Last fall, Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR) announced a new refrigerator meant to serve as a hub for personal and home electronics called CentralPark. The top of its freezer door boasts a power outlet, meant to be coupled with aftermarket devices that could attach to the fridge and recharge or dock devices. To date, there haven’t been many partners that have agreed to produce the docks, but Whirlpool has just received its biggest boon yet: an agreement with iGo, the charging-device maker owned by Mobility Electronics (NASDAQ: MOBE). iGo’s compatibility list is extensive; MP3 players, bluetooth headsets, portable game devices, notebooks, iPods and cell phones make up its list of 2,700 supported devices. With iGo’s agreement to produce charging docks, Whirlpool has added to its inventory of exactly one other compatible product in the CentalPark system: Ceiva’s Wifi digital photo frame. More partners are in the works, however: Ambient’s 7-Day forecaster, a weather module, and Brandmotion’s iPod speaker system are among devices in the works. Another cool gadget planned for CentralPark is Quartet’s QNote message center, which offers a dry-erase writing surface and an illuminated surface.
Whirlpool describes their connected fridge as “a refrigerator with an interchangeable plug-and-play platform… [and] the ideal solution for that bothersome kitchen clutter.” But as Julie Jacobson of CEPro.com notes, “Whirlpool has added a power outlet to the top of the freezer door. Woo hoo!” Perhaps Whirlpool’s innovation isn’t groubreaking, but nonetheless, the CentralPark system might portend future kitchen devices that enable users to circumvent their home PC in using or recharging their increasingly complex array of gadgets. After all, there are few more central locations in most houses than the kitchen – and sometimes, the simplest ideas can prove the most revolutionary.CD