Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

17.1.2020 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 181


Henry Ellsworth, former Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, delivered his annual report to congress. In that report he stated: “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” The year? 1843. In the previous year, a record 490 patents had been approved. It is hard to say when human improvement will end but in 2019, 311,000 patents were approved by that same office.

One of the greatest challenges for developers is in a mature market. How do you continue to innovate and attract clients to the upgrade market when all possible innovation has seemingly occurred?

It is a dangerous thought pattern to fall into. Just when we thought the mobile phone market had reached a certain level of maturity, along came a complete disruption with the smartphone and the process started all over again.

One product category that I constantly hear has reached a stalled state of maturity is the television.

From 30 June 1925 when Charles Jenkins was granted U.S. patent 1,544,156 for ‘Transmitting Pictures over Wireless’ to CRT and the flat-panel revolution of Plasma then LCD; LED; TFT and OLED, there is no doubt that the technology has progressed to the point when some question the ability to innovate further.

With the number of worldwide connected television sets predicted to pass the one billion mark next year and with annual sales approaching a quarter of a billion, market leading companies such as Samsung; LG; Sony and Hisense are literally banking on innovation to keep driving sales.

So where are we headed?

There are three main areas that the manufacturers are hoping will entice you to choose their version of your next purchase. Resolution, size and concealment.

4K resolutions (named for the number of pixels across the screen – 3,840 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels high for a total of 8.3 million individual pixels) would seem like the latest resolution but with 35 per cent of televisions sales last year at 4K the new battleground is already shaping up with 8K – a massive 33 million pixels on the screen. It seems hard to justify with only a few channels in Australia even broadcasting in 4K plus the limitation of the human eye – but someone forgot to tell the manufacturers as they will try and convince you that 8K is the only option to even consider now.

Remember when plasma TVs hit 42” and we thought that was a huge size for a TV? Before long, 42” became the standard fare for your new TV but that size is almost up to 65” now. In 2020 it is expected that 65” screens will make up 24 per cent of all sales and 75” screens – which were unheard of only a few years ago – will be up to 10 per cent. Bezels as small as 2.3mm make it even easier to fit the large screens in the same space – which brings me to my next point.

There was a time when you wanted your screen to stand out as a centrepiece of your living room. Manufacturers are betting that the opposite now applies. Screens that are 20mm thick to sit flush on your wall will be the basic choice. Televisions are starting to roll-up when not being used or, my favourite option, televisions that appear to be a piece of art hanging on the wall until a voice command springs them into life for your favourite viewing.

When will innovation end? I hope never. Tell me what you want in a TV at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson