The Next Big Thing
Smartwatches know that times have changed (The Next Big Thing, Episode 1)Smartwatches are on the cusp of something big, OLED and 4K TV explained and connected, smart appliances finally start to make sense.
-OLED and 4K, what they'll change and what they may not. Smart watches, the underestimated revolution on your wrist. -Welcome to the future. -And connected appliances finally start to make sense. Let's get a look at the next big thing. Hello and welcome. I'm Brian Cooley in search of the next big thing. You know, the average American home has something like three televisions in it these days. And I wager most of those are working just fine, which, if you're a TV maker, is not great news. How do they get us to buy another one? Two clues: OLED and 4K. -Shop says it's the best designed TV they've ever produced. -This model here shows a cutaway so that you can see what the speakers will look like. -It has 4 times the pixel resolution of a standard 1080p television. -You can see some more fanciful concept frames that LG might start making. -Here is the bottom line. In 2012, LCD flat-panel TV sales were off 1 percent globally, but all TV types combined were off 6 percent and the big 18 percent in all the developed markets and cratering in tech saturated but economically cool Japan. Coupled that with the fact that every survey and every user knows we're gonna be watching less television on televisions going forward and the TV makers have got to make a serious play with new technologies. -This is the XBR-850a series. It's Sony's least expensive 4K TV to date. The Sony's Triluminous display technology. It also has Sony's Dynamic Edge backlighting, so in all, we expect this to be a really good performer. -Some of the interesting features of the TV, it features a front-firing speaker set with a subwoofer and also includes an upscale for all of the 1080p content that you already have, given that this is not 4K already. -This is the company's first used OLED technology that allows the TV to achieve superior picture quality compared to current plasma and LED TVs. Unlike those standard TVs, this one has a curve, and that's one thing you can only get with OLED. -4K TV, I think, could be a bit of crap shoe. First of all, it's primarily a fidelity argument in a nation that is not composed of a bunch of video files. It's waiting for more, really for any, 4K content to really flourish, and that may be a while before there's a fat pipeline of that. Coupled that with the fact that one of the big benefits of 4K is being able to sit closer to the TV, get more immersed in the picture, and not see the pixels? That's a conversation that really hasn't happened in the market yet, so these are all challenges to you really ever wanting it. I think OLED could be a different story. The core technology, organic light-emitting diodes emit color and luminance on their own without any backlight behind them. That may sound like a technical nicety, but it actually makes three important very obvious things happened. First of all, black. When an OLED TV wants to show black, it shows black, and that makes a big difference because in all the colors around it have that much more saturation and high contrast, but colors leap off the screen like no other TV. Then there's thin. Because OLED TVs have no backlight and their technology is very thin to begin with, the overall finished television can be as little as a third of an inch thick front to back. They look fundamentally different on a wall or in your living room. Consumers buy TVs almost as much from the side these days as the front. So this is important. And finally, there's green. Consumers mostly give lip service today more than wallet service, but OLED TVs have the potential to consume very little power, though the initial models are not that power stingy. Oh by the way, I find the curved screen on some of the initial OLED TVs to be a bit of a red herring. I mean it makes a mockery of the technology's innate thinness turning a third of an inch panel into about a 6-inch deep finished television. I think it's mostly there to let this technology stand out in the store in a sea of flat black panels. A key point, OLED televisions can work pretty much all of their magic on the content you watch today, where 4K TVs are sort of waiting for their knight in shining resolution in the form of native 4K content. Bottom line, 4K and OLED will likely merge and be what you buy in 3 to 5 years, making for a television like no other. Back in pursuit of the next big thing. You know, it's kind of fun these days telling folks about Google Glass and smart watches because they give you that look like, "What is wrong with you?" Then I wait for the Dick Tracy jokes to subside and then tell them how smart watches could have a real shot at ubiquity if they succeed in making our increasingly chaotic mobile devices simpler and more personal. -Welcome to the future. Just a moment. I just got a message. -You can put it up to your ear like this and take calls privately. -Swipe down to activate the built-in camera, which lets you snap still images in 10-second videos. -Other uses could be taking a picture with your phone remotely, or checking your route while you're on a run, or controlling the volume of your music. -A gentle swipe takes you from one feature to another. Going back is as simple as swiping down from the top bezel. -Canalys research predicts some 5 million smart watches could sell in 2014. Nobody really knows, but even that goal could be awfully lofty if smart watches as a group don't nail three things. First, look good. This is fashion, not just tech, but how many tech companies do you know are actually good at fashion? Apple is. Sony was. Google, Microsoft, not really. And startups like Pebble, they do have a certain new cache but not on established style language. Second, make sense. Not just making it clear how to use a smart watch, but why I would use one. The makers who get that done first, I think, will win first. Getting across the message that a smart watch can thin out and surface the important stuff on our increasingly busy and vertical phones and tablets. In other words, play the hits of digital living on my wrist. And third, measure me. The market for fitness wearables is real. Think of Fitbit Flex, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up. Those overall will sell some 80 million units in 2014, over 200 million by 2018, and yet I don't think most people are gonna wanna wear both if they don't have to. So here is a place where smart watches could eat a lot of lunches if they can roll up that body matrix piece, that fitness piece as well. You may have heard that CNET has begun doing appliance reviews. It's true. We don't focus on how the zucchini fares on the crisper, but how well these appliances are getting connected and smart, and it's about time. -Basically a socket that you can power on and off with your smartphone, and that's a really cool thing because you can plug anything into it and then make that into a remotely controlled device. -So, if you wanted your porch light to come on at 6:00 pm for you to come home, it will be there on waiting for you. -The Hom-Bot is a really smart vacuum. It's got this camera on the top that is taking dozens and dozens of photographs. This helps it navigate and tell where it is, where it's been, and where it's gonna go. -For now, we get to the high-water mark of this refrigerator, which is the LCD screen that Samsung includes above the ice and water dispenser. One of the things I really like about it is that when you have it just in home screen mode, it will tell you the exact temperatures of the insides of both your freezer and your refrigerator so that if there is a problem, and you've lost power to one, you can always tell. -Now to mind, we're seeing three big changes around the landscape of smart appliances compared to 10 years ago when they first began to merge. The first is the mobile ecosystem. Everything ties back to our phones and tablets these days persistently, and smart appliances will be no different. That gives them a more persistent presence in our lives. It also helps to make them more personal and less like well, appliances. The second one is less pie, pie in the sky. No one is talking so much to me more about the Internet fridge replacing your computer perhaps. Now it's the more practical vision, like a dryer that will message your phone when it's time to get the clothes up before they wrinkle, and then there's cloud smarts. Look at something like the Nest Thermostat. Most of its goodness actually comes from its cloud back in the day that the history, the processing and software that's out there behind it not stuck on the wall. I'm also watching the sort of wild card area around replacement cycles of white goods or major appliances. Most of us are happy if the thing just works and dread replacing one and the old one taken out and the new one brought in and installed. Mobile devices, laptops, never had to go through that kind of friction. I also wanna see how well these major appliance brands can morph themselves into tech and lifestyle brands. This is new territory for them. Hope you've enjoyed this edition, this first edition actually of The Next Big Thing. Send me your emails with comments, ideas, or trends that you want us to look into. We'll see you next time we go in pursuit of the next big thing.