Q&A: With Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006, Image Is Everything

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 23, 2006 – Microsoft recognizes that consumers need a comprehensive photo editing and organizing solution now more than ever. Just look at the facts: Overall spending for holiday gifts in 2005 rose 10 percent from a year ago to US$8.2 billion, according to retail researchers at NPD Group. Sales of electronic gadgets were particularly strong, and digital cameras topped the list again this year as one of the season’s most popular electronic gifts.

PressPass spoke with Rashidah Lopez, product manager for Microsoft’s line of digital imaging software, about helping today’s consumer get the most out of their digital photos.

PressPass: How does Microsoft help digital camera owners get the most out of their photos?

Lopez: Digital photography is growing up, and consumers are looking for an easy and complete solution to do more with their digital images. Many are on their second or third digital camera and photographs are piling up on hard drives. In fact, the Photo Marketing Association reported that consumers saved more than12 billion photos last year alone. Microsoft understands that consumers need an easy-to-use solution to help those consumers find all their photos easily. With that in mind, Microsoft introduced Digital Image Suite 2006 as a powerful solution that provides today’s digital camera owners with a quick and easy way to edit, organize and preserve their memories.

PressPass: How long has Microsoft been in the digital imaging space?

Lopez: Microsoft has been in the digital imaging category for nearly 10 years now. In the beginning, digital cameras were still very new technology and consumer adoption was low. However, the need was clear – consumers wanted to enhance their digital photos, but didn’t want to learn professional-grade applications, like Adobe Photoshop. Rather than focusing on the needs of professional photographers and designers, we built a solution from the ground up to help the everyday digital photographer easily enhance photos. This product, Microsoft Picture It!, launched in September of 1996. A decade later, we are offering Microsoft Digital Image Suite, software that continues to be perfectly suited for the beginner, while allowing room to grow and learn as digital photo editing skills improve.

Also, we are very excited about digital photography’s role in upcoming Microsoft platforms. Because of the growth that we’re seeing in the digital photography industry, Microsoft is focused on creating the best experience possible for digital photographers using the Windows platform.

PressPass: In many ways, it seems the PC has replaced the shoebox or the photo album as a means of storing and archiving photos. How can Microsoft help consumers organize their “digital shoebox”?

Lopez: In October 2002, Microsoft surveyed more than 1,200 digital imaging customers and found that digital camera users were experiencing difficultly finding, sharing and archiving photos. To address this need, we introduced an integrated suite, combining intuitive organization tools with the image-editing application. Building on Microsoft’s tradition of easy-to-use software products, this first version of Digital Image Suite enabled customers to intelligently import photos from a digital camera, find them quickly and easily, fix them with a wide variety of advanced photo editing tools, create projects, add special effects, share them via prints, e-mail and the Web, and then back them up for safekeeping.

Today, Digital Image Suite 2006 is equipped with a whole host of new organizational features to help consumers keep a photo collection organized and under control. The Hierarchical Keywords and Labels feature helps consumers organize, sort through and find their images in the way that best suits them. Flags are a great way to manage workflow by marking pictures and videos for tasks such as touch ups or print and share. There’s a Star-Ratings system allowing consumers to rank and locate their favorite pictures. The new Hover Thumbnail enlarges image tiles in the Library whenever the mouse hovers above them, making it easy to view the image along with details such as date taken, resolution and file type. And new Video Support in the Library offers consumers the option to view and organize their videos in the same place as their photos. They can easily assign Ratings, add Keywords and Flags in the same way they are able to do with photos.

PressPass: It sounds like Digital Image Suite 2006 is very useful to the novice digital photographer; does the software also have the functionality and features to cater to digital photographers at other levels of expertise? 

Lopez: Consumers are becoming more familiar with digital cameras and most have had their first digital camera for a while, or are already purchasing their second or third.  Now, many consumers want more robust software and need a program that has the power to do it all. Digital Image Suite has the flexibility to allow consumers to grow their photography skills with advanced editing features like the Exposure & Lighting and Color & Saturation toolsets. These toolsets provide powerful control over the levels and curves of a photograph. Expert photographers will also appreciate the RAW support for Canon and Nikon cameras. Helpful tutorials, instructional videos and how-to guides are also available for those who are still getting up to speed but want to learn and grow in the art of digital photography. 

PressPass: Outside of editing and organizing, what else can consumers do with Digital Image Suite 2006?

Lopez: With Digital Image Suite 2006, the sky is the creative limit. It’s fun and easy to create personalized photo projects like cards, calendars, scrapbook pages, wedding invitations. More than 5,000 clip art images, 3,000 designer photo project templates, 200 photo effects filters, text effects, drawing and painting tools, Adobe Photoshop plug-in filter support, and Alien Skin plug-in filters help make projects a snap..

Consumers can also turn photos into video with Photo Story 3.1.  Add custom pan and zoom effects, narrate your story and incorporate or create music. The Photo Story can be played on a PC, or burned to a VCD and played on a DVD player. You can even send it via e-mail or publish it to the Web!

PressPass: The growing trend of sharing photos online through e-mail and Web sites seems to be at an all-time high. Does Digital Image Suite 2006 have any features to complement sharing?

Lopez: We know communicating with others is the number one activity people do online, and this includes sharing photos. Digital Image Suite makes it one-click easy to save photos in a format that is optimized for sharing them through e-mail, on mobile devices or posting on the Web. For example, there is a Web-ready Save As option, making it fool-proof to share photos online without having to worry about file type or size. Consumers can set a default e-mail program, such as Microsoft Outlook, or upload photos directly to MSN Photos with a subscription to MSN Premium. Another great option is MSN Spaces, a free service for creating a personal place on the Web where consumers can easily display pictures via a photo album slide show.

PressPass: Additionally, digital camcorder sales are on the rise all over the world, growing at a double-digital pace the past two years. Has Microsoft come up with a solution to address the growing number of consumers with digital camcorders?

Lopez: Microsoft has partnered with Pinnacle to create Digital Image Suite PLUS – a total digital imaging solution that provides the everyday digital photographer with the best of digital photo and video editing software in one powerful and easy-to-use package. Digital Image Suite PLUS combines Digital Image Suite 2006 with Pinnacle Studio version 10. Pinnacle Studio brings the ease of its intuitive three-step movie creation process and the power to quickly and reliably capture precious memories from photos, videos and audio from all popular consumer electronic devices. It also intuitively walks consumers through adding groundbreaking effects, like Pan-and-Zoom, music and titles to create blockbuster home movies for preserving and sharing on DVD, the Web and beyond.

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