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Amazon Prints and the Universe of Photo Output

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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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