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KODAK SETS DIGITAL-IMAGING THRUST

Eastman Kodak Co. Chairman George Fisher next Tuesday will lay down his biggest bet since becoming boss of the Rochester-based photo giant 16 months ago.

In a slick Silicon Valley-style marketing event, Fisher will roll out his strategy, deals and products for developing what he has described as Kodak's growth engine of the late 1990s and beyond -- digital imaging.

A $1,000 digital camera, licensing pacts for its PhotoCD technology with personal computer makers, strategic alliances with other companies, and scanners and printers for professionals will be announced at a San Francisco news conference, industry sources said.

"Kodak wants to put a stake in the ground and say it's the leader in digital imaging," said Tim Bajarian, an industry consultant with Creative Strategies.

Traditional film and camera sales grow only slowly and face still more competition from digital imaging, or electronic photography, which is growing cheaper and technically more sophisticated every year.

"Devices will become central in digital imaging, as the processing of film is eliminated," Bajarian said.

Much processing of film and photographs, along with the huge amounts of Kodak papers and others supplies used in traditional print-making, may be eliminated, he said.

Kodak declined to comment on the San Francisco event, other than to say Fisher and Carl Grusin, a former Apple Computer Inc. executive who now heads Kodak's digital businesses, will give major televised talks in San Francisco on Tuesday. The speeches will be carried live to New York, Washington and London and televised later in Sydney and Tokyo.

"It's as close as we can make it to a live global news event," a Kodak spokesman said.

Industry sources said Kodak was talking to telecommunications companies AT&T and Sprint about employing Kodak technology to carry digital images such as X-rays over long-distance lines but that any deals were unlikely to be announced Tuesday.

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