By Seth Fitzgerald / CIO Today. Updated January 07, 2014.
TVs are always one of the most popular categories at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and this year, it appears the market is headed toward curved, smart, and 4K Ultra-HD televisions. Last year, 4K was barely coming onto the scene, but now that the Ultra-HD industry has had time to mature, it is a big part of CES 2014.
Many of the features being shown this year seem to be aimed at motivating consumers to buy TVs en masse again, but that may not be so easy to do. In previous years, manufacturers attempted to persuade consumers that 3D was the future. However, since 3D hasn't proved to be enough of a draw, manufacturers are now looking for other differentiators.
The 4K Solution
At the moment, industry watchers think 4K has the best potential for boosting industry-wide sales -- better than 3D and better than "smart" features. While TV manufacturers have tried to build in better Web-access "smart" features over the past few years, the new additions apparently haven't done enough to increase television sales overall.
Ultimately, the TV manufacturers present at CES 2014 are looking for a way to attract buyers in the same way that the introduction of flat-screen panels did, and from the looks of it, packing in more pixels may be the way to go.
Google's YouTube, LG Electronics, and Samsung have all made announcements at CES that are likely to allow 4K to attain the adoption rates the companies are looking for in 2014 and 2015. Until now, a lack of Ultra-HD content has nullified the resolution increase present with 4K TVs, but Google's plan to roll out 4K on YouTube with the help of the VP9 codec will be at least one way for 4K content to make its way to viewers.
Prices and Curves
Aside from the lack of content, the high price tags that come along with 4K TVs have also limited sales. As more displays become commercially available, prices will naturally decrease. In China, for example, where 4K has grown faster, some TVs are already hitting the crucial $1,000 price point.
Ironically, some of the biggest big-TV news from the show Monday revolved around a major snag. Samsung's launch presentation of its new 105-inch curved 4K television hit a huge glitch, and was negatively affected by what some are calling a "meltdown" by movie director Michael Bay on-stage. In reality though, his teleprompter simply malfunctioned, leaving the well-known director of "Transformers" and "Armageddon" with no access to the Samsung pitch and apparently no easy way to continue the presentation.
In addition to its flagship TV display, Samsung has also been using CES to tout its new bendable TV which will be capable of transforming to a curved display from a regular flat-screen. Curved displays are now being used on smartphones, as well. While the bendable technology is interesting, it's too soon to say if it will be enough of a draw to entice new buyers of either phones or TVs.
For its part, LG Electronics has also been using CES to show off its own 105-inch curved 4K televisions, while Vizio took the opportunity to announce an even larger 120-inch 4K TV. Indeed, when it comes to TVs and CES, bigger always seems better.