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Mobile phone makers and printer companies have teamed up to ensure that consumers will be able to easily print photos taken with camera phones.

Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Siemens, Korea Telecom and NEC have joined forces with Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark and Epson to form the Mobile Imaging and Printing Consortium (MIPC). The new industry group has said that it will develop standards and guidelines to ensure that consumers are able to print out photos taken using mobile phones.

It is already possible for consumers to connect some mobile phones equipped with digital cameras to computers, or to a printer directly, to print photos. But strides to make it possible to print camera phone images have so far largely been the result of unilateral agreements between companies, or the development of third-party software and hardware.

This new consortium should, in theory, make it possible to print images stored on any phone on printers manufactured by the participating companies. The firms say the MIPC Implementation Guidelines will take advantage of existing connectivity standards and solutions, such as Bluetooth, as well as printing from memory cards and PictBridge.

"Any products that follow the MIPC technical guidelines will work with each other in that applicable technology," the group said.

"We are proud to deliver the first industry-wide guidelines for printing images from mobile phones," added Ramon Garrido, chairman of the MIPC and program director at HP. "Consumers can be more confident that their mobile phones and printers will indeed work together. The common guidelines make development of solutions for mobile phone printing as easy and reliable as possible."

According to MIPC, 370 million digital cameras will be sold in 2005, more than three-quarters of which will be embedded in mobile phones.

Mobile operators view camera phones as a key element in their drive to boost revenues from data services. multimedia messaging (MMS), which allows consumers to zip digital photos from one phone to another, with operators collecting anywhere between €0.50 and €2 per photo, is gathering pace throughout Europe and Asia. But if consumers can easily print images for little or no cost, then they may be less inclined to send snapshots over a mobile network.

© ENN

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