by Gary Pageau
At the PMA Imaging and Entertainment Expo last week in Sydney, Australia, Fujifilm Australia showed a Microsoft Surface enabled smart-coffee table photo book creation kiosk. According to SmartHouse, Fujifilm will deploy the 40 kiosks in Australian consumer-electronics giant Harvey Norman (two kiosks each).
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Why Australia? The Land Down Under has long been a test-bed for the photo industry. Much of the one-hour photo equipment that populated the malls in the '80s and '90s were test-driven in Australia, where large central photofinishing labs are rare, due to the country's dispersed population and enormous geography. Later, photo kiosks and in-store photo gifting products made their way to Australian shops.
This isn't the first time Microsoft's Surface product was used in a photo kiosk. In early 2009, DNP Photo Imaging America showed a version of its Tomo interface, the TomoMT (for multitouch) at the PMA trade show. At the time, tablet computers were poorly regarded and the cost of the Surface hardware made the project more a market demonstration than an actual retail product. (See the DNP product in action.)
With the photo printing business in decline, industry suppliers and retailers are looking for ways to engage consumers to encourage photo output. Photo books are seen as a high-margin opportunity, but they take a long time to assemble, especially at a vertical kiosk. Clearly, Fujifilm thinks a coffee-table style experience will lead to a more comfortable and profitable experience.
"Online is growing stronger then retail environments, but there's a 20-percent year-on-year growth for photobooking," said Daniel Paul, hardware manager, Fujifilm, in the SmartHouse post. "Printing in general is pretty flat."
Ironically, one thing contributing to the potential success of this Microsoft-based product may be a completely different one from Apple. Because of the success of the iPad, more consumers than ever are comfortable navigating, pinching, twisting and twirling content on a touchscreen user-interface.
Image by Generation TV.