Saturday, April 12, 2008

Differentiation Opportunity: Photos on HDTV

Growing up, my father was a big fan of slides. He took a lot of pretty-good photos, using an 35mm SLR camera, and had them all converted to slides. Once a month or so, we would have family slde night and look at the pictures on the big screen. It was a great way to look at them, and to collectively re-live family memories. MUCH more participative than leafing through a photo album.

I see the big, brilliant HDTVs that have been populating America's living rooms in the last few years as the obvious, and much more accessible, succesor to the home slide show. RSS inventor and inveterate software tinkerer Dave Winer is pushing this concept with FlickrFan (Mac-only, unfortunately). It is just such a great way to see your pictures--think of your HDTV as a really big monitor, and your rolling slideshow of pictures as the photo-screensaver, that plays whenever you aren't using your TV for something else.

I have been doing this, sporadically, with our HDTV. Unfortunately, our HDTV does not have an SD slot, so my easiest means of getting photos to TV is using the SD slot in my son's Wii. That works pretty well, but the built-in slide show functionality on the Wii is pretty limited.

So given the very fevered competition in the HDTV world, I think the top-tier manufacturers (e.g., Sony) could create some differentiation and value-add if they worked really hard at positioning and marketing their displays as platforms for displaying digital photos.

I think key ingredients would be:
  1. Ease of use.
  2. SD slot built in (more slots would be better, but SD at a minimum).
  3. USB port (so you can hook up a card reader, or a USB drive, of a laptop).
  4. Good built-in slideshow software.
  5. Screensaver mode option--show photos automagically, when the TV is not being used.
  6. Ease of use.
Other more advanced offerings might include;
  1. Internet connectivity and downloding from Flickr, etc (basically what Dave Winer is doing.
  2. Pre-integrated bundling with a streaming media device. Have to be careful, because without exquisite execution, this could trash ease of use. This is where Apple will probably make inroads.

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