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I've complained about "friction" involved in ordering photo output from digital photos for years. Many apps have made it better in recent years (e.g. Walgreens, CVS, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mailpix, Mixbook, Chatbooks, FreePrints, etc.). Now, we can see another major leap forward in app-less, friction-free photo output product ordering...thanks to Zebra Instant www.zebrainstant.com/bot.

Zebra Instant has a current beta test on Facebook Messenger. It allows anyone on Messenger to message a favorite photo to 'Photo Gifts by Zebra Instant' and start a conversational purchase process in which one will instantly see their photo presented as ready-to-buy products, with the entire process supported by a terrific chat experience. Check it out!

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Photo prints. They are ultra personal. My photos. My point-of-view. My expression. My life. No wonder we capture trillions and share and print billions every year. "Pre-digital" our prints revealed only the visual content that was exposed during film processing. Frequently those images implied a complete story (a picture being "worth a thousand words'). All too often, however, they failed to reveal the story within, behind, or adjacent to the image itself. Where was it captured. When. Who occupies the frame. Who captured the image. Today, there is no reason why the "story" cannot be revealed with all the richness that it deserves...for us and for future generations.

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I'm more than two generations away from the newest fans of instant printing. In fact, I was hired into my first photo job at Kodak as they ramped to launch their short-lived Colorburst Instant Cameras and Film (1975!). That was when Polaroid was king of instant photography and would remain so until their bankruptcy in 2001 (unable to adjust to rapid digital disruption). If only they'd known that a new generation of enthusiasts was just around the corner!

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Yesterday, I published a blog about "The All New Shutterfly Photo." It acknowledged their migration from a traditional online photo sharing and printing business to a comprehensive personal photo management platform for the mass market in the United States. Today, I have to recognize another great leap for all of us in the mass market who rather desperately need help organizing and managing our precious photos. That leap is PhotoScan by Google.

PhotoScan is an app that allows anyone with any smartphone to quickly and easily scan their shoebox and album photos. Not an easy thing to do well with a smartphone, but Google Photo scientists have used advanced software to compensate for the normal factors that would ordinarily make this less than satisfactory. I've spent happy hours now, feet up at my family room couch, scanning dozens and dozens of old pictures, with satisfying initial results. The real magic does not stop there, however. Because I use Google Photo and have it installed on my smartphone, the photos are automatically imported and instantly ready for me to edit, share, add to new or old albums, etc. Another huge problem solved! Thank you Google!

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In the effort to make a photo platform the preferred destination for the greatest number of people, Google Photo has just added the biggest funnel of all. Trillions of the most important memories of generations are stored in showboxes and albums around the world. Until now there has been no easy (let alone free!) way to preserve, organize, share, and, yes, enable the easy creation of new generations of meaningful products that celebrate our personal histories.

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It's been a few years (2013) since Shutterfly acquired This Life, a slick photo management service. I was impressed with the photo management platform as a standalone service offered by Shutterfly, but increasingly concerned that it could not face a bright future in the face of determined competition from Google Photo, Amazon Prime Photo, Apple, Facebook/Instagram, Microsoft, etc.

With the launch of the "All New Shutterfly Photo," it's pleasing to see how Shutterfly has now migrated from a great online photo sharing and output service to the most comprehensive photo management platform for the mass market in the United States. From the author's perspective one cannot make that claim unless they offer integrated best-of-class output optio...

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Amazon, like Google, Facebook/Instagram, Microsoft, Verizon, etc. wants to be the destination of choice for storing, sharing, and (increasingly) printing personal photos.

Today, Amazon introduced Amazon Family Vault.

In each case the motivation to enhance photo services is somewhat different. Collectively, however, the investments in user-experience are resulting in unprecedented value for the mass market. Safe and secure preservation, incredibly easy search and discovery, proactive identification of "important" personal events in our life journey, and much more, are the benefits of these collective investments. And we can expect much more, including output product innovation and the complete removal of friction between photo capture a...

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"The report of my death was an exaggeration." - Mark Twain, May 31, 1897. Luckily, Mark Twain survived for another 13 years.

Since the advent of popular digital photography pundits have heralded the death of print. These pundits had no particular dislike for prints or printing. In fact their homes, like all homes, included archives of treasured prints. The pundits simply saw a new world in which print was, or soon would be, no longer required.

The evidence of impending obsolescence was everywhere. Tens of thousands of small print shops and photo shops simply vanished during the first decade of the new century. Iconic companies, such as Kodak and Polaroid, faded from relevance. Newspapers everywhere sat on the brink of extinction. Screen...

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From the author's perspective it is always fantastic when a major retailer (and in this case cloud photo management provider) recognizes that output matters to the mass market and jumps into the current network of print output providers. Thus, it is great to welcome Amazon and to do so with the hope that they will innovate, create broader awareness of amazing personalized product opportunities, and help to make the journey from awareness and intent to creation and ordering a satisfying one for millions.

Last week the quiet launch of Amazon Prints was met with some breathless and premature speculation by the press, e.g. Techcrunch. I'm sure that those at Amazon Cloud who continue to work on the development of a competitive and compelling platform for personal photos (including print services), must, themselves, be amused. The launch of $.09 4x6 print and $20 photobooks, is hardly the stuff that signals a forthcoming disruption in today's retail photo output business. Price-driven print shoppers today can find free 4x6 prints any day with little effort, and such share-dominating firms as Walgreens offer $.10 print in an hour on a regular basis. A little knowledge of today's photo output business reveals the fact that all of the growth in output is driven by a fervent consumer passion for personalization and the creative product, content, and user experience development that support it. In other words, low-price (or free) traditional prints and a few me-too products, supported by a rather torturous user-journey, are insufficient to either significantly expand the size of photo output demand or to dramatically impact the competitive landscape.

There can be little doubt that, in time, Amazon has the capability to deliver innovative experiences, an exciting portfolio of personalized output, and great price value and fulfillment experiences. That's just not the case today. Amazon Print has stepped onto the field that is occupied by some very established, determined, and experienced photo output providers (e.g. Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens, Costco, CVS, Walmart, Sam's Club), as well as some innovative new online photo output companies (e.g. Mixbook, Artifact Uprising, Mailpix, Canvas, etc.). In spite of some of last week's press it is premature to predict Amazon success as a significant participant in photo output. It's, frankly, silly to predict the demise of a category leader such as Shutterfly.

Welcome, Amazon. Your continuing investments and creative efforts will surely help to drive greater mass market awareness and demand for an expanding world of personalized on-demand output. Those investment and efforts can and should drive innovation throughout the business, all of which leads to richer and more satisfying shopper experience and opportunities for many.

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All too often members of the “photo industry” choose to reference the current size of output volume to that of the predigital era (naturally so for those who have watched a highly-profitable business irreparably disrupted). That reference, however, fails to do justice to the growth of a new personalized printed output business.

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