I’m not at CES (and kind of happy about it) but all the social media coming out of Las Vegas this week has me thinking about TVs.
Televisions are a big business, and the companies that make them think constantly about how to convince you that whatever you have isn’t good enough, and that you have to upgrade. Historically, they’ve come up with a handfully of pretty good reasons why you’d really just have to update:
- Your TV is B&W but all the new ones are color
- Your TV is old and doesn’t have coax so it doesn’t “support” cable.
- Your TV has a convex screen but the new ones are kind of flatter.
- Your TV is big and has a tube, but now flat screens can hang on the wall.
Truthfully, only #1 and #4 are truly generational transformations that require virtually everyone to upgrade, but there have been plenty of incremental improvements that encourage the marginal user to buy a new set. So what are we likely to see the manufacturers come up with to entice us to toss what’s likely a functional unit for something new?
- 3D: If you haven’t seen Avatar, go see it (even if you think the plot looks cheesy, which isn’t the point anyway). See it in 3D. Then realize that 3D is interesting and potentially very engaging. And your TV can’t do it. 18-24 months from now there will be a good number of TVs that can. Will you want one?
- Wireless: I’ve set up a lot of home theater systems over the years, and wires can get to be a huge pain in the ass. Look for more and more of these wires to be removed from the equation over time. Will that be enough?
- Watching web content on your TV: This will be an interesting one, because you’ll have the TV guys putting web content access into the set and lots of others (set top boxes, third party services, etc…) trying to pipe that same content into your non-enabled set. But last year at CES it seemed like every TV had widgets built-in.
- LED backlighting: better, greener.
The TV industry has a lot of things to think about. We’re late in the transition to flat screens (at least in the US and other tech-forward countries) so they need to figure out how to kick-start the next upgrade cycle. They also need to think creatively about the threats coming in from the web and mobile, but frankly if the latest Nielsen numbers are accurate, this is far less of a problem that all we techno-weenie Hulu-watchers would suspect.
As for me – I don’t actually own a TV. We hung a projector on our ceiling and that’s all we have. When my brother-in-law came to stay at our place while we were away, he actually called us to tell us someone had stolen our TV. We kind of like it that way.