Smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks will grab many of the headlines over the next few days of CES mayhem, and in some cases may even deserve their accolades. The world of consumer technology has been transformed by smart personal devices and there is plenty more innovation coming down those pipelines in the years ahead.
In the meantime, the world of TV, which used to define CES, has taken a back seat. In spite of various developments in recent years, including high definition, connected and smart TV and 3D, some of which have had strategic significance for ecosystem players, television as a whole has tended to decline in relative importance. Apart from the notable exception of Samsung, the business performance of major TV vendors has certainly suffered in recent years and has added to the general perception that television is a legacy industry in decline.
Smart TV was supposed to change all that, and, as we have reported, there are now more than a hundred million smart TVs in use worldwide. But there is little evidence yet of these newest smart devices transforming the business outlook for their manufacturers. As I noted a few months ago smart TV usage rates are higher in the US, where high value services like Netflix are prominent, than in Europe, where equivalents are harder to find. Smart TV’s success will hinge on driving new services, content and usage: selling the devices is only the first step.
The next opportunity for TV’s fightback will be highly visible at next week’s International CES: Ultra High Definition TV presents a major opportunity to raise the value bar for TV manufacturers and ultimately for content and service providers as well. Naturally enough people will look at these crazily-prized jumbo TVs and wonder who on earth will buy them, and for a couple of years their scepticism will appear to be justified. UHD is the start of a another stage in television’s evolution and there are many barriers ahead, not least bandwidth restrictions and new codec requirements. But display prices will fall rapidly and we fully expect UHD TV ultimately to do to HDTV what HDTV has done to standard definition over the past twenty years.
Our UHD forecast has been released and we are projecting ten million homes worldwide owning a UHD TV by 2016. We’re looking forward to seeing the first wave of these products and some great 4k content next week in Vegas.