Tuesday, November 14, 2006
HD Technology Faces Hurdles, But Still Shows Promise
New innovations can appear extremely quickly in the realm of consumer electronics. Sometimes it seems like new technologies are developed, refined, and marketed all in the blink of an eye. The consumer side of things, on the other hand, can be a little more sluggish. High prices, confusion over what it is that the product is or does, lack of marketing, and numerous other perturbations in the marketplace can cause great technology to sit on shelves while consumers walk past. Such has been the case definition High Definition Television.
High Definition Television technology has actually been popular in Japan for quite a while, but it's been slow to generate interest in the American market. This can be attributed in part to cultural differences- the Japanese are even more technophillic than we are- but the major difference seems to be a failure of manufacturers and retailers to educate the American public about the new technology and a series of debacles that make High Definition Television seem unnecessarily complex or not worth the time, money, and trouble of acquiring.
One of these debacles has been the Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war. Instead of settling on one format for a Digital Video Disc that could hold High Definition video content, giants in the electronics manufacturing, movie production, and software industries aligned themselves against each other in support of these two competing formats. As a result consumers have been hesitant to invest in either because of fear of being left holding the twenty first century version of the Betamax tape when the war is over and only one of the formats inevitably ends up on top.
Another complication has been the recent accusations that DIRECTV dilutes the resolution of it's High Definition programming in order to pack more programming into a smaller bandwidth. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the rumors and lawsuits don't inspire confidence in television providers' ability to deliver programming in High Definition format.
Then there's the threat of three dimensional television in the form of a new technology developed by Phillips, among others. This technology is already on the market and it may not be very long before it's available at a price that consumers can afford. While there isn't much in the way of three dimensional programming, there is talk of creating new movies in a three dimensional format and although software designed to up convert two dimensional programming to 3-D is still in it's primitive stages it shows promise. Combine that with the "Wow!" factor of three dimensional television, and many consumers may decide to skip High Definition Television in order to hold out for 3-D Television.
There are also factors aligning to encourage consumers to embrace High Definition. For example, there have been a couple of developments which may tip the scales of the Blu-ray/HD-DVD war. The first is Panasonic's introduction of a Blu-ray recorder, which could tip the scales in favor of Blu-ray. After all, if someone can record onto a format they'll always have something to watch on that format, making consumers just a little bit more likely to invest in Blu-ray technology. The other development was the recent application for a patent for a disk manufacturing technique that would allow one side of a disk to hold data in both Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats in different layers of the disk. If this technique caught on, it would open the door for consumers to buy devices that can play either format without fear that it will become a proverbial Betamax.
Of course another factor is the continual decrease in price of High Definition Television equipment. That may turn out to be the single best argument for the success of High Definition in the marketplace.