Say 'cheese' and send
Consumers are reaching for their mobile phones instead of their cameras when the chance for a memorable picture arises, and Ontela is making sure the magic doesn't stop there. The start-up's latest offering is helping bridge the gap between phone and PC.
At CTIA this month, Ontela caught many industry eyes with its PicDeck application. PicDeck unlocks pictures in mobile phones and automatically saves them to a user's PC. The company itself was formed with the simple goal of getting pictures off the mobile phone — there's no photo-tagging, manipulation, album-creating or sorting.
“The value of the product is usually equal to the average of its features, not the best of them,” said Dan Shapiro, CEO of Ontela. “We are a big believer if you've got something the consumer wants, don't mess it up with lots of bells and whistles.”
Like many innovations, PicDeck was born out of frustration. An avid woodworker, Shapiro wanted to document one of his creations. Reaching for his camera phone, he realized his memory was full, but he wasn't willing to delete any of the photos in his catalog. PicDeck was the solution to this problem, which he saw many others dealing with as well.
“We find that on average every customer sends an average of 1.7 megabits of image data each month, which corresponds to taking a picture about every other day, or more often three or four pictures once a week,” Shapiro said. “So once a week, people are pulling out their camera phones and taking a couple of pictures the same way anyone normally would, except when they get home it is already there on their computer. … As long as you have cell reception, they are saved immediately and automatically stored.”
With PicDeck, a user's handset photos automatically are saved to a PC server folder as well as to any Web photo albums of choice. Ontela currently has partnerships with Blogger, Flickr, Photobucket and Snapfish. Shapiro said Ontela also is looking to form partnerships with Facebook and MySpace.
In addition, Alltel last week announced it would offer PhotoCopter, its version of the Ontela-powered service, to its customers. Shapiro said launches with additional regional carriers also are planned over the next month. To date, Ontela's only telco partnership has been Cellular South. After offering PicDeck for the past four months, Cellular South said sales have exceeded all expectations, with initial adoption outpacing projections by 217%. According to a spokesman, it is one of the carrier's most popular applications.
PicDeck is designed as an inexpensive, efficient way to port photos and, as such, is aimed at the mid-range market. Ontela's surveys indicate that three-quarters of mainstream users cannot get pictures off their camera phones, yet 90% want to, making photo-porting a true killer app.
In a market where camera phone sales are outpacing actual camera sales, many new handsets sport five-megapixel cameras. For mobile photographers, a service such as PicDeck is looking more attractive the more attractive their pictures get.
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