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Callisto Corporation

Riding the digital photography wave.

Over the last few years, digital camera use has boomed, leaving camera makers thrilled at the consumer response. But another group is benefiting from the new technology as well: software makers who create ways to download, showcase and swap digital photos. Callisto Corporation offers PhotoParade, a way for shutterbugs to create and share slideshows and screen savers with their digital pictures. CEO and founder Mike Barta shares his thoughts on how Callisto is riding a very big wave.

Your company started as a groupware developer. How did you make the transition into consumer-focused digital photo software?

In early 1990, a year after the company was founded, we began development of Meeting Maker, a network-based product, designed to facilitate scheduling meetings. Between 1992 and 1998, we completed more than sixteen product development projects for Davidson & Associates (now the Knowledge Adventure subsidiary of Havas Software), including Algeblaster, Typing Tutor 7 and Ultimate Speed Reader. We handled all aspects of developing these educational software products, including design, development, asset production, and quality assurance testing.

In 1997, we recognized that the consumer digital photography sector was poised for extraordinary growth and decided to focus our efforts on developing solutions to the complexities that users experience when performing the simple tasks they are most interested in, such as displaying, sharing, and archiving their photos.

What kind of complexities do users have when working with digital photography?

There is a general consensus in the photography industry that as consumers migrate over to digital cameras, they will shoot many more photos because they will no longer incur film purchasing and development costs. There is also consensus that consumers will print a much smaller percentage of their total number of digital camera photos because, unlike film, they can now preview the photos and print only the ones they choose to print. The companies selling prints are hoping that consumers will still make as many or more total prints as with film, but this remains to be seen.

The problem with digital photos is that if you don’t print them, how do you go about doing all of the things consumers typically do with traditional film prints? These activities include looking at the photos, showing them to others, giving copies of them to others, and possibly putting them into some kind of album as a “set” of photos that tell a story. PhotoParade was developed to enable a consumer to do the digital equivalent of what they are used to doing with their film photos, and still want to do with their digital photos, without needing to print them.

How is PhotoParade different from other programs that showcase digital pictures?

Our products are painstakingly designed to be easy to learn and use, and to include only the features that consumers truly need. The average consumer is not willing to invest too much time or effort in learning how to use any software. The product is unique in that it combines high-quality animation, graphics, narration, music, sound effects, and text titling with a consumer’s photos. Utilizing an extremely engaging and simple interface, PhotoParade is designed to make the process of creating and sharing a digital photo slideshow as easy as possible. A first-time user can typically achieve a satisfying, finished result with PhotoParade in less than 10 minutes.

Our software lets users quickly and easily create slideshows and screensavers that can be shared with friends and family, and the results are so professional looking, that customers often write to let us know their friends think they are computer geniuses.

Do you find that digital photo organization is a growing need, despite the economic climate?

Sales of digital camera have continued to grow at a rapid rate in spite of the economic climate, which means many more people are taking digital photos. The widespread use of scanners to digitize photos and the availability of services that allow consumers to receive a CD with their images when they have film developed, has also contributed to the growth. As anyone who starts to shoot digitally can tell you, it doesn’t take long before you need good software tools to help you manage and display your growing collection of photos.

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