Commentary

Patient Viewers Not Always Swayed By Another Box Of Digital Voodoo

Do new entertainment-minded hardware companies wonder about technology-skipping consumers -- those who sit on the sidelines waiting for the next really big thing, all to avoid those smaller digital steps?

Take Apple TV versus Vudu, a kind of similar product. With Apple TV you can wirelessly download about 500 movies directly to your TV screen from your computer. The price for this device is a consumer-friendly $300.

Vudu offers up a similar box with, seemingly, a similar price. But here's the big difference: You don't need a computer -- just Internet service. Download time? Not even a minute; it's instantaneous. Vudu uses technology similar to peer-to-peer, with some parts of its 5,000-title library already on the box.

Sounds great -- but then again, so did cable's pay-per-view business back in 1987. And wasn't it just a few years ago that VCRs were headed to the trash heap because of DVD players? Now, with DVRs and other new set-top technology such as VOD, there is another changing of the guard.

From an outsider's point of view, this all seems like another transitional technology -- especially when you have to buy another box of electronics, which will only add to the swaying black tower in one's living room.

The real game for tech-savvy consumers is deciding when to skip some of these steps -- and save a few bucks. Yes, there are consumers with older 3G versions of the iPod waiting for years to make the leap to something like the iPhone.

Screen wars aren't about whether the big screen (TV), the smaller panel (laptop), or the tiny display (phone) wins. Maybe all those screens will survive, with each just getting better.

In that regard, I'm still waiting -- for a lot. I never did buy a pay-per-view movie, as the system never had the film that I wanted when I wanted it. I saved lots of money. Maybe Vudu is better. But I'm not expecting magic.

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