October 9, 2001 2:55 PM PDT

Intel's photo site goes dark

Intel's online photo-sharing site is closing shop and sending members to Eastman Kodak's online photo service, Ofoto.

GatherRound.com posted a message on its Web site, saying it will discontinue service Nov. 1 and members' photos will no longer be accessible on the site.

"We feel our customers will be better served by a service such as Ofoto, whose primary business focus is online photo-sharing and printing," the Web site said. "Because we understand how important your photos are to you, we have developed a new home for your images."

GatherRound is encouraging members to download their images onto a computer hard drive or transfer to Ofoto. As an incentive to make the move, Ofoto will give GatherRound members who transfer their images a coupon code with a deal on wallet-size prints. The photo site also offers all new members 15 free 4x6 prints.

GatherRound is the latest of many online photo companies to drop from the highly competitive market. As some companies fail to survive the battered dot-com economy, others have been pushing through lean times by forming affiliations and capturing pieces of the fallen.

For Ofoto, which was acquired by Kodak in June, the demise of other online photo sites has been a boon. When Zing closed its consumer operations during the summer, Ofoto snapped up some of its members. Now the company is expected to garner more consumers from GatherRound.

"It just furthers Ofoto's membership base and kind of its strength in the online photo-sharing market," said Suzzana Ellyn, a digital imaging research analyst at ARS. "And it leaves the privately backed services, such as Club Photo and Shutterfly, to fend for themselves and gain new members."

Ellyn, however, added that it is doubtful the closure of GatherRound will have a major effect on the online photo services market. She said Intel has done little to draw visitors to the site since it launched two years ago. With the slowdown of the PC market, "Intel has more on its plate than throwing dollars to a relatively unknown player in a competitive online marketplace such as online photo-sharing," Ellyn said.

Like most of its competitors, GatherRound provided consumers a way to share pictures with family and friends. Features included the ability to order prints and create personalized Web photo albums online.

"This was a site that was created to grow and develop new digital imaging technology," said Erica Fields, a spokeswoman for Intel. "And working with Ofoto, it seemed like a natural transition for Ofoto to take over the site and offer members a place to store their photos, because that's their core competency."

GatherRound said Ofoto has been providing the site with the infrastructure to process prints for more than a year.

"Ofoto is pleased to provide GatherRound members with a safe and easy way to transfer their photos to our site," an Ofoto representative said in a statement. "We certainly hope that a large number of GatherRound members will take advantage of our services."

GatherRound would not disclose its membership numbers.

 

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