Thinking Screen Pulls in $2 Million, Looks to Apple iPad

4/29/10Follow @wroush

Thinking Screen Media, the Wellesley Hllls, MA, startup that pushes news, photos, and other content to Internet-connected screens, is tweaking its business model once again. Formerly called Frame Media, the company started out in 2006 with a focus on delivering information to wireless photo frames. But last year it started thinking bigger—wireless photo frames weren’t really catching on, and the company decided to target the broader category of connected screens, meaning not just digital frames but TVs, cable set-top boxes, game consoles, and Internet radios.

Now the Apple iPad seems poised to kill off the digital frame category completely, in the view of CEO Alan Philips. So the company has raised $2 million, through a Series B financing and the sale of one of its divisions, to work on its applications for the iPad and cable set-top boxes, Philips tells Xconomy.

“We now believe in multipurpose devices,” says Philips. “The wireless photo frame category just has not taken off, and because of the introduction of devices like the iPad and the ability for set-top boxes to have Internet connectivity, it’s unlikely that the frame market will take off. So we are focused on consumer devices that will have a push element, and we think that the iPad is the best example of such a device. If you fast forward two years, you could see 30 percent penetration [of the iPad], at least in the U.S. market, in terms of the number of kitchens and living rooms that have an iPad for remote control or photo-frame or on-demand media access.”

Thinking Screen raised $2 million in Series A funding from CommonAngels and Longworth Venture Partners back in November 2007 and extended that round by another $3 million in May 2008. The new Series B funds come from Scala, which runs a digital advertising and signage business out of Exton, PA. Scala paid $2 million total for an equity stake in Thinking Screen and to purchase Thinking Screen’s SignChannel division, which focuses on digital signage. Three of the 12 staffers in Thinking Screen’s Wellesley Hills office are now Scala employees, Philips says.

The spinoff and fundraising frees up Thinking Screen to concentrate on home information devices. The company launched free and $1.99 versions of its iPad app, called FrameChannel, in early April. The app allows users to choose from approximately 1,000 channels or “widgets” such as news feeds, weather and sports information, National Geographic photos, or photos from Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, or other photo sharing sites. (The free version mixes advertisements in with the other content.) “It’s really about how are you going to use the iPad for the 22 hours a day that you’re not holding it,” says Philips. “During that 22 hours, it’s pushing content based on your preferences to the screen, in the kitchen or living room or bedroom.”

Philips says the company is working on improvements to the app, such as additional widgets as well as channels that are more interactive or that present multiple types of data on a single screen. Similar FrameChannel widgets are available to owners of other devices such as the Roku Player, Tivo DVRs, and digital frames from Samsung, Sony, Philips, Motorola, Kodak, Toshiba, and Viewsonic.

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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