Taiwanese manufacturers hope to `frame' themselves

HOME FASHION: More firms are hopping on the digital bandwagon, figuring that digital picture frames will become the latest `must have' item for camera owners

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jun 08, 2007 - Page 12

Taiwanese contract makers are betting that digital photo frames will become the latest trend in home decor.

"The digital photo frame market is poised to take off," said Young Jin-ter (楊建德), vice president of the multimedia business unit of Lead Data Inc (利碟), an optical disc maker.

There will be only one or two digital cameras in every home, but there could be several digital photo frames scattered around the house, he said at the Computex trade fair in Taipei.

Lead Data began producing digital frames early in 2005, with Royal Philips Electronics NV, the world's leading digital frame brand, as its major client.

"The optical media business has not been faring too well in the past few years and we found opportunities in the multimedia product segment, especially digital frames," Young said.

The company reportedly received new orders from Toshiba Corp recently, but Young refused to confirm this except to say that the company will continue to add clients this year.

Last year, Lead Data shipped 500,000 digital frames, and the figures will exceed the 1 million mark by year's end, he said.

Consumers can plug the memory cards from digital cameras or telephones into a digital photo frame, which then displays the photographs like a slideshow.

Introduced to the market in 2001, the frames began to take off in Europe and North America four years later as component prices started to drop.

According to the Taipei-based Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業研究所), global shipments of digital photo frames are set to triple to 9.5 million units this year, from last year's 3.2 million units.

It estimated that shipments could hit 16.3 million units next year.

The average prices of the frames will drop to a more comfortable price point at US$99 this year from US$149 last year, said Simon Yang (楊勝帆), a Topology analyst.

"Affordability will make them a hot-selling item during Christmas, and Taiwanese companies positioning themselves well in the industry will stand to benefit," Yang said.

In addition to Lead Data and Action Electronics Co (憶聲電子), local suppliers involved in the digital photo frame business include panel maker Innolux Display Inc (群創光電) and chipmakers Sunplus Technology Co (凌陽) and Genesys Logic Inc (創惟科技).

Computer maker First International Computer Co (FIC, 大眾電腦) also entered the field early last year.

The company has a team of 60 engineers working on its product line and it expects to begin mass production of its first-batch shipments to an European firm this year, said Richard Hsia (夏正權), product marketing manager at FIC.

Volume for the year should reach 300,000 units to 500,000 units, he said.

FIC is confident of winning more orders as it has been developing a new generation of frames, which include auto brightness adjustment and wireless features.

"Digital frames are handy for even the elderly due to their ease of use and simplicity. The lack of marketing of the product in Asia doesn't mean that they will not gain popularity in the near term," Hsia said.