New move from Canon into photo services

Canon Europe has announced the acquisition of UK software developer Kite, whose eponymous plug-in can be embedded in any mobile device app or website enabling businesses to print and ship photo products anywhere in the world. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It’s an interesting move by the world’s leading camera maker and comes with an observation by Alberto Spinelli, senior director of digital services at Canon Europe, that 90 percent of all personal snapshots are taken on mobile phones.

‘We’ve been trying to address the question of how do we grow our business and become more relevant to new audiences,’ he said.

Canon already has a photo printing business in many markets, based on its Dreamlabo high volume inkjet printer. In Australia it’s called PhotoPico.com.au

The Kite acquisition follows Canon’s purchase of Lifecake, a London-based photo sharing service aimed at families. Spinelli said Canon would consider further acquisitions as it builds its digital print service offerings.

Kite, which was founded in 2013 in London, is a simple piece of software that enables customers to take a photo from their smartphone and have it printed on a personalized product. Kite offers iOS and Android SDKs and a ‘REST-based API’ (don’t ask me!) to enable developers to add personalised print products to their offerings. Kite handles the back-end for print-based e-commerce: the software; a large range of products; and local printers and fulfilment. The range runs from phone cases through to clothes, mugs, posters, canvas prints and photo books. It offers fairly high-priced square and Polaroid-format prints but not conventional sizes. 

Kite provides a set of software developer tools that allows programmers to build the service into their apps or websites and takes a percentage of the purchase price.

Kite claims its technology is used by more than 500 firms – including Polaroid and photo sharing services and online photo services businesses such as PhotoBox (and Lifecake, of course), and has been installed on more than 200 million mobile devices.

‘The acquisition of Kite really enhances our proposition,’ said Spinelli. ‘It makes it really simple to translate the photo on the phone into a physical keepsake.’

He said that Kite’s software could be integrated into Canon’s existing hardware devices, including printers and digital cameras.


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