The last bastion fell. After this year’s CES show, there can be little doubt that 3D TVs are dead and buried. Curved TVs are heading in the same direction whereas the VR industry has been hit with a reality check.
3D: History repeats itself
CES is changing every year. As a tech show it has to embrace new technology constantly. The consequence is that old technology is abandoned without hesitation or concern.
At this year’s show, 3D was dead and buried, and it did not seem to trouble participants one bit. Perhaps because several manufacturers had had one year to lick the wounds (and write down investments). Samsung abandoned 3D last year. At that time, it felt like a dramatic event and when FlatpanelsHD broke the news many readers refused to believe that it applied to the high-end models, too. It did. Shortly after, Philips announced that it would no longer include 3D in any TVs.
LG and Sony will follow suit in 2017. 3D will not be available in any of the two brands’ TVs. Panasonic also unveiled a new flagship TV without 3D. Sony’s decision was met by a dismissive shrug where LG’s decision garnered a little more discussion, primarily because the combination of OLED and passive 3D technology arguably represented the best 3D experience. One consumer has started a petition asking LG to revive 3D. That is unlikely to happen but it is worth the try.
3D will live on in the cinema and on home projectors but this will not change the fact that the entire eco system is close to collapse. A 4K 3D standard never emerged, content providers have abandoned 3D channels/streams, and the content industry in general is scaling down. The glasses-free 3D technology that we were promised is far from ready. At CES 2017 we once again witnessed the usual demonstrations of glasses-free 3D tech, and once again everything that we saw was insultingly bad.
The history repeats itself. 3D failed again.
Virtual reality check
It was impossible to ignore virtual reality at a show like CES just one year ago. Literally, because the lines to try the latest Oculus Rift or HTC Vive were some of the longest we have seen to date.
CES 2017? No one spoke about Oculus or HTC. Oculus was nowhere to be found. Sony has a small section of its public booth dedicated to PlayStation VR but nothing big to announce or demonstrate. Virtual reality is still incredibly exciting. The experience inside the headset is second to none. It is immersive and at times bordering on, well, reality. But the entire industry faced a reality check in 2016. The explosive hype that had been built up landed hard.
As usual some companies in the technology industry are more concerned with arriving first. For VR this has led to an unfortunate climate where most players throw shit at the wall to see what sticks. It is not optimal and besides the 3-4 relevant hardware players in VR, there was not much to be excited about after CES 2017.
We can hope that this reality check has helped mature the industry to take the long, difficult haul that is required to establish a new market – and ecosystem. The industry has to collectively solve hard issues such as slimming down the headsets, creating higher quality content, developing cable-free systems, employing better tracking etc.
We keep our fingers crossed for VR. When it works, VR can be incredible.
Curved TVs: Samsung surrenders - slowly
We first encountered curved TVs in 2013 when both LG and Samsung apparently felt that the curve was the right form factor for OLED TVs. No customers had asked for it but as the saying goes consumers rarely know what they want before you show it to them. However, that does not appear to explain curved TVs.
In 2014, Samsung felt that LCD TVs should be curved, too, and in 2015 the company went all-in by making all of its high-end TVs curved. Just half a year would pass before Samsung began to backtrack and decided to add a flat high-end model to the line-up. In 2016, flat high-end models returned to the line-up and in 2017 Samsung will, for the first time in some years, make its 9 series TV flat. The 8 series will still be curved and the 7 series will come in both form factors.
What about the others? Philips abandoned the curve last year. Panasonic, too. Of all the new Sony 2017 high-end TVs none of them were curved. South Korean LG has also decided to kill the gimmick. None of the new LG OLED or LCD TVs will be curved in 2017. Walking around at CES, we did spot a few curved TVs, mostly from Chinese brands, but as TCL told us; these will be made available only in select Asian countries. Americans and Europeans are not interested.
All data that we have been presented points to curved TVs not selling well. Samsung has been alone in insisting that sales have been going swimmingly by making up more or less fanciful segments to refer to. The world’s largest TV maker will probably insist that this is the case until it no longer sells curved TVs but putting CES 2017 in perspective there can be no doubt that even Samsung is rolling back its major bet on the curve. Samsung has a new buzzword in 2017: QLED.
That is 1 dead, 1 dying, and 1 rebooted trend, so what else will 2017 bring? We will take a look at some of the more exciting trends in a later article.