One of the big themes for this year's PMA in Las Vegas was online printing. Seeing the market in the same way as mobile phone company see ringtones, its likely to be a big business with all the major players getting involved in some form or another.

Worried that consumers are merely saving their images on to the hard drive, camera makers, software houses and mobile phone companies are all clambering over eachother to offer an easy online solution.

HP has Snapfish, Kodak its EasyShare Gallery, Canon its Image Gateway, Apple it iPhoto software, Google its Picsca, Nokia and Yahoo Flickr. Even Adobe is about to get into the action with an online version of it Photoshop Elements that allows like the others listed above, its users the chance to edit and share photos on the go.

"We offer Snapfish with our cameras so it becomes a complete ecosystem", Larry Lesely, senior vice president, Digital Photography and Entertainment Worldwide told us. "Take the photo, share it and then print it. You can order prints and then collect them 24 hours later at your local Jessops in the UK. In the US its within the hour at some outlets."

This need to get professional quality prints without the hassle of buying a new printer is what, according to some commentators is driving the market, especially as services get faster, quality becomes better and the overall cost comes down.

Five years ago to design a book and then get it printed would cost you a fortune. Now you can get them made from as little as £10 and the company will provide you with the software to do it.

But its not just 6 x 4 prints customers want. People want books, mugs, t-shirts and everything in between. In fact, "HP sees the future in online photo printing in everything but 4 x 6 prints", said Vyomesh (VJ) Joshi, HP's worldwide executive vice president, Imaging and Printing Group at his keynote speech at PMA in Las Vegas. "As 6 x 4 prints start to slow we are looking to offer books, posters, clothing and everything else."

And that urge to get stuff printed outside the home is growing, HP's Snapfish has over 35 million customers, while Kodak's EasyShare gallery has 55 million.

In the UK Photobox last year announced it had a turnover of £20 million and over 3 million members. In only the last two months HP claims is has printed via Snapfish over 95 million photos for customers around the globe.

Yet not all see the move to offering an expansive line-up of printing options as the way forward.

"It's not worth the investment because we don't see it as add-on printing sales. We want to stay focused on printing at home", Canon's UK Country Director, Alessandro Stanzani, told us.

Canon, who offer Image Gateway, an online storage and printing service, don't according to its Company Director, seem to be enjoying the same kind of numbers as HP and Kodak.

"Only 3 percent of our 6 million camera sales each year go on to use the Image Gateway online service", Stanzani continued. "We just can't compete with the likes of Google."

Perhaps suffering the same worries that Magazine publishers have over online content, Canon stance is that printing at home is the more preferred answer than offering a solution online. Unlike HP who offers users the chance to print to their printer or the online printing service from the same software, Canon's Image Gateway software isn't as integral to the offering.

Canon hasn't ruled out doing a deal with a third party in the future like Flickr, but Alessandro Stanzani says "they haven't got anything on the horizon at the moment".

HP however sees it very differently "We understand that people want to print from home and we aren't about to stop offering printers, but there are those, including those customers who print from home, that also want to print and share images via the internet", says Larry Lesley from HP. "Snapfish lets you do that."

"With more and more cameras starting to offer wireless connectivity sharing and printing your images online will become easier", a spokesman for Sony told us.

Sony's latest camera announced at PMA features the ability to share your images with 3 other cameras in a network or online if are with a wireless hotspot. Likewise Kodak's Easyshare One, announced last year, allows you to connect via T-Mobile hotspots to upload your images to its gallery for sharing or printing. Nikon and Canon offer a wireless connection to a nearby PC although only if you are in a unencrypted network.

HP, Pentax, Olympus and Samsung are still left to announce a solution, however HP sites its reason on usability issues. "We want people to be able to use the camera easily rather than having to worry about typing in passwords and usernames", said Larry Lesley from HP.

With smaller company's offering no end of printing options from woven rugs to lockets to wear around your neck, finding printing solutions will never be a problem for today's modern photographer.

The camera industry has worked out that if it does nothing then our images will be left to gather dust on our hard drives. If it comes up with a solution that can convince us to part with our cash then that's the route it is going to take whether we like it or not.