The world of technology moves fast, very fast - whatâ€™s cutting edge today, will inevitably be old hat tomorrow. With this in mind, itâ€™s pretty hard to decide when the best time to buy any technology product is. This is a situation that PC buyers have had to endure for some time, but as we see more and more convergence between the IT and consumer electronics markets, consumers are going to have to get used to this rollercoaster ride of change and update too.
Take screen technology for example. I remember when Fujitsu showed me its very first 42in plasma screen, with a price point of around Â£12,000 â€“ despite the ridiculous cost, every journalist in the room wanted one and it wasnâ€™t too long before the average consumer was lusting after a large, flat TV that they could hang on their wall.
Of course it was a long time before the average consumer could seriously consider having a plasma screen in their living room, due to the excessive price of the technology. But, now, your average punter can walk into their local Dixons and pick up a 42in Plasma for around a grand. On the surface this looks like a great situation, with wall hanging, flat screen TVs a reality for the masses and I dare say that there are 42in plasma screens being unboxed all around the country as I write. However, thereâ€™s a reason that you can buy these screens at such bargain prices today â€“ theyâ€™re old technology, in the worst sense of the word.
Anyone that has their ear to the ground in the technology or consumer electronics world will have heard the phrase High Definition or HDTV. Now, Europe may be well behind the US when it comes to HD, but all the indications are that weâ€™ll have broadcast HD content next year, with distributed content coming even sooner. With this in mind, you have to ask yourself if you want to buy a screen thatâ€™s not capable of displaying this content, no matter how much of a bargain it may appear.
Unfortunately, for most consumers this isnâ€™t a question that theyâ€™re asking themselves, and itâ€™s surely not a subject that a sales assistant is going to bring up when heâ€™s seconds away from a sale. Nope, the poor old consumer will think that theyâ€™re buying the latest in display technology, right up to the point when they find out that they wonâ€™t be able to watch the 2006 World Cup in HD like their slightly more savvy mate next door.
Now, there is some movement in the industry to try and inform the public of the forthcoming HD revolution, the most obvious being the â€œHD Readyâ€ logo that has started to appear on certain display products. However, in order to display an HD Ready logo, a screen MUST have both HDMI and component video inputs. This is somewhat strange considering that anyone with the slightest amount of sense is going to connect their HD source to their screen via a digital HDMI link, rather than an analogue component video connection. So, in some respects, the HD Ready logo can be misleading; making consumers think that screens without the marking are not HD compatible when really they are.