The North American International Auto Show and and the Consumer Electronics Show are in full swing (OK, the Auto Show opens to the public Saturday, but the press opening was this week). But in spite of being a car guy and a gadget guy, I can’t get too excited. Why? Both shows have a stream of breathless announcements coming out almost every minute it seems. You’d think I’d be in heaven.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Apple announcements. Usually, when Apple announces something, it’s available either right away or in a short time. Many of the announcements out of these shows, however, are for products that are many months away. Some of them don’t even give a price yet! Sure, many of these products sound great – but when you don’t actually have to produce anything but mock-ups, prototypes, or demo units, you can say they’ve got any feature you want.
Another reason I’m not too excited – the direction of the technology. The past couple of years, TV manufacturers have been pushing 3D TV. Sorry, not planning to spend $50 a pair for some glasses to put over my glasses to watch the few 3D channels available – especially since my TV isn’t that old.
One of the other techs manufacturers are talking about is the ability to control your set with your voice. “Show me PBS, TV.” Sounds neat…but how many people are using over-the-air only to get to their channels? Depending on which ‘net stat you want to believe, anywhere from 56% to 90% of US homes are using satellite or cable, which these days generally means a box from one of those companies controls the channel. The tuner in my TV never gets used – which means lots of cool features, like the built-in guide and picture-in-picture (only works on mine with the tuner), are useless. So until I can talk to my Tivo, I’m not all that excited.
Same with all the ‘net connectivity on my TV. My set can show all kinds of stuff – YouTube, Netflix, etc. But because of Digital Rights Management (DRM, otherwise known as “we think you’re a crook”), my TV (and many others) won’t play any digital source audio out of anything but the right/left analog RCA jacks. So if I want that Netflix program in Dolby Digital to go through my home theatre, I need to play it straight in to the audio amplifier. That’s why many home theatre sound systems act as audio/video switchers – you plug everything into the amp, and it passes the video on to the TV. So again, the TV tuner is bypassed. I have everything pass through the amplifier – BluRay, Tivo, XBox, AppleTV, Wii – because that’s the only way to get digital sound.
So pardon me if I stifle a yawn. Wake me when there’s something I can actually buy and works in the real world.