Here’s the thing about CES. Most of what we hear is stuff we’ve heard before. The big question is always whether this time it’s for real or not. In this year’s early announcements, we get news that Lenovo is launching a TV set with Android 4.0, Belkin is starting a line of accessories to give existing smartphones and tablets the ability to tune into the new Dyle mobile TV service, and Toshiba is on track to bring its autostereoscopic 3DTV to American shores this quarter. Now, any bets on which products will actually gain traction in 2012? Personally, I’d keep my Vegas winnings tucked away for now.
On the Android front, Lenovo is releasing its Ice-Cream-Sandwich TV set in China, with no word yet on a US debut. Beyond that, however, we’ve seen no evidence that consumers care about Android access on their living-room flat screens. Google certainly hasn’t made a go of it yet with Google TV, and the TV app environment in general is still pretty lackluster. There are lots of apps, but mostly what people watch is Netflix. While experts predict the next three years will be big for connected TV sales, we still haven’t seen a shake-out among TV app environments. Consumers won’t show a preference until somebody demonstrates a TV marketplace with several notably superior apps not available elsewhere. (i.e. apps with really good content a la HBO Go) I doubt Android’s going to be able to do that in 2012.
Dyle TV is an interesting one. The Mobile Content Venture announced just last week that it would start delivering live TV to MetroPCS subscribers, and at CES, Belkin is introducing a line of accessories designed to make existing devices capable of receiving the Dyle mobile DTV service. Unfortunately, broadcast mobile TV services don’t have the best track record. And now that the pay-TV operators are getting into the live streaming game, it’s hard to know if enough people will care about the DTV alternative. The big determining factor may be whether pay-TV providers can break the in-home viewing barrier this year. That, and how many live sports events are accessible for free.
Finally there’s the new Toshiba autostereoscopic 3DTV. (Image above from Engadget’s Friday post) Given the $10k price tag across the pond, we’re not likely to see big sales this year. However, I’m more optimistic about the long-term prospects for this one. Nobody wants to wear funny glasses to watch TV, and the initial excitement over 3D died down significantly in 2011. The technology’s got a much better shot at success, though, if we can ditch the glasses. And while $10,000 is still a lot of money, remember how far prices for HDTV sets dropped in a few short years. By CES 2015, we could be looking at a whole new 3D world.