There's no question that digital technology has revolutionized photography. The statistics speak for themselves: not only have the past several years seen a boom in digital camera sales, but online photo sharing and printing services are proliferating everywhere.
But Vamsi Sistla, director of broadband and residential entertainment research at technology market analyst ABI Research, says that we're looking at the new medium through an "old lens." What did most amateur snapshooters do with their analog pictures? They mounted them in albums. Family and friends could hold albums in their laps and share the viewing experience.
What must most digital snapshooters do? View their pictures on a computer; upload them to a Web site (more computing); email them to each other (still more computing!) -- or have them printed for mounting in an old-fashioned album. While sharing via email is a step in the right direction, printing them and putting them in old-fashioned albums is a step backwards.
"What's needed," says Sistla, "is the digital equivalent of the old photo album: a stand-alone, tablet-shaped device with a nice big screen that will display pictures much as the old family album did."
Why don't such devices exist? In a sense, they do: an online search will list a number of them. But most of them have small screens, limited storage of up to 30 photos (often using the camera's own memory card), and require mains power. The album Sistla has in mind would have hard disk storage of up to 100 GB, run on a battery, and include a file system allowing users to name, organize and retrieve all their pictures quickly and easily, without fear of computer crashes or lost CD-ROMs.