Wi-Fi Photo Frame the New Trojan Horse?

Photo courtesy of the Kodak PluggedIn Blog

While gaming consoles are still attempting to make good on their role as Trojan Horse in the living room , I have a new candidate for the job: Wi-Fi photo frames. As ridiculous as that sounds, a WI-Fi photo frame is really nothing more than an IP-based display, capable of receiving IP-based content. This year at CES I saw at least two digital frames (Kodak and GiiNii) drawing content from Web sources. Once Mom buys one of these frames to show off photos of little Jimmy, it’s only a short, logical step to using it for convenient weather updates, tips, horoscopes, sports scores, and more. Yes, we’re back to my favorite topic: the widget station.

Many companies are attempting to break open the widget-station market, from the Chumby makers, to Verizon and AT&T, to Logitech with its Harmony remotes (sort of) and even the Squeezebox. However, two things are clear to me. First, widget stations are only going to be successful if they are first embedded in households for another purpose. And second, the best widget station will be one that is already designed to act as a visual display.

TVs/set-tops have already pushed their way into the widget market, and we’ll see more from that direction in the near future, but I believe there’s room for another device in the home that gives access to quick, visual, Web-based information. The question is, how far will Wi-Fi photo frames go? Will they become a regular source of video in addition to static content? Will they eventually act as touch-screen, home controllers? I don’t know, but I bet we’ll see the next iteration by CES 2010.

12 thoughts on “Wi-Fi Photo Frame the New Trojan Horse?”

  1. Don’t underestimate the challenge in getting WiFi set up in grandma’s house.

    A giant iPhone-photo frame with 3G data access would make that much easier, zero config, worth $5 or $10 a month from the cell phone companies…

    Starts sounding like an Apple tablet, doesn’t it?

  2. I have been a happy customer of Ceiva for many years now. They offer a photo frame that connects to a standard telephone jack. The frame dials in once a day to download new pictures. Pictures are sent via a website or through plugins for iPhoto or Photoshop Elements.

    I use the Ceiva’s at the houses of grandparents and great grandparents. They don’t have to do anything but look at it. I send photos from my end. Most of them don’t even have internet access at their houses, much less WiFi, so the telephone connection is VERY nice. My only complaint with the service is the cost ($100 per year), but since I keep paying for it, I guess it is priced appropriately! :)

    With this usage scenario, these frames are not about “pictures” really. What they really do is allow the other people to vicariously watch their grandchildren grow up. I try and update content weekly/bi-weekly. The #1 hardest part about this is “feeding the beast”. The demand for content remains very high, and I have to make a determined effort to keep uploading pictures.

    I am interested in a non-telephone based frame so that I can get the same photo feed for my office or home without the annual fee. I do have Internet & WiFi..;)

  3. I got my mom one of the original dialup Ceivas several years ago. But by the time the year of service was up, she’d already stuck it in a closet and I didn’t pay to renew. (And I was bad about shipper her new pictures to look at.) I think the new models use Ethernet or LAN.

    Spark, Wonder if there’s a way to roll your own via a custom RSS feed or something. I’m imagine someone’s already solved this, it’s just a matter of Googling it.

  4. Yes, custom RSS feeds work with a lot of wifi photo frames. FrameChannel has a blog where they review a lot of frames, and if it’s FrameChannel compatible it almost certainly lets you put in any Media RSS feed. FrameChannel is another company after the “trojan horse” you describe. For me, I’m more interested in photo frames as photo frames. I run http://ourdoings.com/ (a photo-sharing site) and AFAICT it has better wifi photo frame support than any other.

  5. Dave,

    I do think the remote photoframe for viewing the grandkids is interesting, though yet to be seen what kind of monthly cost people would be willing to bear. I’d be more inclined to go with a “Kindle” service model of don’t charge me unless I change the pictures…

    My favorite for the next category that might blow up big would be the “kitchen touchscreen”. A touchscreen model with a decent sized screen (15″?), a touchscreen interface, and Wifi. Good family-calendaring software (like the new Palm Pre?) that can gather calendar data from multiple places live off the web. Contacts. Sticky notes. Weather widget. Reminders. Recipes. Web video. Music streaming. Etc.

    Course the category has been tried before, but there’s some advantages to the kinds of things that can be built now. In particular, using netbook guts they can be sold for very low prices, see Eee Top. I think netbook pricing has shown the way here–if its cheap enough it won’t be the ONLY PC you’ve got, just one more.

    The whole touchscreen thing might even be doable with Windows 7. Problem is ASUS probably can’t deliver the software needed to make this useful. Probably means it will come from HP or somebody like that. Which means it’ll be too expensive.

    We’ll just have to see what happens.

    Myself I might pick up a Dell Studio Hybrid, one of the other category of small/low-power media center PCs that just might start selling a few more this year. For watching Hulu etc. Thinking Boxee might do the job though…

  6. Check out the Smartparts SPX8WF. It is WiFi and feeds from Microsoft FrameIt and comes with its own email address that you can send photos to.

  7. Geof, don’t get too excited about that email address. Just point the frame at a photo-sharing service that lets you upload by email. OurDoings lets you create as many addresses as you want, so you can give one out to everybody at a party, then remove it 2 weeks later while keeping another in your phone the whole time, for example.

  8. johnny0- I almost added a line about an Apple tablet. Problem is, Apple doesn’t want to bring the cost down to where it would need to be for this kind of device. Spend money on an Apple tablet, and I doubt it’ll stay in one place to be a display.

    Bruce- I have a call set up with FrameChannel next week. Very interested in their future plans.

    Glenn- My husband and I have been talking about creating our own connected kitchen display for years, for calendaring, contacts, etc. Would love to have someone do it for me. But again, I don’t know that anyone can create that market without the device already being something people use.

  9. I look forward to your FrameChannel coverage. I’d like to know more about them.

    I think you’re right that wifi photo frames aren’t widely used yet. One of the features I implemented to support them is an obvious one that anybody who owned one would ask for, but no other photo-sharing sites have it. That tells me these devices aren’t on their radar yet.

  10. I have to say that Wi-fi photoframes ar4e something that I haven’t seen before and while they seem like a useful concept, I think there is a more problems that could arise from these. Thanks Kim xx

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