Every CES has an unofficial theme. These themes are born from companies that want to prove their cutting edge products are better than the competition. This year, 4K televisions were a central part of the show. Sony couldn’t stop gloating about its 4K TVs during its press conference, and Samsung took much pride in unveiling its 110-inch Ultra HD television. While seeing these televisions in person is a sight to behold, I can’t help but feel televisions like these are dead on arrival.
I’m looking at this from a consumer perspective. Last year, these companies tried to sell us on how great 3D televisions were. Now, no one is talking about 3D anymore. 3D was a novelty, and it flopped. It flopped because 3D didn’t really add anything to most content, finding the 3D sweet spot was more trouble than it was worth, 3D content wasn’t readily available on anything other than a disc and it was too expensive for the average person to try. People are still trying to bring 1080p HD content into their homes through large televisions. They’re still gradually replacing DVDs with Blu-rays and figuring out ways to experience full HD content through their television service providers. The average Joe does not and will not go out to buy a 4K television.
4K televisions are going to be expensive. I don’t care if one launches at $1,000 – that’s still too expensive for mass market penetration. Televisions aren’t like smartphones and tablets. You can’t just introduce a brand new format every 1-2 years and expect people to bite. Most TV owners buy a TV with the intention of keeping it for years. This trend isn’t going to stop just because Sony, Samsung and others keep saying how great the picture on a 4K television looks.
I’ll be blunt. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the picture of a 4K display is. 1080p HD still looks gorgeous. No one is complaining. Television makers have to stop trying to push bigger and better sets on people when the market clearly shows they aren’t interested or ready to make the change. 4K is shaping up to be another gimmick that’s way ahead of its time. Do I think 4K will disappear forever? No I don’t. I think we’re years away from it being to de-facto way of watching television. I think these companies shouldn’t put a lot of muscle behind pushing 4K TVs right now. Go ahead and sell them, but don’t expect to sell a bunch. The people aren’t ready yet. The economy isn’t ready yet.