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Without a subscription package, the 7-inch frame costs $149.99 – the same price as the company’s original 5.5-inch screen. The 8-inch frame goes for $199.95.

Parrot, a Paris-based maker of mobile phone accessories and hands-free car phones, is taking a more radical approach with its new line of digital frames. The frames don’t have modems or card readers – just Bluetooth wireless chipsets.

The devices are aimed at owners of Bluetooth-enabled camera phones, who can send stored photos wirelessly to any Parrot frame within a 10-meter radius, says Edward Valdez, president of Parrot’s U.S. operations. “These days, virtually as many pictures are taken with camera phones as with digital cameras worldwide, and we think camera phones are going to continue to cannibalize the digital camera market,” Valdez says “As people realize that they can get photo quality from their camera phones that is nearly as good as what they get from their digital cameras, they really want to know how they can do something with those images.”

Parrot introduced a Bluetooth photo viewer with a 3.5-inch screen last year; at CES, it unveiled a 7-inch device. Visitors to Parrot’s booth at the show could point their own phones at a wall-sized matrix of Parrot frames and see their pictures in an instant. “Every person, independent of the type of phone they had, could try it and do it. That’s when people get convinced.”

Parrot’s 7-inch photo viewer, which will be available in the second quarter of 2007, will retail for $239; the 3.5-inch viewer, which is portable enough to be passed around to friends at the lunch table, costs $169.

The rush to put new digital frames on the market is largely a byproduct of progress in a seemingly unrelated area: portable DVD players. To bring the prices of players down while simultaneously enlarging their screens, Asian manufacturers have devised cheaper ways to mass-produce thin-film-transistor LCD screens – the devices’ most expensive components - in the sub-laptop, 5- to 10-inch size range. “Leveraging those capabilities [is] enabling them to make larger screens for digital frames and bring the price down at the same time,” says Ed Lee, a digital photography analyst at research firm InfoTrends in Weymouth, MA. “You can get them now for as low as $130.” That’s not much more than the typical household’s annual photo printing bill.

Digital camera owners worldwide made, or ordered, 16 billion paper prints of their digital photographs in 2006, according to InfoTrends. That was a big increase over the 13.2 billion prints made in 2005, and marked the first time that the volume of prints from digital photos exceeded the volume of prints from photos captured on traditional film.

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Credit: Ceiva Logic

Tagged: Web, photography, digital camera, photo sharing, digital photography

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