One sure sign that a product is about to fully explode into the mass consciousness is when the terminology surrounding that producut starts getting recontextualized. The assumption being — of course — that enough people get the original reference to understand it in other contexts. And so when products like sunglasses and countertops get defined as “high definition,” you know it’s just about time for it to explode.
And indeed, it is poised to: since the introduction of the digitial TV in 1998, there have been 15 million sold, and that number is supposed to hit 50 million by 2009. Contrast that with color television’s first decade, which only netted 5 million new people.
There are issues: if you’ve already shelled out for a Tivo or a Replay (or two: since we time-shift all of our entertainment, we have a solution for the Lost / Veronica Mars on at the same time problem) you’re pretty much out of luck — as the addition of HD channels to your cable/satellite provider need to be watched live, or you need to spend more for one of your provider’s bundled HD DVRs.
And here’s another issue: the sheer size of current most HDTVs means that — when you decide to upgrade (and you will) — it won’t be easy to just turn your old HD TV into the bedroom TV or the kids TV, effectively ending an American Tradition of hand-me-downs.