A Sneak-Peek Pic from FrameChannel

Sneak-peek screenshot of new FrameChannel UI due in February

Chances are reasonably high that you’ve never heard of FrameChannel. Wireless photo frames are still new in consumer adoption terms, and the idea of a content provider for these frames is a bit counter-intuitive. (Aren’t you just supposed to put your own pics on them?) Nonetheless, FrameChannel is expanding rapidly. At CES, FrameChannel was represented in about twenty different booths, and over the holiday season, ten different companies sold digital frames with access to FrameChannel content. Since its founding two years ago, parent company FrameMedia has inked deals with 30-40 providers including Reuters, Getty Images, People.com, WeatherBug, and at least one financial news aggregator. Want RSS feeds of your own photos from one the many online photo sites? You can get that with FrameChannel too.

FrameMedia has a good head start in what promises to be an interesting new media space. Think of a customized online portal, and then picture it on a frame in your living room. Microsoft’s interested, and has its own beta FrameIt service (more on that later). There’s also reason for other large aggregators like Yahoo and Google to get in on the game. But, for right now, FrameChannel appears to be ahead of everyone. And FrameMedia has a plan for it to stay that way.

In talking to COO and co-founder Jon Feingold last week, the key to FrameChannel’s future success is both distribution and the ability to deliver content intelligently. For example, if you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook, or there’s a live game happening with one of your favorite sports teams, FrameMedia’s goal is to have FrameChannel deliver that data when it’s important to you, i.e. in the moment, but probably not so much in a week, or two, or three. FrameMedia is also laser focused on integrating with as many photo sharing sites and social networks as possible. The company wants to make sure you can access your content no matter where it’s stored, in addition to the best of everything else on the Web.

From my own perspective, FrameChannel has a lot going for it, but it’s also up against some serious competition, present and future. Microsoft recently announced FrameIt integration with Windows Live Mesh, making the application capable of syncing automatically with your other devices. And on the TV front, I can’t imagine behemoths like Amazon are going to sit still while FrameChannel attempts to take over the living room. Feingold says that FrameMedia is in active talks to bring FrameChannel to an operator or carrier platform, and is not ignoring the TV as a critical display device for its content. That strategy is likely to draw attention from competitors and ultimately increase competitive pressure. A lot of companies have a big stake in the connected living room.

For now, FrameChannel is a stealthy and successful invader in the wireless photo frame market. Much of its long-term success will depend on expansion and adoption in the next 12-18 months.

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