By which I mean actual television sets, not TV programming.
It used to be that you could buy a TV set confident that, over time, obsolescence would only eat your purchase in terms of size and price. A 36″ HD set which sold for $1,100 would be displaced by a 42″ set at the same price point, while the 36″ unit would drop in price. There were mild technical innovations–deeper black levels, for instance–but the essential substance of the units stayed about the same.
Not no more.
I’m in the preliminary phases of scouting out a new television and the market is absolutely terrifying right now. There is a serious tech/aesthetic war over refresh rates. (Have you what a 120 ghz LED set does to 1080p programming? It makes everything look like it was shot with a super-high-def steady cam.) 3D may, or may not, be happening. There is no internet TV standard, so if you want web content on your big screen, you need a bunch of peripherals to get everything. There may be a new screen ratio standard displacing 16:9. And, to add to the uncertainty, Apple may (or may not) jump into the TV space in the next 18 months. Which could be either a flop, so disruptive that it re-orders the entire market.
In short, we’re at a moment where you’d have to be crazy to drop $1,500 on a new primary screen for yourself. Because you could wind up with a device that, in just 2 years, is totally obsolete.
Now, if this happens to be just a peculiar moment that’s the product of a weird confluence of events, then so be it. But I’m a little worried that this could be the general direction of the TV market in the future: That instead of being a household device which is a piece of stable capital–like a washing machine or a hot-water heater–it’s becoming a gadget. And the rule of gadgets is The are designed with very finite life-cycles so that consumers must purchase them in serial.
I really hope we’re not going to a place where we’re expected to replace our TVs every 24 to 36 months.