The Consumer Electronics Show held an event in New York this
(KRX:066570) took the opportunity
to show off
a new TV. This was no ordinary television set, but a 77-inch,
curved, Ultra-HD OLED display. Yikes.
Each of the featured technologies have enjoyed some buzz recently,
but seeing them all together was a little disorienting. An LG rep
asked me what I thought, but I was still puzzling over the words --
still figuring out where to put the commas.
And I'm still confused. To be sure, each of these features brings
some well-publicized advantages:
- OLEDs are the spiritual successors to the plasma TV; they
offer great contrast and a super-thin form factor, and also a
five-digit price tag.
- Ultra-HD displays come with four times the pixels of a
standard 1080p set, and you may even be able to use that extra
real estate, once Ultra-HD content is available and we have an
infrastructure capable of delivering it
- Curved displays offer a better field of vision, as long as
you're sitting in the right spot.
The rub is that big-screen OLEDs are unaffordable, and will remain
unaffordable until the market is large enough to bring down
manufacturing costs. Ultra-HD TVs are impractical, and will remain
impractical, until enough of them exist to justify UHD content.
Given the fact that most consumers will be choosing one of these
expensive new technologies or the other (or neither), it's
unfortunate that the industry would push both at once. With the
TV market in the gutter
, manufacturers will have a particularly hard time forcing the
adoption of one new standard, much less two. The introduction of
curved screens, with their own set of trade-offs, only muddies
It's a crazy approach, but that's not what confuses me. What
confuses me is the fact that LG has built a television meant to
draw every eye, at a time when TVs have lost the limelight.
that PCs and portable devices now account for 40% of media
consumption, versus 38% for televisions. A Crackle study tells us
that while most Americans
still prefer to watch videos on the tube
, they've also embraced streaming content, and are now more likely
to download a program than they are to pop in a DVD. Last week, a
deal was reached to begin streaming
in 2014 - a sign of the times if ever there was one.
The television is no longer the center of the universe, and media
providers have better things to do than support an industry in
decline. They, too, are trying to standardize; trying to move
content to the Web, optimize it for mobile displays, and integrate
it with apps. Whatever its flaws, 1080p has become a cross-platform
standard in the age of
) and Hulu. It's more than ample for most PCs and tablets, and can
even be crammed into large phablets like
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Galaxy Note 3.
It also represents the upper limit of smartphone video cameras --
-- and results in file sizes that, while large, are still
manageable for home digital libraries. At the same time, 1920 x
1080 provides a smooth picture on all but the largest of
televisions. A switch to Ultra-HD would incur heavy costs for
content providers while providing little benefit to the majority of
Another, more speculative factor weighing in against Ultra-HD is
the move towards device-to-screen streaming. Earlier this week,
) Airplay, and Miracast were shaping up as the best way to smarten
up your television while avoiding a rather dumb accumulation of
remote controls. "Second screens" have already taken up residence
in the living room, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more
efficient or intuitive way of controlling video content than the
tablet in your lap or the smartphone in your pocket. Ultra-HD
complicates the picture; streaming through Miracast -- or mirroring
your device through Chromecast or Airplay -- becomes more
problematic when you're dealing with a 4k resolution, introducing
an upscaling or rendering process that can easily go wrong.
With all that being said, LG's television looked nice at the CES
show. The blacks were true black. The colors were vibrant. I'm sure
it looked fantastic up close, but I didn't want to get in anyone's
way. The TV was impossibly thin and, if a little less curved, would
have been perfect for a wall somewhere. The LG rep reacted to this
observation with what I think was a look of shock: "Oh no, you
don't wall-mount this." No, I suppose not. You bring it to trade
shows. You show it off, and collect "Best of Innovations" awards.
You invite analysts and reporters to walk around it, and you try to
keep your composure when, within 10 seconds of launching into your
spiel, most everyone in your audience has returned his or her
attention to a smartphone.