Happy New Year!

2008 was a rough ride in many ways, but there were some silver linings. The Dow gave up 33.8% for the year, making it the worst year since 1931 during the Great Depression. Across Wall Street in general, about $7 trillion in shareholder value was lost in 2008. (That makes the Obama $1 trillion stimulus package sound almost like a bargain.) Consumers were uncertain about their future, and stayed away in droves from the stores during the holiday shopping season, making it one of the worst in years. Retailers fell left and right, including CompUSA, Tweeter, and Circuit City. The post-holiday prices appeared well before Black Friday, as retailers struggled to find cash wherever they could.

We also saw the early transition to digital TV broadcasts in Wilmington, NC, as well as a few other communities. While the Wilmington experience was generally positive, it benefited greatly from a mobilize community and lots of attention from manufacturers and broadcasters. It’s for certain that the whole country won’t have all those extra resources available when it happens for real everywhere else in February, and millions of homes are likely to be unprepared for the switch.

We more or less saw the end of rear projection television; yes, they’re still there, and people still don’t buy them. LaserTV has not turned out to be the miracle that we had hoped, and flat panel prices are now so low that it’s hard to imagine any competing technology getting a toehold any time soon.

All the same, DisplaySearch estimates that more than 102 million LCD TVs were sold worldwide in 2008, which is nearly a 30% increase over 2007. (Never mind that revenues are forecast to fall by 15% to 20% in 2009 due to lower prices.) So a lot more people are enjoying flat panel TV than there were a year ago.

I can’t say that 2009 looks much better. Once confidence is shaken — whether its the banks or the consumers — it takes a long time to recover. New jobs need to be created, and the money needs to start flowing again. But it will come in time. In the meantime, we’ll need to make careful choices about what we do with our money and our time.

Still, there are going to be some great bargains in flat panel TVs in the short term. If you have any questions about how to choose one, or if you have questions about the digital broadcast transition, let me know: alfred@hdtvprofessor.com.

Thanks for your support, and I hope that you and yours enjoy a happy and healthy 2009!