A hard look at digital picture frames

David Pogue has written up a review of seven LCD picture frames (you know the kind that sit on a desk or mantlepiece and have pictures you've taken pushed to them by various means), and his critique is not pretty. He lays into most of them pretty harshly

Kodak Wireless Digital Picture Frame
Kodak Wireless Digital Picture Frame Kodak

David Pogue has written up a review of seven LCD picture frames (you know, the kind that sit on a desk or mantlepiece and have pictures you've taken pushed to them by various means), and his critique is not pretty. He lays into most of them pretty harshly and concludes that most have had some very basic things screwed up by inattention to the user experience. Why, he asks, can't the manufacturers be bothered to do what's right?

I'm sure they have all kinds of excuses for compromise: "That would cost money," "That would set us back a month," "That would limit sales in Eastern Europe," whatever.

But you don't have to have an M.B.A. to understand that refusing to compromise on design, for any reason, can lead to fantastic commercial success. Look at Apple, Google, Sonos, R.I.M. (makers of the BlackBerry), or (in its glory days) Palm.

So what goes through the minds of executives who don't sweat the small stuff? Don't they realize that critics and bloggers will find and publicize the limitations? Don't they realize that customers nowadays can compare notes, can warn each other away? And in a crowded field like digital frames, why on earth can't they see that the only way to differentiate is to be better than the other guys?

Many of the things he points out are indeed not very bright ways to handle things. But I can sympathize with a manufacturer executive Pogue quotes: "Consumer electronics is a very difficult business. It's difficult to get it right." Apple, Google, Sonos, R.I.M and (used to be) Palm only make it look easy. When it's done well it seems shoulder-shruggingly obvious. When it's done badly it's screamingly obvious.

Read David's review.
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