Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro keynoted this week’s 14th annual Iowa DTV Symposium in Des Moines with some peppy predictions on what lies ahead.

"This has been a phenomenal 20-year transition, and we are now at the finish line," Shapiro said, pointing to the February 2009 end of analog broadcast TV. "As people look beyond the present and begin looking at the big picture, we have a pretty good future ahead of us."

That high definition television (HDTV) plays a big role in this future rests in part on key decisions regarding format and display, early testing and pioneering stations such as WRC-TV in Washington, DC, Shapiro said.

Introduced to retail in 1998, HDTV sets achieved high velocity relatively quickly. The first million HDTV sets sold in five years, compared with a decade for the first million color TV sets. In both cases, however, innovation faced skeptics.

"As color TV was being introduced, Time magazine proclaimed it as a resounding industrial flop," Shapiro said. "Many have said the same things about HDTV."

The biggest surprise in rolling out HDTV was that over-the-air broadcasting didn’t drive sales. Rather, HDTV sales came mostly from an unsuspecting source – the DVD player. To a slightly lesser extent, HD content from the Public Broadcasting Service and specialty HD programming providers such as HDNet has also driven adoption.

Looking ahead, Shapiro offered the following projections:

• You will have Internet TV – there is no question about it, products are coming, and it’s not the most difficult thing to do from a technology point of view. This will happen over the next few years.

• There will be great growth in mobile TV. There is rapid development of standards, and CEA is working to ensure consumers can take their television on the go with them. In 2010, mobile TV products will be at trade shows in full force. With the growth of wireless networks, you will be able to get the programming you want, wherever you want to watch it.

• Homes will become true media centers that get information from a variety of platforms as television becomes interactive and fully connected.

• Consumers are going to begin demanding all HD. Similar to the way people turned away from black and white in favor of color programs, the need for all HD packages is upon us.

• The audio experience of HDTV will become increasingly important as quality sound will begin to differentiate one HD service from another – this technology will advance significantly in the coming decade. The audio experience is so much more important than the visual experience, as generally people would prefer to watch a bad picture with good sound, than a good picture with bad sound.

– Bruce Bahlmann

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