Family Photo Album Gets Computerized

SOON many home photos will reside not in a shoe box but on a home computer.

This week the Seattle Film Works is introducing ``Pictures on Disk,'' a mail-order service that puts a roll of film on a standard floppy disk for personal computers. Users will be able to give a family ``slide show'' around their PCs or send photos over telephone lines to friends who also have computers, among other things.

Undercutting competition

Analysts say the low price of the service - $3.95 plus standard developing fees - should be a big advantage in tapping a potentially large but undeveloped market. Eastman Kodak Company has tried with little success to find customers for its more costly ``Photo CD'' service, which puts pictures on compact disk for display on a television set. The cost is about $25 per roll of film plus a one-time investment of more than $200 for a CD player.

By comparison, ``$3.95 is not a lot of money,'' says Michael Shea, vice president of research at Charter Investments in Portland, Ore. Upon learning of the Seattle Film Works product, ``my initial reaction was to run out and buy the stock,'' he says.

Pictures on Disk has a market barrier of its own, however: TV sets are much more ubiquitous than personal computers. Some 45 million Americans own IBM-compatible PCs, but users of the new product also need a color screen and ample hard-disk space to store the photos.

First-time customers will get free software to help them to:

* Put photos into word documents, such as letters to friends. The documents can be printed using any Hewlett-Packard-compatible laser printer.

* Send photos to friends over the telephone line or by copying them onto another disk (the former method requires a modem and communications software).

* Create simple ``slide shows'' on the computer screen.

* Make a personalized ``screen saver'' (to display alternating images on the computer screen when the machine is not in use).

* Catalog photos, so that each roll of film saved on the computer has a title, like the titles given to word documents. Captions can also be written for each photo.

Computer venture an ``experiment''

Seattle Film Works' bread-and-butter business is mail-order film processing that differentiates its services from typical one-hour photo shops with special features such as making prints and slides off the same roll of film. Customers pay $8.50 plus postage for developing a roll of film and receive a free new roll of film back with their pictures.

The company sees this computer venture as an experiment. The size of the market is ``up in the air,'' says chief executive officer Gary Christophersen. ``We're pretty enthused, though.''

The company's stock has a strong track record. It has the biggest price gain over the past five years of any company based in the Pacific Northwest (875 percent versus 581 percent for Microsoft Corporation).

The company plans more software to help people manipulate photos on computers. Other than color screens, customers PCs need not be fancy: 640k RAM memory and DOS 3.0 or higher software is enough.

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