Having a camera on your phone is great. Having a photo on it is not -- because getting it off and into the world is a pain. You can send it to another person's phone via SMS (for 25 cents a pop) or can email it to yourself, or download it to your PC or Mac if your phone lets you do that (via Bluetooth, a memory card, or a USB cable). But better tools are needed to make this work smoothly.
Kodak is taking some steps in the right direction, by allowing you to upload photos right from your phone to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery (aka oFoto) web site or to view photos from the Web site on your phone. And today, two other companies came out with their own, realtively similar, ideas.
One of them, Tiny Pictures, is making a phone client that automatically uploads photos to its servers - allowing people to view them on other phones with the client or via Web browser on a PC. Tiny lets you control access to collections of photos or even individual pictures. So you decide who can and can't see what. The CEO, John Poisson, told me that he's aiming for "not push or one-to-one like MMS, but not public like community-focused sharing sites or moblogging offerings."
I'll be finding out more about it at the DEMO 2006 conference, which starts tonight. But I did pick up a few details. They currently have a Java application, and BREW is in the works (which will get it working on a lot more phones). It will run on phones from companies with so-called open-access - meaning Cingular and T-Mobile in the US. And Tiny Pictures is trying to get it into the carrier portals for other companies (i.e. Sprint and Verizon).
The second company, Sharpcast, is doing something that I can't believe no one has already done. They have developed software to synch photo collections - over the Internet - between a camera phone, a PC, and an online collection that they host. So if you snap a picture with your camera phone, it automatically uploads to the Sharpcast site and is pushed to your computer. And if you change anything in any location - on the PC, on the Web site, or on the phone - the other locations are synchronized to match it. Pretty slick. Now obviously, I couldn't get my whole PC-based collection (currently about 8 gigabytes) onto my phone. SO I'm guessing the phone must keep only the most recent photos, or maybe some tagged as "favorites." I'll have to check into that.
Of course, you need a phone with Internet access. And if you're going to be taking a lot of pictures, you'd better get one of those unlimited data plans, because paying per megabyte will bankrupt you.
Allen Bush from Sharpcast told me that photos is just the beginning. The company's goal is to be able to synch all kinds of media between computers, an online archive, and mobile devices. Folks in the business world have this capability for email, calendars, address books, etc via a Microsoft Exchange server. But most of us don't have IT departments running Microsoft Exchange, and exchange doesn't synch photos, videos, and songs. So Sharpcast sounds like a pretty handy service for the rest of us.
You'll have to pay a fee for the service. Bush didn't quote prices to me, but he said it won’t be too expensive.
More details to come from DEMO.