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Microsoft Takes a Fresh Approach to Digital Photography

Microsoft's Kostas Mallios of the Rich Media Group, had provided insight - at Photokina - into the company's efforts to solve real problems for photographers. For pros and advanced photography enthusiasts, Microsoft has been showing applications like Expression Media 2, an asset management tool for the professional, that comes bundled with Capture One. In addition Microsoft is making investments in new ideas, such as Photosynth, that allows you to experience digital photography in an entirely new 3 dimensional way...

HIGHLIGHTS

Check-out the Microsoft Professional Photography websiteWith the explosion in popularity of digital photography, Microsoft and many of its partners are collaborating with digital photographers to ease and simplify the process of organizing, preserving and sharing photos across a range of devices, applications and systems. To learn more about the company's interest in the digital photography industry and its plans for the future, PressPass spoke with Kostas Mallios, general manager of the company's Rich Media Group. He discussed Microsoft's news at the world's largest photography trade show, Photokina, in Cologne, Germany, including Microsoft's current offerings, partnerships the company has formed and the overall state of all things digital photography.  

PressPass: What is Microsoft doing at this year's Photokina?

Mallios: It's an exciting year for Microsoft in digital photography and we're talking about a number of things this week at Photokina including some of our existing offerings for both enthusiasts and professional photographers as well as some of the cool new products we've been working on. For consumers, we're talking about built-in tools like Windows Live Photo Gallery that give people a very intuitive way to view, manage, and refine their photos. And for pros and advanced enthusiasts, we're showing applications like Expression Media 2 which, in partnership with Phase One, we're offering as a product bundle with Capture One. This brings the best in RAW processing with world class digital asset management, helping photographers organize, preserve and share their photos. In addition to these products, we're showcasing the investments we're making in the future of digital photography. You'll see a number of our new ideas featured at Photokina, including Photosynth, a service that allows you to experience digital photography in an entirely new 3 dimensional way.

You may have also heard, today we announced the Metadata Working Group (MWG), formed by Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft and Nokia and, recently, Sony, each of whom embrace the goal to develop metadata guidelines that are compatible across all applications, devices and services. These guidelines will ultimately reduce interoperability problems that make finding, organizing and searching for digital photos a challenge.

PressPass: Can you tell us more about the Metadata Working Group?

Kostas Mallios: Absolutely! Metadata is really important – it allows you tag your photos with star ratings or location information and is an indispensible part of helping photographers stay organized. It's the information you use to catalog, rate and find your photos. The Metadata Working Group is dedicated to the preservation and seamless interoperability of digital media metadata and to interoperability and availability to all applications, devices, and services. When we started looking into some of the leading technology problems that digital photographers faced, we realized we needed to address the interoperability issues that still exist with metadata. For example, you may use metadata tags to rate your photos in Expression Media but if you use different applications, devices or services to process or share photos, that information may not be preserved. We knew we couldn't solve the problem alone, so about a year ago Microsoft assembled leaders in the industry, including Adobe, Apple, Canon and Nikon to form a group with broad expertise. I'm pleased to say that Sony also recently joined us and that the group, led by Chairman Josh Weisberg of Microsoft, has already delivered its first metadata specifications.

Metadata is something we've been thinking about a lot at Microsoft. We also recently delivered a set of free tools called the Pro Photo Tools that address common metadata problems such as geotagging. Historically, there was no easy way for photographers to geotag their photos so we developed these tools that allow anyone to easily do this in a number of very fun ways. It's a great, free tool to use, particularly if you do a lot of traveling or outdoor photography and you can read more about it and download it for free.

PressPass: It sounds as though you have made a lot of progress on the metadata front. What about the new laptops you mentioned earlier? Did Microsoft have a hand in this and what's unique about them for photographers?

Mallios: Photographers have very specific needs and these laptops are the first ever designed to meet those needs. Think of them as the photographer's mobile studio -- with built in digitizers, color calibrators and much more. Given the popularity of digital photography, it's a concept whose time has come and both companies are to be commended. These products represent the best of the best our industry has to offer photographers. Microsoft partnered with Lenovo and Sony on the photo laptops and we've developed a website as a resource to photographers who want to learn more. Of course, we're very pleased that with the introduction of these new products Windows users now have more options.

PressPass: What else is Microsoft doing in digital photography?

Mallios: We're doing a lot. Our focus is solving real problems whether they're problems we've heard other photographers tell us they've had or those we've experienced ourselves. We have a blog and a Web site dedicated to serious photographers. We also have a program called the Icons of Imaging Program, where we get input from some of the top photographers in the industry who tell us what problems they're hoping we can solve.

As an industry, digital photography is still in its infancy, so in addition to solving key problems that exist today, we're also exploring the potential of digital photography for tomorrow. We've made big investments in research and are delivering products like Photosynth that are changing the way we think about and use digital photography. Our goal for our work today and our investments in tomorrow is to make it easier for photographers to organize, preserve and share digital images so photographers can be more efficient and spend more time behind the lens.

PressPass: Many people aren't aware that Microsoft has offerings for photographers. What are some of the technologies available today?

Mallios: People are getting buried by their digital photos. They have too many, they can't find the ones they want and they aren't able to easily share them. At the same time, many hobbyists are getting more serious about photography and are increasingly using RAW file formats. (Editor's note: RAW files contain minimally processed data from the image sensor of a digital camera or image scanner; they are not yet processed and ready to be used with a graphics editor or via print.) To address these needs and continue to expand options for the vast number of photographers around the world using Windows, Vista includes built-in support for RAW file formats. This allows serious photographers to more easily manage their digital RAW photos. We've also partnered with Phase One to unite the best RAW processing power in Capture One with Expression Media 2, the most robust digital asset management software and made these products available for both Mac and Windows operating systems. Expression Media 2 helps photographers organize a virtually unlimited number of digital photos and, Capture One is a RAW workflow solution that photographers can use to easily produce superior photographic image quality. These are tools for professional or advanced enthusiast photographers. For consumers who aren't working with as many photos and who don't need RAW processing power, we have built-in tools for the Windows operating system called Windows Live Photo Gallery that give people a very easy way to view, manage and refine their digital photos. We aim to provide technology that addresses the needs of consumer, enthusiast and pro photographers.

PressPass: How did Microsoft decide to get involved in the digital photography market?

Mallios: It's a natural evolution in keeping with the overall evolution of technology. Many people now use their computers for digital photography. Computers have become, in a sense, the photo albums of our era. With that in mind, and considering that there are such a large number of Windows customers worldwide, we felt that we had a responsibility to find ways to improve the experience for photographers. To do that we assembled a team of photographers who live and breathe digital photography. Their goal is simple: produce and deliver professional quality products that are easy to use for photographers of all skill levels.

Since we're committed to offering more technologies in the future by taking a multi-tiered approach that spans research, our platform, applications and services, Microsoft's presence in the digital photography industry represents a natural evolution. We simply wanted to provide more sophisticated products as the capabilities for digital photography expanded. That's why we're here today, and that's why we're thrilled to play a role in helping digital photographers make the most of technology.

Additional information: Check-out the Microsoft Professional Photography website
September 28, 2008
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