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More Vendors Add Digital Frames As Market Balloons

Las Vegas — Befitting the explosive category growth of 2006, several digital frame manufacturers hit the PMA show, here, last week to debut more models.

With the abundance of frames on the market, a supply squeeze in popular sizes is a distinct possibility, vendors said.

“We are already seeing a crunch in 7-inch models in the market,” said Stefan Guelpen, co-CEO, Smartparts.

“There will be supply issues in this market,” predicted Dean Finnegan, president, Pandigital.

Nevertheless, both Finnegan and Guelpen predicted strong growth in unit sales, with the category cresting over the 2 million unit mark this year. Driving that volume will be entry-level pricing in the $49 to $69 range, they said.

Among those hoping to sail on the rising tide, Digital Foci introduced its new 5.7-inch Image Moments 6 frame. The VGA-resolution frame supports the popular memory card formats with a slot for USB flash drives. It can playback MP3 audio files through external speakers and MPEG-1/MPEG-MPEG-2/MPEG-4 video files.

For the security conscious, it comes with a cable-lock slot for tying down the frame.

Image Moments 6 ships in June for a suggested $159.

Sungale added an 8-inch frame to its lineup. The AA8F features 126MB memory which can be upgraded by the company to 1GB. It offers slots for the popular flash-memory card formats and supports MP3 and WMA audio playback in addition to JPEG and BMP format images.

The frame has a resolution of 800 by 600 with a 500:1 contrast ratio.

The AA8F is shipping now for a suggested $179.

Smartparts introduced a pair of frames that will ship with the company’s OptiPix desktop software for resizing and copying images for use in the frames’ 128MB of internal memory. The wood frames accept the popular flash memory formats and offer MP3 playback.

The 10.4-inch SP104WM will ship in the spring for a suggested $199. The 8.4-inch SPDPF84M is shipping now for a suggested $179.

The company is focusing on its software as a value-add to differentiate the company from the legion of competitors, Guelpen said. “Almost half of all frames are purchased as gifts, and they tend to have a higher return rate than other electronics,” he said. The company’s OptiPix software is meant to ease some of the difficulties associated with moving images to a frame.

Smartparts will have wireless models later in the year, but Guelpen noted that the mass market was not yet ready for wireless frames.

Pandigital will launch a 15-inch frame in May for $299, the company’s largest model to date, according to Finnegan. It will offer a resolution 1,024 by 768 and be wall mountable.

The company will also offer wireless dongles for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in May or June. They will be sold as optional accessories or bundled with select models. Pricing had not been set but Finnegan said it would be roughly $39 to $49. Pictbridge-enabled frames are also on the roadmap to completely remove the PC from the equation, he said.

Finneagan said that in mass retail channels, wireless accessory attach rates could reach 20 percent for Bluetooth (because of its appeal to camera phone owners) and about 10 percent for Wi-Fi. CE dealers would enjoy much higher rates, he added.