful to lose photos of baby’s first year because of a hard-drive failure. Counsel customers to back up those images on CD-ROM and store them in a safe place. Dedicated storage for digital images is also a good idea.

Integrators can point customers with some image-editing experience to Adobe’s Photoshop Elements ($99). If customers are professional or semi-professional photographers, they are probably already using Photoshop CS. Anyone else will find the features of Elements more than adequate and much easier to use than Photoshop. Adobe is expected to ship version 3 of Elements by November. In it for the first time are preformatted scrapbooking pages, the ability to put together interactive slide shows, archiving functions and scrapbook printing through a partnership with Kodak’s Ofoto.

The software supports all the traditional image-editing functions, as well as advanced features such as tools for correcting image flaws, layers and 16-bit color. For additional preformatted scrapbook pages, there are a number of add-on products. CottageArts.Net sells direct a line that can be purchased on CD-ROM or downloaded. Jasc sells its own PaintShop Extras line ($19.95) that works with its PaintShop image-editing program but not the entry-level Photo Album software.

With so many new digital scrapbooking products emerging, integrators have plenty of add-on sale options and a new way to ensure that many female customers aren’t left behind.

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