Already, many digital photo frames serve as multimedia centers that play music and video from a variety of storage media. Some even access photos over the Internet. They don't necessarily do a great job of performing these functions — yet. But clearly, they have the potential to become a major access point for a variety of online services and content.
For instance, many wireless operators see 3G-enabled digital frames as a tool for breaking into the home market — a market that, until now, has eluded them.
The digital frame I bought my wife does a fantastic job of displaying JPEGs. The images are clean and sharp, with good color balance. But now that I’ve used the frame for a while, I’m beginning to wish that it had a more robust operating system and application stack. For instance, I would like really like:
- Wi-Fi support — Some frames support this, and I can see why. It lets you view your latest photos without having to use the Sneakernet.
- A Flickr widget — Lots of people store and share their photos on social media sites like Flickr. A Flickr widget would let me view my online photos, as well as any photos that friends and colleagues have posted.
- A YouTube widget — Because what good is a digital frame if it doesn’t let you watch silly animal clips?
- Custom slideshows — Lots of photo programs, including PhotoShop Elements, let you tag photos with arbitrary terms like "birthday" or "vacation" or "trip to Italy". A digital frame that supports tags would let me create custom slideshows on the fly.
- Custom MP3 playlists — My wife's digital frame lets me play songs stored in a specific folder, but it doesn’t let me generate playlists on the fly. For instance, if I'm watching a slideshow on my wedding, I might want to select a romantic song and ask the digital frame to "play more music like this."
- Integration with iPods and other music players — My wife's digital frame can play MP3 files stored on USB sticks and other flash media, but it doesn't seem to work with iPods and other similar devices. How many people store their music collection on a USB stick?
- Better screen fonts — My wife's digital frame doesn't truncate long file names (thank goodness), but in many cases, you can't still can't see the full file name of an image because the text font is too large and too wide.
- Adobe Flash user interface — The graphical menus on my wife's digital frame are okay, but they'd look a lot slicker implemented in Flash. Also, by supporting Flash, the frame could play Flash movies downloaded from the Internet.