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Digital frames audition for home's 'third screen'

Posted: 12 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital photo frame? home third screen? wireless connection?

Digital photo frame is emerging as a connected "third screen" at home, and the product's evolution has chip suppliers, consumer electronics companies and even wireless carriers seeing dollar signs.

Connected digital photo frames drew crowds at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona saw a host of cellular carriers in hot pursuit of the platform. New models from leading digital photo frame OEMs are slated to debut in March at the Photo Marketing Association International Convention.

Stephen Tomlin, CEO of Chumby Industries, has called the digital photo frame "a new class of personal consumer device that [is] neither PC nor mobile phone."

But is it? Perhaps, with caveats. Wirelessly connected digital photo frames, sources said, stand to succeed as a new consumer class if they can avoid the usual snares: feature creep, complicated interfaces and pricing that overshoots consumers' expectations.

Developers and marketers are already proposing a dizzying array of variations on the concept: a kitchen countertop TV/radio or a bedroom alarm clock to a messaging board on a fridge, a home VoIP phone, and even a femtocell-embedded digital photo frame to extend phone coverage in the home. The only common denominator is an electronic frame able to display a consumer's treasured images.

Marvell is among the companies talking about the emerging consumer category in breathless terms. "A major revolution is happening," said Kishore Manghnani, VP for application processors at the company's consumer and computing business group, calling the digital photo frame "the first member of [a new category of] connected consumer devices."

The new photo frames can now tap processing powerat consumer-friendly pricesthat rivals or even betters that of notebooks and smart phones, along with Wi-Fi capability and even 3G data cards. Marvell recently rolled out an application processor based on its Sheeva CPU core, running at up to 1.2GHz. Manghnani said the company developed the device for the connected digital photo frame market, which Marvell believes is "just about to take off."

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