If you didn't already know, Microsoft released beta 2 of their new OS, Windows XP, yesterday. Windows XP has several enhancements to make it more "Multimedia friendly", including picture folders views, automatic thumbnailing and even automatic recognition of digital cameras and media along with automatic transfer of images from them. Ofoto have put out a press release that their photosharing / photofinishing services are now available through Wnidows XP...

Ofoto press release:

OFOTO'S ONLINE PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES FEATURED IN MICROSOFT WINDOWS XP BETA 2

New Service Enables Windows XP Beta 2 Users To Quickly and Easily Order High Quality Photographic Prints of Their Digital Images

EMERYVILLE, Calif. - March 26, 2001 - Ofoto, Inc. (www.ofoto.com), the online photography service, is included in the Windows XP beta 2 release that Microsoft is delivering today to thousands of beta testers. This service makes it fast and easy for Windows XP beta 2 users to order film-quality, silver-halide prints from their digital images. To get prints, customers simply choose pictures from their My Pictures folder, click on the Order Prints from the Internet feature and select Ofoto to place their order. Ofoto offers 4 x 6", 5 x 7", and 8 x 10" prints, as well as wallet-size prints which are ideal for low-resolution images. With a quarter of all Internet households now owning digital cameras (up from 13 percent in 1999 according to InfoTrends Research Group), and some analysts predicting digital camera sales will exceed those of film by 2002, consumers are increasingly seeking the ability to easily obtain high-quality prints from their digital images.

Ofoto's service provided with Windows XP beta 2 helps answer that need with an easy interface right on the desktop. "We're thrilled to have been selected by Microsoft to provide this service," said James Joaquin, president and CEO, Ofoto, Inc. "By taking advantage of Windows and the Microsoft.Net architecture, we're able to integrate our photo services with the desktop and reach a whole new audience of customers." Ofoto and Microsoft developers have worked together for the past five months to link Ofoto's back-end printing architecture with the Windows desktop operating system for managing and printing images. Windows XP, the new Windows from Microsoft with a brand new look, is built on an enhanced Windows 2000 engine and enables exciting new experiences that give users the freedom to unlock the possibilities of the digital world.

"Windows XP provides a complete digital photo experience, enabling customers to order film-quality prints from digital images," said Shawn Sanford, Group Product Manager for Microsoft. "Microsoft is pleased to have Ofoto as part of the Windows XP beta 2 release." Ofoto, Inc. (www.ofoto.com) is an online photography service offering digital and film processing, top quality prints, private online image storing and sharing, editing and creative tools and frames, cards and other merchandise. Founded in July 1999, Ofoto runs its own digital photo lab and offers 24-hour customer support.

Ofoto also prints for partners such as Amazon.com, Corbis, Excite@Home, Getty Images, HP, Intel, PhotosToGo and Sony's ImageStation. Based in Emeryville, California, Ofoto is run by an experienced team of owner-managers and is a privately held company with funding from Apple Computer, The Barksdale Group, Benchmark Capital Partners, HP, Index Ventures and the Rosewood Venture Group.

Phil: This press release is a little misleading, you can choose which company you use to order prints. While this is good news for the simplification of the whole digital imaging process I can only get excited about it if Microsoft ensure that they have a fair (and open) representation of online photo finishing companies when you get to the "Select the Internet Printing Company" selection box, currently (as far as I know) you can only choose from Ofoto and Print@Kodak.

UPDATE 28/March/2001: Thanks to reader Colin McLaughlan for asking about this on the Microsoft beta newsgroup, here's the answer Microsoft gave:

From: "Jason F. Moore [MS]"
Subject: Re: [2642] Online Photo Services
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 17:13:17 -0800

Colin, we are currently working on an SDK that will be made public for anyone to build services for Order Prints or Web Publishing. Currently, we are working with a few partners to get started and test the feature. Thanks for the feedback!

jason f. moore
program manager - whistler shell
microsoft

Click here for an example of the new "My Pictures" folder layout