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Convergence Is a One-Way Street

3 Aug, 2011 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Well, we finally have our first Internet-connected Blu-ray Disc player in our house, and the boys were beside themselves at the prospect of watching YouTube videos on the big screen … until they saw how crappy they looked.

Their excitement lasted roughly three minutes. Then, out came the Blu-ray Disc of Hall Pass (all right, I’m a bad parent!), three big bowls of popcorn, and just like that the novelty of connecting the big TV to the Internet was forgotten.

I say this because for years everyone has been proselytizing about convergence, convergence, convergence. Turn your TV into a computer, turn your computer into a TV. But as the failed Web TV experiment of the late 1990s showed, migrating the Web to the family room widescreen might not be what people want.

And today — exactly a decade and a half after the launch of Web TV, I might add — I still don’t see it happening.

As our primary home TVs have gotten bigger and clearer, anything less than high-definition simply doesn’t cut it. We’ll watch movies on our PCs, laptops and tablets, but we won’t watch YouTube videos or other low-res fare on our TVs.

Streaming HD movies may ultimately turn out to be a different beast, but for now getting a true high-definition movie on my HDTV in any manner other than a Blu-ray Disc is way too much of hassle. Netflix’s streaming-only plan continues to be hampered by a poor selection; pay-as-you go options from Vudu and iTunes are cumbersome and give me this nasty feeling of someone sticking his hand in my pocket, feeling around for every last bit of change I might have. And I am the only one who is sick and tired of slow download times and “buffering,” which is rapidly becoming the most hated word in the English language?

As for buying digital downloads, forget it. I’d still rather buy a physical object for $10, $15, even $20, than a digital version for half that amount. Too many things that I have downloaded onto my computer over the years have simply disappeared.

I think true convergence has come about, but it’s a one-way deal: our computers have become TVs, but not the other way around. And quite honestly, I don’t see that changing, at least not in the foreseeable future.

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