Tag Archives | HDTVs

HDTVs are a Commodity

Back in the 1990s, I really, really wanted a Sony Trinitron TV. Couldn’t afford one. So I bought a cheap Sharp TV, and felt deprived.

These days, as the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explains, all HDTVs are remarkably inexpensive, and getting more so every week. And it’s increasingly hard for any particular brand to stick out from the pack:

This makes televisions different from, say, a tablet. You can compare the iPad and the BlackBerry Playbook across many factors: screen quality, screen size, speed, connection, touch responsiveness, and app store. The iPad is really, really different from the BlackBerry PlayBook. A Sony 40-inch flatscreen TV is really, really similar to a Panasonic. This makes it difficult to build what analysts call “brand premium.” You might pay extra for an Apple product because you have a clear sense of what Apple offers above and beyond other similarly-priced products. Televisions don’t have the same differentiation. As a result, TV prices tend to converge more than other electronics. Given the behavior of consumers, and the efficiency gains of manufacturers, the direction of that convergence is down.

This is an enormous headache for TV makers–and a nightmare, really, for a company like Sony, which is used to being able to command a stiff price premium. Overall, though, it’s great news for TV buyers.


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Best Buy’s New Insignia TVs: TiVo Goes Beyond the DVR

For more than a decade, TiVo has been one thing: a DVR. And while it’s been a really good one, an awful lot has changed about the way we find and watch TV since the first TiVo box debuted in 1999. And now the company is involved in its first non-DVR project. It’s designed the on-screen interface for two new Internet-connected LCD TVs from Insignia, one of Best Buy’s four “exclusive brands” (along with Dynex, Init, and Rocketfish).

Insignia’s TVs don’t have any DVR features, and doesn’t offer an on-screen programming guide for over-the-air or cable programming. So they’re missing the aspects of the TiVo interface most closely identified with, will, TiVo. But when Best Buy demoed one of the sets for me last week, the interface did look like it has some of TiVo’s approachable DNA. That’s a major plus: TV companies don’t tend to be very good at at coming up with user interfaces when left to their own devices.

The sets come with CinemaNow and Napster–two services owned by Best Buy–as well as Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora. They use Chumby widgets to provide access to more than 1500 applets with information on subjects such as weather. And they’re the first TVs with built-in support for Rocketboost, a Best Buy technology for sending audio to speaker systems wirelessly.

They don’t, however, include DLNA compatibility, which would let you stream content off PCs and hard drives on your network: Best Buy says that its goal with these TVs was to keep things simple, and DLNA still isn’t straightforward enough.

The 32″ TV is $499; the 42″ one is $699. Best Buy says they’re available now, and that it plans both to upgrade their software with new features over time and to introduce new connected TVs and other devices based on the software in these TVs.

The Best Buy-TiVo partnership was announced more than two years ago; I was excited at the time, then so much time passed that I’d forgotten about it. Now I’m curious what other Internet-centric products TiVo might be working on. A Roku-style TiVo box could be nifty. And TiVo might be able to do a better job than Google TV has done so far at imposing a decent interface on over-the-air and cable TV. I hope that the company is furiously working on some of this stuff, and just hasn’t announced it yet…

 


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Saying Apple Will Never Do Something: Always Dangerous

For years, there’s been a persistent, as-yet-unrealized rumor that Apple will start making HDTVs. Received wisdom, however, has generally argued that it’s not going to happen. TVs are too commoditized; TVs would have to come in too many sizes; TVs are too off message for Apple. Marco Arment, the smart guy who invented Instapaper, just made the case against an Apple HDTV.

Then again, another smart guy, Chris Dixon, warns against assuming that Apple isn’t going to make HDTVs just because the current market doesn’t look Apple-esque at all. He also tweeted an intriguing thought, which I learned about from MG Siegler, who also thinks that an Apple HDTV isn’t unthinkable:

Good idea!

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Should Apple Make TVs?

Apple TVDoes Apple want to get into the TV business? There’s no concrete evidence that it does, but analyst Gene Munster sure thinks it makes sense. Back in February he said he expected the company to make TVs with built-in DVRs. And now he’s raised the idea up the flagpole again. Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt has written about Munster’s scenario involving Apple making HDTVs and next-generation Apple TV-type functionality–including an subscription-based iTunes service designed to compete with Hulu, Netflix Watch Instantly, and even Comcast. In Munster’s speculative rollout, this happens by 2011.

T-Poll time:


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