The TV industry has gotten behind 3-D in a big way this year. The electronics trade shows are brimming with high priced sets and goofy goggles. And in an otherwise dismal year for b2b press, my offhand conversations with trade publishers in the CE world suggests that the hardware manufacturers are pumping huge promotional budgets into 3-D. Their hope is that the promise of next gen technology will spark interest in the category and kickstart them out of the recession.
But consumers may have a different idea and may be aiming at a less expensive and more appealing next step for TV -- namely connectivity. According to iSuppli Corp global shipments of Internet Enabled TVs (IETV) will reach 27.7 million units in 2010 while only 4.2 million 3-D units will ship this year. iSuppli admits that in coming years 3-D will grow quickly but the hard sell among manufacturers and retailers for now addresses a very limited market of early adopters. But IETV makes sense to more people. 3-D is costly and suffers from very limited content. "IETV provides immediate benefits by allowing TV viewers to access a range of content readily available on the Internet," says Riddhi Patel, iSuppli Director and Principal Analyst for Television.
As someone who has more media streamers and connected devices plugged into my HDTV than an octopus has arms, I can attest to the simple appeal of IETV. The Roku box, Apple TV (yeah, I may be the last guy who still loves this thing), the Xbox, PS3 and Boxee (via Apple TV) are all attached to my uber-Sony, and it all seems a bit ridiculous.
But who cuts what content and interface deal to make sense of all of this? The fragmentation of sources beneath my HDTV now provides a wide range of options, much of which I will sacrifice if I opt instead for LG, Samsung, Sony and whichever content partners they get in bed with. Will I have my Netflix everywhere? Could I pull in Amazon media? I know I won't get the Apple TV iTunes library on anything but an Apple-made product.
And for video producers out there: Who will they cut their deals with? A layer of aggregators is already forming to service the needs of these TV companies so they don't have to touch the talent directly, but it still begs the question of which content will and won't be available on which sets? Will there be an open standard of Web widgets we can just use to drag and drop the Web video channels we want onto our TV menu? I hope so. But then what consistent ad technology might there be to network and monetize all of this inventory?
They are all questions that remain to be answered by a new market of connected TVs. Curiously, the IETV may be popular with the less-than-early adopters who just want connectivity but aren't necessarily spoiled by many Web-to-TV bridges many of us have been playing with for years. But in the next years at least we finally will get to see just how open and Web-like most people want their TV experience.