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Walgreens — yes Walgreens — has released an application programming interface (API) and a software development kit (SDK) to allow mobile developers to enable photo printing from Android and iPhone smartphones. The company has opened a developer portal (and a new Twitter account) to support mobile programmers who are enabling photo printing to 7,907 Walgreens locations across the country.

Jasbir Patel, a director at Walgreens Photo, said that almost a third of photos taken today are snapped on a smartphone, not a dedicated camera.

Already, photo apps such as GroupShot, Kicksend, and StillShot have partnered with the company and integrated printing to Walgreens into their apps. In addition, Walgreens is aiming for massive scale by partnering with Aviary, a software library or set of components that enable developers to very quickly and easily integrate photo functionality into their apps.

Aviary is currently in use by about 1,200 apps with eight million users … and as TechCrunch revealed today, Walgreens participated in the company’s recent $6 million round of investment.

This announcement helps Walgreens’ photo printing business remain relevant in an Instagram age in which no-one is taking rolls of film to their neighborhood drug store for developing.

But the real story here is that what we think of as traditional businesses are no longer traditional businesses.

Brick-and-mortar enterprises need APIs just as much as Google and Amazon need APIs. In an era when the government has APIs and your neighborhood drug store has APIs, it’s getting hard to imagine a business with any scale whatsoever that couldn’t use one or more APIs.

“An API shows a business is mature and successful … it’s become a platform,” Yossi Mlynsky, founder and chief executive of Alt Tab Mobile told VentureBeat. “Walgreens should release an API for prescription drugs next.”

It’s part of the digitization of everything. Grocery stores need APIs. Businesses of all kinds — stores such as Walgreens and other non-technology companies — that five years ago could never have imagined building and offering an API, may now see the utility in providing multiple APIs: for shopping cart integrations, for integrating project management for a large construction company, for photo printing of course.

With this announcement, Walgreens just became one of the leaders of the followers.

Image credit: Phillip Pessar/Flickr


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