February 7, 2000 9:10 AM PST

Digital frame tries to make pictures come alive

A new "digital picture frame" connected to Web sites and digital images proves again that the Internet is rapidly working its way into devices far from the traditional computer.

At the Demo 2000 conference in Indian Wells, California, Weave Innovations today announced something called the StoryBox Connected Frame and Network. Attempting to differentiate itself from others with similar LCD products, Weave has struck alliances with Kodak, investment firm CMGI and content providers to create what it hopes will be a compelling reason for consumer to purchase one of the more expensive picture frames around.

Like similar efforts from companies like start-up Ceiva Logic, Weave's frame is essentially an LCD panel connected to the Internet. The devices are part of an industry trend aimed at bringing Internet technology to any appliance in the home, using the PC as a central control.

What remains to be seen is how quickly consumers will buy into this vision and how well the discrete products from separate manufacturers will work together. One other potential obstacle: the high-speed Internet connections needed to bring these devices together seamlessly are far from ubiquitous today.

Nevertheless, "smart" appliances and devices are being manufactured and promoted by everyone from Microsoft and PC makers to Sony and other consumer electronics firms, as well as more traditional home appliance makers. All are salivating for the expected advertising and service fees associated with these devices.

At $299 and a monthly service fee, Weave's offering may have a difficult time drawing non-PC users, especially with the spate of information appliances hitting the market. Many TV set-top boxes, so-called Web pads and handheld computers connected to the Internet are all priced below $500.

But unlike competing products, Weave says the StoryBox is a platform for all types of content and images delivered directly into the home. The company today announced alliances with MSNBC, E Online, Sportsline.com, and the Weather Channel to deliver Internet content directly to the frame.

Kodak and CMGI will back Weave's entry, the StoryBox frame and network, by providing digital imaging services and Internet "backbone" connections, respectively. The idea is to bring digital imaging technology both to those without computers and those with some technical expertise, Weave CEO Robert Siegel said.

"We want to make it very easy to share pictures," Siegel said. "If you don't have a PC, you can have a great experience. If you do have a PC, you can have an even richer experience."

The StoryBox frame is to be available at retailers this summer.


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