Microsoft Debuts New Digital Imaging Suite

Microsoft yesterday launched its Digital Image Suite 2006, a package of tools designed to help consumers organize, enhance and share digital images.

Microsoft is hoping to gain greater traction in a growing digital imaging market. PMA Marketing Research predicts consumers will take 25 billion digital photos this year alone, and that’s not counting all the digital video consumers are capturing.

“We believe that consumers should have the tools they need to easily make digital images they are proud of even if they don’t come out of the camera that way,” said AnnMarie Thomas, marketing manager for the Home and Retail Division at Microsoft. “With Digital Image Suite 2006, it’s simple to do everything from quickly cropping an image to creating a stunning black-and-white photo to share with family and friends.”

Archiving Digital Memories

Digital Image Suite 2006 includes personalization tools for managing photos and video. Hierarchical Keywords and Labels provide stacked tags that consumers can use to organize, sort through and find their images. Hover Thumbnail enlarges thumbnail images whenever a mouse hovers above them, and allows users to view the image along with details such as date taken, file type and size, resolution, and assigned Labels.

Video support offers consumers the option to view and organize their videos in the same place as their photos. And RAW Support for Canon and Nikon cameras allows consumers to view and organize images shot in RAW category of formats, a high-quality photo format captured by many models of digital cameras. Consumers can also save the RAW format as a JPEG or TIF file for image editing.

Current Analysis analyst Michelle Cowan told TechNewsWorld that the most interesting new features in Microsoft’s Digital Image Suite 2006 are the ability to share and the image library. “I am not too concerned about the image manipulation features competing with Adobe,” she said. “Less experienced users will probably go with Microsoft because they are more familiar with the name and Adobe is much more detailed.”

Enhancing Media Files

Microsoft Digital Image Suite also offers image enhancement tools, such as Black & White Effects, which allows users to transform color photos into contrast-rich, black-and-white images by using a variety of preset filters, altering color tone or manipulating each of the color channels.

Intuitive Crop intelligently analyzes the composition of a photo, such as faces in portraits or family photos, when a consumer clicks on the crop task and suggests a way to crop the photo that will properly frame the subject to create the best possible image.

Photo Story 3.1 allows anyone to create a photo show with voice narration, customizable pans and zooms, and music. Microsoft has added the ability to make quick edits (red eye removal, apply black-and-white filter), create an original soundtrack, and burn a CD with high-resolution VCD files for playing back on a TV.

Sharing Disc allows consumers to burn photo CDs to share and Device Sync Support makes it easy to share photos and videos with mobile devices such as the Portable Media Center, Pocket PCs and smartphones through syncing with Windows Media Player.

Cowan said that with the software priced at US$99, Microsoft is poised to grab market share. “It’s common for digital cameras to be packed with 256 MB today because of the increased functionality and megapixel resolution,” she said. “The result is increased consumer awareness and need for storage. That is a huge marketing point that Microsoft point should take advantage of.”

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