February 22, 2005 12:10 PM PST
Cameras, iPods need to talk to each other
Your portable music player and digital camera are about to get a lot more friendly with each other.
There are already plenty of MP3 players on the market, including Apple Computer's iPod Photo, that can show digital photos while playing music. But soon, we are likely to see music devices that can download and display pictures directly, without using a computer as a go-between.
That's what Gary Johnson, the CEO of PortalPlayer, says. His company makes the chip for the iPod and several other hard-drive-based music players. Johnson was careful not to say whether it will be Apple's player that does this, though. An Apple representative declined to comment.
As they add color screens, MP3 players are going to be adding more photo capabilities, including the ability to connect directly with cameras and printers.
Apple's not saying, but the company will probably want to be among the first to add new capabilities to keep the iPod atop the market.
Johnson said PortalPlayer is also working to make it possible to connect music players to printers.
"It's no good to have a photo if you can't print it," Johnson said in an interview earlier this month.
The big question is how quickly the masses will want such features--and whether they'll pay more for a music player that has a photo side to it. The fact that people can connect an iPod to a digital camera and then connect the iPod to a printer doesn't necessarily mean that they'll want to.
"You have to consider how many people will be comfortable doing that," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said. "It certainly could be useful for some segment of customers."
Other companies are looking to bring the photo and MP3 player worlds together through music devices that can take their own pictures--players such as Olympus' M-robe 500i.
Cell phones, too, are rapidly adding capabilities to take photos and play music, creating the potential for a single jack-of-all-trades device. While early music-playing phones were on the market some years ago, models with more features and music storage are on the way from the leading makers, including Motorola, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and Nokia.
However, the larger market has been for gadgets that do one or two things well and then can communicate easily with other devices. Evidence of that lies in the relatively smaller sales of devices like the Treo and BlackBerry, compared to the success of slightly souped-up cell phones that can exchange data wirelessly with other devices.
Kevorkian said digital photo display capabilities are a natural
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