Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Power of Openness

I was going to name this blog “why Samsung TVs are much better than Sony’s”. However, it may sound out of place in a technical blog focusing on computing and telco technologies.

As I have blogged recently about the issues of openness vs. closeness – e.g. Android vs. iOS, the same issue manifests itself in the broader consumer world, such as flat screen TVs.

With Australian government’s decision of moving from analogue TV to digital, the new flat screen TVs are selling like hot cakes. The available choices are dazzling – each boasts their own technical advantages in terms of picture quality, energy saving, sound quality etc. Your average consumers cannot care about all the technical mumbo jumbos, all they want is a TV! But is it?

As the display technology advances and matures, all the major manufacturers from all the major countries can produce decent display units/screens. So there is no point trying to analyse which technology is better in this regard – at the end of the day, what ever looks and sounds pleasing to you should win. So do those manufactures differ in any way? Yes they do – they differ in how open they are in terms of embracing different technologies.

Nowadays, it is common to record and view your favourite HD TV programs and movies from USB memory sticks or hard disks. A HD video can take any where from 1GB to 10GB of space. As we know, the major file systems supported by the TV manufactures are FAT/FAT32 and NTFS. With FAT32, there is an upper limit on the file size, being 4GB-1Byte. This basically rules out FAT or FAT32 as a valid format for your USB storage. This is where it matters – manufactures such as Sony and Panasonic do not support anything other than FAT/FAT32 on their TV and BluRay players (or USB 1 devices); whereas Samsung and most Chinese brands do.

There is good reason for Sony to be restrictive. It owns media companies too – Sony Pictures. It’s in their interest to stop you from recording or backing up your movies into one place to make things more convenient. So it is the same theme being played out in the computing industry for decades. Consumers can cast their vote with their hard-earned currency – the classical supply-demand interplay.

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