The future looked so bright for digital photo frames in 2007.
For anyone who took pride in staying up to date with the latest technological advancements, a digital photo frame was the perfect way to show one's prowess as homes started to get more connected.
Who needed internet access from the fridge when a photo frame could tell you the weather and help you re-live your Saturday night?
Just five years on, however, these frames are no more than digital curios relegated to the bargain bin of tech history. Manufacturers are still churning them out, though we don't really know why, given that you can find plenty of dust-clad boxes stacked on shelves in electronics retailers. There's still the odd high-end model that sells for upwards of AU$300, but I don't know anyone who has ever bought one, let alone seen one up on a mantelpiece.
For the record, my own history with digital photo frames has been a tad chequered. From their cumbersome user interfaces, tiny internal storage capacities and the frame that even gave me a virus, let's just say that we've had our differences.
I'm not the only one with a sour taste in my mouth thanks to previous experiences. A study in 2010 showed that digital photo frames topped the list of least-wanted gifts. That's a lot of dead pixels.
So, why are digital photo frames so maligned? There's the paltry resolution, for starters. VGA used to be the de facto standard, while some frames now have a "generous" serving of 800x600 pixels.
The encroaching realm of the tablet is another factor. Not only has this device well and truly eaten away at any market share that a standalone photo frame might have had, but it's also made the single-use application of a photo frame look rather paltry by comparison.
Prices of relatively small 32-inch televisions can now directly compete with the most expensive digital photo frame out there, and they come with SD connectivity, should you so desire the ease of plug and play. It might not be as compact as mounting a frame above the fireplace, but I'm sure your photos will look a whole lot better on a big screen.
Naturally, there are always exceptions to the rule, such as the exquisitely designed DIA Parrot, which looks as much like a work of art itself as the photos it displays. In this case, it comes down to practicality versus price — can you justify the cost of a single-use device, when a tablet with a much better display can be had for the same amount?
While aesthetic reasons might not be at the forefront in the minds of many tech buyers, it does explain a lot about why people still have a printed photo hanging in their house, rather than a multitude of digital frames. The effect of looking at a cluster of pixels on a small screen doesn't quite match up to the lustre of a printed photo or the light-catching effects of a glossy image.
Then, there's the final clincher. Not every device needs to do a multitude of different things, or be everything to all people. In order to succeed, they just need to do one simple task exquisitely well. Which they don't.