I wrote an early version of this in response to a Hacker News piece on the next generation of video games.
There is an increasingly clear picture of the future of TV screens. Ever higher resolution.
TV manufacturers are currently delivering quality HDTV 1080P sets in volume and at low prices. Nobody can really get out of a commodity play, and even the largest screens are unable to command premium prices.
The 3D diversion
The manufacturers have been trying to convince us to care about 3DTV, but the 3D gig is up. We collectively just don’t care about the 3D fad. The biggest issue is that we increasingly watch TV alongside other activities, such as surfing the internet, reading or talking. It’s hard to switch in and out of a 3D experience while multi-tasking, whether you use glasses or not. It speaks volumes that the biggest grossing film of the year, The Hunger Games, wasn’t delivered in 3D, and that “available in 3D” is becoming, for me at least, a sign of a truly crappy movie.
The other issue is 3D content and content delivery – there is (thankfully) not enough of the first, and poor means for the second. We are increasingly receiving our TV content over the internet, but even there we can’t see much of anything 3D.
Apple and Netflix, at least, are delivering up lovely HD 1080P content already, which matches the highest available TV screen resolutions. It’s an even match between content delivery and TV manufacturers right now, but Apple and Netflix have a huge advantage over time. They are using the internet to deliver content, and end to end internet speeds are on a continuous growth curve. Pretty soon they will be offering much higher resolutions, well beyond the maximum HD resolution of 1080P, and there is no reason to believe this resolution race will stop in the next decade. This time there does not need to be an endless squabble about HDTV broadcast standards, as the delivery will be through IP, and TVs will, just like your computer, be able to accept a variety of input types. They’ll be software and perhaps hardware upgradeable so new video standards can be adopted.
High Resolution TV
To match this content we need ever increasing higher resolution TV screens, eventually delivering an IMAX experience in the home. Later on we’ll see lower prices, touch and eventually iPad functionality on our walls.
Apple is rumoured to be entering the TV market, and we know it won’t be with a me-too commodity product. So why wouldn’t they launch with a higher resolution screen? Why wouldn’t they match the experience of the iPhone and iPad 3? Apple will be able to keep controlling the delivery of media through the Apple TV (built in or not), and, with the iPad already in the lounge, gaming on the higher resolution TV is essentially ready to go. TV manufacturers are surely expecting this.
So get ready for a resolution war, and the players will be the content owners (MPAA), the content delivery owners (Sky, Comcast etc), the ISPs and the television manufacturers. There are a couple of candidates for the weakest link in that mix, but my money is on Apple to be the first to tie it all together in compelling way. The TV screen has moved well beyond the broadcast era already, and with Apple it could be a seamless extension of the TV, iPad, iPhone and your computer.
The next generation gaming devices (XBox, PSx, Wii) had better launch alongside new higher resolution TVs (Sony can do this), perhaps higher resolution new movie content and with stunningly detailed graphics. If not we will rightly yawn at their arrival and stick with our computers, iPads and iPhones.
Heck – if Sony, Nintendo & Microsoft continue with their very slow release cycles for the gaming machines, then the next generation of video game devices may well be the last – and we’ll be driving big screen games using iPads and other tablets.