For years now, digital photo frames have struggled to reach the mass market. I know exactly why, because I’ve not bought one: I don’t want to spend $200 on a gadget that only displays videos and photos, even if it can access Picasa online.
Well, photo frames are about to get more useful and turn into full-fledged Internet appliances, competing with the home PC, TV and mobile for users’ time and attention. AT&T’s new HomeManager product, announced today, is a 7-inch photo frame that also offers e-mail access, visual voice mail and home phone calling (check out this page for an online demo). The gadget costs $299 if you sign up for several AT&T services, and it’s available in select cities, like Chicago and Atlanta.
As far as I know, the HomeManager marks the first time for a phone company to distribute photo frames. Though unusual, this distribution arrangement could prove quite effective. After all, it might be more cost-effective to buy the HomeManager than another computer and a new cordless phone.
The device should help solidify AT&T’s position as a telecommunications innovator outside of wireless, where it’s viewed as cutting-edge already, thanks to exclusive products like the innovative Apple iPhone. In home phone services, AT&T still needs to shake off its dusty Baby Bell image. With its Jetsons feel, the HomeManager should prove to be the perfect duster.