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Start-up debuts Web-enabled picture frame

A Southern California start-up becomes one of the latest to tap the Internet appliance trend, introducing a picture frame that displays only shots downloaded from the Net.

A Southern California start-up today became one of the latest to tap the Internet appliance trend, introducing a picture frame that displays only shots downloaded from the Net.

Ceiva Logic, the first company formed by business incubator Idea Grove, today unveiled the Web-enabled frame, dubbed Ceiva. The device, which uses an LCD panel rather than the traditional pane of glass, is designed solely to display images downloaded from the Internet, rather than traditional photographs.

The device is part of a larger trend of connecting typical household appliances and products to the Internet, ostensibly to augment their functionality by adding personalized features and Net connections. At recent industry trade shows, major players like Microsoft, Intel, Sony and Sun Microsystems trumpeted the idea of a networked home filled with such "smart" appliances, all using high-speed connections to the Net.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates often uses his home as an example of a prototypical networked home. Several years before the idea became the concept du jour, Gates' home was known for its digital frames which showcased a rotation of famous works usually housed only in museums.

Ceiva's device is designed to bring this technology to those without the technology savvy--or bank account--of a Microsoft executive. Priced at $249, with a $2.99 per month service fee, the Internet frame contains no obvious signs of PC technology. With only two switches on the back of the frame, the device does not require the user to interact with any software or operating system.

Sending images to the Ceiva frame is one of the product's selling points, according to company co-founders Dean Schiller and Paul Yanover. The frame downloads images from a Ceiva account overnight, which means that new pictures--from travelling family members of distant relatives--can be sent daily and updated each morning.

"The appeal of Ceiva is that it looks, handles and feels like a traditional picture frame that at the same time incorporates sophisticated computer technology to deliver high quality images," Yanover said in a statement.

The product has some drawbacks, however. Currently, it uses an analog connection with a normal phone line, which keeps it outside of any broadband home network. Although it is targeted at those not considered PC experts, users will need a PC to upload the images they want to display, or use the frame solely to receive images from other people.

Similar products are in the works that allow users to see personalized Web content as well as their own digital images, a feature that Ceiva does not currently offer. The company is pursuing co-branding opportunities and marketing alliances with photo Web sites and digital imaging companies, although no deals have been announced yet.

Ceiva is the first product from the technology incubator Idea Grove, which was also formed by Yanover and Schiller, former Disney executives.