There's no doubt that modern technology has improved many facets of life, from important medical discoveries to fun things like intricately styled computer games. The place where technology hasn't made things better is in the area of photo printing.
Being able to take high resolution photos with your mobile device nowadays is a great thing, but printing them is entirely another story.
How many cherished pictures still live inside your smartphone or laptop? And pulling out a bunch of cords and flash drives to transfer pics can be a cumbersome task, not to mention having to go to the store to print the darn things out.
Walgreens just partnered with the file-sharing company Kicksend, to make the digital photo printing experience a bit less painless. Consumers will now be able to send photos from their iPhone directly to their local Walgreens and pick them up in an hour’s time.
For those not familiar with Kicksend, it's a file sharing startup founded by friends and recent college grads Brendan Lim and Pradeep Elankumaran, who were eager to develop a new product based on an unfulfilled consumer need.
The two entrepreneurs applied for and received funding through the company Y Combinator, which gives seed money to promising start-ups and helps morph ideas into successful businesses.
Once Kicksend was underway it allowed users to send photos with no size limitation through a web or desktop app. But the company grew from there.
Later that same year the pair of friends experienced even more luck, receiving $1.8 million in additional funding from venture capital firm True Ventures, turning their file sharing start-up company into major social media players.
At the close of 2011, Kicksend took advantage of the enormous smartphone craze and partnered with iPhone to create a new app, and eventually created an app for Android users.
Photos can be sent to any email address regardless of carrier, and recipients don't have to be members of Kicksend or download its app to receive photos.
Elankumaran and Lim came up with Kicksend because they wanted an easier way to share photos with their parents, who lived far away, and weren't too savvy when it when it came to file sharing.
"We were separated from our families. My parents are non-technical. They're a perfect case" said Elankumaran in an interview.
Not only can users send or receive photos from friends or family members on their smartphones, from a 2,700 mile distance, they can instantly send photos to a near-by Walgreens, instead of going to the store and waiting on line.
This is a good move for Walgreens, as the company is one of the few remaining store-chains consumers still use to print pictures. And linking itself with Kicksend will not only increase the store's foot-traffic, but it will also give it a splash of youth coolness.
It's a perfect time for Walgreens to cater to that sect of the buying public who prefer taking photos on smartphones rather than on cameras.
Camera sales tank
According to the market research firm IC Insights, the digital camera industry continues to see extremely low sales. Shipments of digital hand-held cameras have dropped to 9 percent between the years of 2005 and 2010, according to the report. And between 2010 and 2015 shipments are estimated to grow by only 2.1 percent each year.
It seems that handheld cameras for the non-photographer may soon just be a blurry memory, similar to the home answering machine.
Abhi Dhar, Walgreen's chief technology officer for the store's e-commerce division, agrees that smartphones are the way consumers are taking pictures nowadays, and it's only good business to accommodate them by making photo printing easier.
"For us to be able to tap into the creativity and innovation that is happening was an opportunity that we couldn't pass by," he said in a statement. "When we saw the amount of interest that consumers have in using their smartphones as photo-taking devices, it was natural to take where consumers demand was and link it with what we saw to be a strong part of our offering."
Elanjumaran also believes this is a productive step towards meeting consumers where they are, in terms of accessing services quickly and easily through digital means.
"We're all about empowering everyday people to stay in touch with people they care about," he said. "And our brand new, incredible seamless photo printing experience through Walgreen' QuickPrints is a big step in that direction. There is no better way to share and keep your memories with the people you love."
It will be interesting to see if consumers find Walgreens' new print feature as convenient as promised, as the concept sounds great on paper. But it's what happens off paper that one needs to pay attention to.