The move to 3D in the home has failed. Manufactures are cutting back on 3D sets, Vizio plans to stop building them all together this year. 4K, also known as Ultra HD, is now the next big thing, promising benefits that won’t need expensive glasses or hokey special effects to be interesting. However there is virtually no 4K content to watch at the moment—broadcast, streamed, or on disk. The industry seems less ready for 4K than it was for 3D, which did have content much earlier. But this is because the industry was burned by 3D and the content they hoped would emerge and drive people to the segment never emerged. Granted, I doubted it would ever succeed because no one likes to wear the glasses.
This makes it critical that content drive the 4K wave and firms like Qualcomm and Netflix are stepping up to fill that gap.
3D cameras were very expensive and that means people never got into taping personal content that they would share in 3D. Part of what moves a technology to market is sharing. Someone comes over to your house to see a picture and becomes envious of the wonderful technology you have and they then want it too. Color spread this way, it was introduced in the 1940s but didn’t take off until the 1960s because it was too expensive and needed programming to carry it forward.
Having the ability to create inexpensive programing that people will share in 4K would be a huge benefit driving this technology in market and Qualcomm, the leader in Smartphone technology, is pushing hard to make sure that every major Smartphone can record video in 4K. Phones coming out with their latest Snapdragon technology this year will both record and playback 4K video. This should go a long way to providing content people will share that should significantly help drive 4K TVs into the market.
Netflix Playing Disney
The program in the 1960s that drove color into the market was Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of color. Before that show came out virtually no one wanted a color set, and by 1965 most homes had color and most shows where being broadcast in color. Disney basically only had the one show back then but eventually they had a number of others and eventually the firm became as big a power in TV as they were in movies, perhaps bigger. I think part of that success goes back to that initial Disney program which became a must watch show for families on Sunday night. There was never anything like a regular popular show in 3D and even without the glasses problem, without that show, I believe 3D would have failed anyway.
Netflix appears to be reading from Disney’s playbook this week and is planning a number of shows including their incredibly addictive House of Cards in 4K. If successful this would put Netflix in the running for having THE definitive 4K show that would not only help drive 4K into the market, but could grow Netflix into a power on Disney’s scale. They are helping drive a new video compression technology H.265 HEVC into the market which promises to reduce substantially the congestion and traffic that otherwise would result from a move to a much larger file type largely by both reducing the size of 4K and regular HD (thus allowing old programing size improvements to offset somewhat the 4K hit).
Wrapping Up: 3D is Dead, Long Live 4K
We are seeing the death, or actually the failure to birth of home 3D and it is effectively gone for now (though I expect it to show up again in a decade or so surrounding a very different technology that doesn’t require glasses). For now the future is 4K but I’d hold off buying a TV until after the programing is available so you can see the new programing on the set. Many of the current 4K TVs look worse than HD TVs with HD content and won’t support the new compression technology for 4K. This should be sorted by the end of year holidays so I’d set aside a little cash for what could be an amazing experience then. But this time wait until you see programing you want to see before buying because one thing 3D showed us was that this isn’t a Field of Dreams market, if you buy the set it doesn’t mean the programing will come.
Edited by Maurice Nagle