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Technology Futures

Commentaries on Directions That Will Impact the Future of Technology

The Home Entertainment System Myth


I enjoy David Einstein’s weekly syndicated column in which he dispenses advice to anyone who writes in with a techie question.  This week a lady wrote in stating that she had bough a “3D Smart TV”, a Blu-ray disc player and a 3D Blu-ray version of Cars 2.  After setting everything up, she found that she couldn’t watch Cars 2 in 3D!  She wanted to know why, since she thought she bought those components so that her daughter could watch Cars 2 in 3D.  I bet I can guess who the retailer was that sold her that stuff.

David (not so nicely) told her that she would need a 3D player to play a 3D disc.  He then went on to explain that Cars 2 was available on an on-demand cable in 3D and that would play into her 3D TV.  He also gave her a few other options, that I’m sure the retailer never thought of mentioning.

This squib is a great example of how the home entertainment industry has failed at every level – developer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer – to educate the average consumer.  This is great news for the folks who attend CEDIA, the international trade association for companies who design and install electronic systems for the home.   These folks make a living off the consumer’s lack of knowledge.  If you are not a technical person and want a multi-component system to do what you want (e.g., play that 3D disc) by pressing a single button, you need to hire one of these CEDIA guys.    Since the CEDIA guys charge a lot, most people don’t hire them.  Without them, the chances are pretty good that you will a) buy the wrong stuff; b) pay too much for it; and c) use what you bought up to about 20% of its potential.

This state of affairs has been going on for many years, and I simply don’t understand it.   All of the technology that is needed to make a home entertainment system “plug and play” has been available for years, yet no company has addressed the issue, although many purport to do so.  Several years ago, I wrote Steve Jobs a letter explaining how certain technologies that Apple had or was working on could address this problem, and, in the process, make Apple a lot of money.  In reply, I got a sharply-worded letter from a lawyer stating that Apple had a firm policy of rejecting any ideas from anyone not an employee of the company, and I was cordially invited to mind my own business.  (I thought about sending a similar missive to Bill Gates, but figured Microsoft would probably be even nastier than Apple.)

If you have a chance, attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this coming January.  Companies like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Microsoft, etc. have booths measuring tens of thousands of square feet pushing thousands of products, but you won’t find much that tells the consumer how to integrate these products or even allude to ease-of use.  The words are there in the hype, but none of these companies deliver a solution.

There is a place out there for a mass-market systems integrator.  The revenue potential is massive.  Why nobody has seized the opportunity remains one of the great mysteries.  For most people, a home entertainment SYSTEM is a myth.

Grouse, grouse, grouse . . . . .

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