By Robeel Haq
‘Forced obsolescence' is a term that has long been used in the IT industry to describe the endless cycle of processor and operating system upgrades. Buy a PC today and you know that within two years it will be unable to run the latest games and most web sites.
After more than one hundred years of the cathode ray tube television, the home entertainment industry is now trying to force obsolescence upon us. A lot of you will now have got round to buying a high definition television. But if you've already bought a 720p (also known as ‘HD Ready') television, you might now be wondering whether or not you should have got a 1080p (or ‘Full HD') model instead.
As if that wasn't enough to occupy your mind, you're no doubt wondering whether or not you made a mistake buying that HD TV, whether ‘Ready' or ‘Full', at all. Now, all you'll ever hear about is 3D and how it is ‘The Future' of broadcasting.
Believe me though, it won't stop there. Within five years (a wild guess on my part) and probably before 3D hype has even died down, manufacturers (perhaps aided by the media) will be telling you that HD and 3D are old hat and the only way to watch TV is in something called ‘Ultra HD'. Maybe there will also be something called Ultra HD 3D.
Before all that happens, there is the inevitable release of 3D TVs that won't require you to wear silly glasses. Confused?
The upshot is that consumer electronics companies are now trying to force obsolescence upon TV owners in the same way that PC companies always have. Besides the terrible amount of landfill this is going to create, it gives broadcasters a major headache.
If you're upgrading your studio from SD to HD now, should you go for 720p infrastructure, 1080i or the most expensive option of 1080p? In the event that 3D does take off, should you be planning for it now when upgrading your infrastructure, or risk having to spend more later to catch up?
Ambition and budget are the two factors that will most influence these decisions, but they are going to be tough calls to make. Broadcasters will also be making these choices in the knowledge that any technology they implement now may have been superceded in five years. It makes you wonder: Who'd want to be a broadcaster?
On the subject of Al Jazeera's World Cup transmission problems, I don't have much to add to what I wrote last month. Commenting on the broadcaster's muddled distribution policy, my closing statement then was, ‘While the region increasingly produces great content, perhaps we still have plenty to learn about customer service.'
Robeel Haq is the senior group editor of Digital Studio.