PMA 2001: In a surprise press release this morning it appears that Kodak and Olympus will be joining forces, they've both announced a cross licensing agreement to work together to develop digital photography technology. We'll bring you more information on this alliance as soon as we know it.

UPDATE 20:20 GMT: After attenting a breakfast meeting this morning with Kodak it appears that Olympus will be using Kodak sensors in some of its future products, it's also clear that Kodak will be sharing some of its image science technology with Olympus.

Press release:

Kodak and Olympus Join Forces to Drive Digital Photography Growth Olympus and Kodak Agree on Cross Licensing Digital Camera Technologies

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Eastman Kodak Company and Olympus Optical Company, Ltd. today announced a cross licensing agreement designed to expand the market for digital photography. The agreement includes the mutual cross licensing of patented digital camera technologies. Financial terms of the cross-licensing agreement have not been disclosed.

In addition, both parties have agreed to work together to promote improved digital printing of images so that consumers will be able to find better ways of storing and printing pictures. This service is expected to utilize Kodak Internet capabilities, including the Print@Kodak Internet photofinishing service and Kodak PhotoNet Online.

Kodak owns a portfolio of more than one thousand patents relating to digital cameras and digital photography systems, including megapixel camera architectures, fundamental and advanced image processing algorithms, CCD and CMOS image sensors, and convergence devices-such as digital camera / printer devices, digital camera / PDA devices, and digital camera / cell phone devices.

"Olympus also owns a patent portfolio of more than one thousand patents. This agreement gives Kodak and Olympus the ability to develop better technologies and products, which will encourage more people to try new ways of taking and sharing their photographs,'' said Yusuke Kojima, General Manager, Digital Imaging Division, Olympus Optical Co. Ltd.

Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. is one of the leading manufacturers of digital cameras, and will be broadening the consumer digital camera market using high-resolution CCDs. Kodak and Olympus are working together to define and develop these high-resolution CCDs, which Kodak will manufacture and Olympus intends to purchase.

"The experience and patent portfolio that Olympus holds in the area of digital camera components, optics and printers will make the collaboration between Kodak and Olympus even greater. This will benefit consumers long term and will help drive industry growth,'' said Kojima

Kodak has initiated a broad digital camera patent licensing program and is committed to making its patented technologies available to the marketplace. Kodak is currently in negotiations with other digital camera manufacturers.

"We look forward to working with Olympus, to evangelize the ease and fun of digital technologies to consumers,'' said Willy Shih, president, Digital & Applied Imaging and senior vice president, Eastman Kodak Company. "Kodak has made substantial investments in the development of digital cameras, image sensors and online photo services for almost twenty-five years, and by licensing the fruits of these investments, we can work with the industry worldwide to deliver better products and services to market.''

Kodak and Olympus have each pioneered the development of digital camera technology since the mid-1970s, and are recognized throughout the industry as leaders in digital imaging technology. Kodak developed the first working digital camera prototype, and the first single-sensor color imager, nearly 25 years ago. Olympus launched an 810,000 pixel CCD digital camera in 1996, which captured consumers' attention to the promise of high-quality digital imaging. More recently, Olympus developed the first 4 megapixel camera for the consumer and pro-sumer markets.