Friday, April 11, 2008

Sharp Caters to the Ladies, Teaches About HD

According to Sharp's research, 75% of the consumer electronics purchases within the home are made by women (or at least "OK'd" by them), yet just 2% of females actually feel confident on their knowledge of high-definition TV. Given these staggering numbers, the top LCD manufacturer hosted an educational event for about 25 journalists to teach them about HD, answer questions, and squash myths. Surprisingly, the questions came flooding in so much that an official presentation almost wasn't needed.

What's the difference between LCD and other technologies? Asked one woman. What does 720p, 1080i, and 1080p mean? Chimed in another. Questions even touched upon topics that us in the "tech" field often take for granted. What's a bezel? inquired a puzzled female journalist. Sharp Canada's Kevin Andrews calmly explained that it's just the tech industry's term for the frame around the TV. This gal wasn't dumb, nor was she uninformed. But we often don't realize that people really don't recognize these terms, nor buzz words like 1080p, 16:9, or letterboxing. Just because we use them every day doesn't mean they do! Questions continued on to span topics like how to clean a flat-panel when your kids run their grubby hands across it, and where would one buy such a solution?! Attendees even touched upon issues of energy consumption, proper viewing distance, and yes, surround sound. Apparently women do understand that you need a good surround sound system to go along with your high-def flat-panel TV, but they just needed some reassurance from a reputable source.

A demo showing the movie Enchanted playing via a standard-definition DVD player on the left and a Sharp Blu-ray player on the right (both on Sharp's new special edition AQUOS SE94-series LCDs) provided further evidence that the high-definition experience really is worth it. Rogers Cable provided the high-definition set-top boxes for the demo, while reps from both companies were on hand to answer questions related to both flat-panel technology and source devices.

After the demonstration, which ran for about an hour and a half, I was able to chat with some of the journalists, none of whom worked in the technology sector. When I asked one gal whether the demo convinced her to buy a flat-panel TV (she's still living in the CRT world), she explained that, although she wasn't jumping out of her seat to buy one today, she certainly feels more confident having been educated on the technology. It's just like buying a car, after all. No one wants to walk into a store or sales office being vulnerable or uniformed.

Interestingly, one journalist told me that she didn't even know she could connect most flat-panel TVs (like the aforementioned Sharp AQUOS models) to her computer or notebook and view digital photos, or even surf the 'net, on the big-screen. "That's a huge selling feature for women and moms," she said, "and companies should really focus on features like that." Many attendees also seemed pleasantly surprised to learn about Sharp's AQUOS Net feature, which provides real-time tech support whereby a rep can actually adjust your TV settings remotely to optimal viewing. (This feature was officially announced at CES in January 2008).

The main reason I attended this event was to gain some insight into where the "average" consumer stands with HDTV, and I was truly blown away by how many terms, buzz words, and high-tech features are taken for granted within the industry. Imagine that, while we spend so much time focusing on the minutia of picture quality, something simple like PC connectivity makes all the difference with the core buying audience. It was truly an enlightening experience. Kudos to Sharp for taking the initiative to start educating consumers on the benefits of HDTV, and how to get it. The more customers that jump on the bandwagon, the better.

Stay tuned for video footage from the event, including eye-opening commentary from some of the female attendees.

Photo: (l-r) Sharp Canada's Chris Matto, Bill Friend, Eteinne Kwan, and Kevin Andrews were on hand to answer questions, and demonstrate the differences between SD and HD content.

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