Microsoft likes digital photography enthusiasts as customers, and on Thursday plans to release a free new utility designed to keep them wedded to Windows.
Pro Photo Tools is geared for photography professionals and enthusiasts, and its first notable feature is the ability to geotag photos, or add geographic information showing where the picture was taken. Geotagging is an onerous chore with today's technology, but camera makers are working to build it into cameras, and it can pay off down the road.
That's because geotagging, done well, enables people to find photos by searching for the word "Paris" rather than sifting through folders with obscure filenames like IMG_5829.jpg or squinting at hundreds of image thumbnails. Until the still-distant day when computers can recognize your Aunt Polly or the Grand Canyon, geotagging holds potential as a way for people to get a handle on ever-growing digital photo collections.
"People are doing a lot more geotagging, but it's still somewhat cumbersome," said Josh Weisberg, Microsoft's director of digital imaging evangelism. "We want to make it mainstream."
Geotagging is just the opening salvo, though. Pro Photo Tools can be extended with new features; Microsoft is working on some and is considering whether to allow other companies also join in, Weisberg said.
"We've talked about making it extensible to third parties, but...It's a big question. I haven't decided yet whether we're going to do it," Weisberg said.
Looking at the digital photography software market, it's easy to imagine Adobe Systems is a competitor. But it looks to me like this is actually positioned more against Apple whose computers are popular among "creative professionals" and come with iPhoto editing software.
Weisberg shied away from competitive analysis, but agreed that Pro Photo Tools is designed to help make Windows more compelling. "It's focused on making the platform better for photographers," Weisberg said.