Waiting for the Next Big Thing

Every January, our industry looks to CES for signs of the “next big thing.” The buzz leading up to this year’s show was that last year’s darling, 3DTV, had perhaps worn out its welcome, and that disappointing sales figures would prompt manufacturers and retailers to reassess their commitment to it.

Although there was a perception that 3DTV was an “also ran” at this year’s show, several new promising technologies that build on the format were offered. Sony all but declared itself the “3D leader”—the company announced more details about its joint venture with Discovery and IMAX. Although no carriage deals were announced, 3Dnet, the new name of the venture is expected to offer “the world’s largest library of native 3D television content,” according to company officials who added that the channel will launch “early this year.”

Sony, along with several others, including Panasonic, JVC and Fuji, also launched a new consumer 3D camera, which it described as the world’s first “double full HD” 3D camera. LG promoted “glassless” 3D on mobile devices in a demonstration that included the first station broadcast of 3D content over the air in the U.S. Even 3D on tablet devices—the stars of the show—was demonstrated by several companies.

Mobile initiatives notwithstanding, 3D is, for the time being, a home theater technology that will nevertheless become standard in future sets. “I don’t think there’s a TV manufacturer in the world that will create and sell a TV without the 3D chips built in,” predicted Josh Greer, president and co-founder of RealD, to the New York Times.

Another side of the equation, Mobile DTV struggled to gain attention at the show. Perhaps the most promising development is the Samsung Galaxy tablet, with an ATSC-MH chip built in, and it was nice to see TV pioneer RCA debut several new Mobile DTV receivers. Most of the other products took the form of dongles and WiFi receivers. And while these products look promising, the lack of ATSC-MH chips in other tablets and smartphones continues to stymie format acceptance. Is 2011 a make or break year for Mobile DTV? We’ll probably have to wait for the 2012 CES to find out.