In the rush to the next big thing, let's not forget the current big thing.
A rapidly growing group of Hollywood and consumer technologists thinks stereoscopic 3-D television could be the hot follow-on to today's flat-screen high-definition TVs. Our cover story this week details the motivations, opportunities and technical challenges in
bringing 3DTV to the living room, a process that will take years.
I love 3-D content as much as anyone. I'm usually the one dragging the kids off to the IMax theater the minute a 3-D movie comes out. But on the road to this Emerald City, let's not forget the Kansas in which we live.
The consumer electronics market is still in an early phase of its seismic shift from analog to digital technologies, a transition affecting every corner of the entertainment and information industries. Integral to this shift is the move from standalone to networked systems.
It's that Internet thing. For those of us who know the industry well, it sounds like old hat. But there are still many changes to come.
While our hard disks are chock-full of digital photos and songs, we are just starting to make and collect digital videos and movies. Our TVs and stereos are still largely "off the grid" of the home network for all practical purposes. If this gulf keeps widening, the industry will pay a price in consumer backlash.
A recent Forbes article quotes Sony CEO Howard Stringer saying the move to network his company's many products--including TVs and online studio content--is his top priority. Go, Howard!
Let's keep that example in mind as the 3DTV pile-on grows. We can't leave this transition to networked, digital consumer systems in the basement, an unfinished project on our way to something else, despite temptations to do just that. Many in Hollywood in particular would probably be happy to hit the pause button on the Net shift that has already turned the music business inside out.
Sorry, but we are going straight through the eye of this Web hurricane to come out the other side with better products and services. And when we arrive, we'll have better perspective on what this next big thing--3DTV --really should look like.
In this issue's cover story, Andy Setos, president of engineering at Fox Group, says the danger with 3DTV is pushing it too hard too fast, and delivering a subpar technology that fails and sours the market for years. I'd go one step further: If we push 3DTV at the expense of networked TVs and stereos, the entertainment industry will find itself "Lost in Space." p