We’re all aware of the pace of technological change these days. It’s obviously a big issue in our world. We also know that not everything survives the Darwinism of the market. Here is a true story:
A good friend of mine decided, in the early eighties, that he would record and archive his favourite TV series – Dad’s Army, Bilko, Porridge, Monty Python etc. – which he diligently did. Being an audio/videophile he used the best technology available using the finest equipment. He thought he’d watch and enjoy them when he was fifty.
He’s fifty this year. The best technology back then was videotape. The finest equipment was a Sony C9 video recorder. But guess what? The C9 was a Betamax machine (far superior to VHS). And guess what else? You can’t get spares for a 1982 Betamax machine now. Or a replacement unit that plays those tapes. Oh dear.
Of course he can still watch his programmes, and he does. Using Apple TV and his LoveFilm account. Thank goodness. And the Internet.
So what of the technology available today nearly (gulp) thirty years later? I’ll give you a few examples.
3D has been heavily marketed. The kit isn’t particularly expensive. To make the most of it, however, you really need to make sure all links in the chain are fully 3D capable (which hasn’t been fully explained in the advertising) and everything needs to be installed and configured correctly. And you need the 3D glasses. The right glasses, because they’re all different.
The first big feature films were a success at the box office, and those, like Avatar or How to Train Your Dragon, that were originated in 3D looked impressive. Since then, however, attendances for the 3D screenings have done less well. Many people, especially young children, find it all a bit uncomfortable. This summer (supposed to be the ‘Summer of 3D’) has seen the proportion of 3D US cinema revenue for 3D movies fall to around 45%. The US movie trade paper Variety is talking about ‘the decline’ of 3D, even in the context of the key demographics of families and teenagers (horror is a 3D favourite, apparently – plus ca change …).
The fact that modern TVs allow you to use iPlayer, Lovefilm, 4OD, ITV-on-demand and other on-demand services isn’t that well known, yet as a result many of our clients (and my household in particular!) hardly ever watch broadcast TV ‘when broadcast’. We watch TV, but not when it is first shown – rather we use it when we have time, or when our children are allowed to, or something that allows us to ‘time shift’ our viewing. Like Sky+, but without having to ‘remember’ to record stuff. The popularity of these services has skyrocketed – especially when you take into account people viewing on their smartphones, PCs, iPads etc. Over 20 million people use iPlayer regularly (well over 100 million programmes are viewed using iPlayer every month) and around 10 million people used the Radioplayer service in its first month of operation.
You may have heard of Sonos. Or maybe you’ve used it. It lets you listen to and control your music, and Internet radio and streaming music services like Last FM, Napster and Spotify wherever you want in your home or business. Sonos just announced that there are over a million rooms with Sonos in worldwide.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY?
Back when my friend was recording his Betamax TV programmes it was a huge struggle just to send sound around a couple of rooms of someone’s home. Lots of people wanted to do it, but few could afford it, or stomach the work needed. Now, thanks to systems like Sonos, it’s easy. The same can be said of the on-demand TV services. And because it is simple to do something people want, they’re really successful, and we make sure our clients can take advantage of them.
But what of 3D? Well we can certainly help you get a great 3D experience. But I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to get the movies or much other content in 3D in a few years time. I can be sure, however, that our systems, and the wiring that supports them, will allow you to watch Internet TV. Because it’s easy, people like it. Because people like it the technology has matured and the services all work in a similar way. That means I can predict how it’ll work.
Betamax was better than VHS. But people liked VHS. Sometimes it’s better to be happy than to be right.