UHDTV, designed to deliver video with four times the resolution of current HDTV will be hyped, dissected and debated at the CES this week.
Third, UHDTV is the ultimate video toy for the “1 percent” of Americans. Call it Romneyvision, UHDTV will remain a plaything for the rich in the foreseeable future. Kumu Puri, senior executive with Accenture’s electronics and high-tech group, noted, “With an estimated $20,000 price tag, Ultra HDTV sets may be too expensive for mass-market consumption, especially when you consider that this ultra high-definition content is not yet commercially available.” Did she say “may be”?
She added that “market momentum will likely wait until consumers become more familiar with the technology, manufacturers reduce prices, and content providers embrace the format.”
But ultimately, here is one good reason why Ultra HDTV is a non-starter. UHDTV is an all-industry push. CE companies are looking for ways to secure margins for their flat-panel TVs. They desperately need so-called “value add” for their money-losing TV business.
They’ve tried Internet TV, 3-D and Google TV. The latest gimmick is UHDTV. Consumers don’t buy products out of compassion for overextended companies trying to save their businesses.
There is, however, one ray of hope. A great picture is hard to resist. Said Joseph Del Rio, associate product line director at Broadcom, “Ask any sales guy at Best Buy. When consumers come to a store and see the wall of pictures, the best picture always wins.” Resolution beats 3-D, and it beats smart TV.
Asked whether the U.S. cable industry is prepared for 4K x 2K content distribution, Del Rio responded: “Don’t underestimate the U.S. cable guys.” The cable industry is already getting ready for DOCSIS 3.0, IP packet protocol over cable, featuring channel bonding. The channel bonding, enabling multiple downstream and upstream channels to be used together at the same time by a single subscriber, can also dynamically change its rate, anywhere from 20 to 40 Megabits per second (Mbps). “This will allow cable guys to offer the high-bandwidth content on demand.”
But whether or not the cable industry is ready for UHDTV, Chris Day, vice president of marketing and business development, at Ambarella, Inc., predicted that 4K content materials may become first available on the Internet. Ambarella believes its upcoming chips are designed to “drive 4K into mainstream consumer market.”
This will be interesting to watch. I believe that the cost of UHDTV displays could drop rapidly over the next couple of years. If that happens adoption will be relatively quick. Now we just need to marry UHDTV AND OLED technologies in the same display.
chanj said "Time will change everything. I have no doubt that there will be better resolution 10 years from now regardless of the screen size. The TV market just doesn't seem to be ready today."
This is exactly the point, and exactly the same was true 12+ years ago when the first HDTV broadcasts in the U.S. began and there were hardly any HDTV receivers or displays out there to receive them.
4K video cameras are being used today. Content will lead the way and then the affordable 4K displays will follow -- exactly as happened during the transition from SDTV to HDTV over the last decade.
You make interesting points, but you know what? Even the news is a lot better when it's transmitted in HD and wide screen. In my home TV market, I remember when the first local station made the switch to wide screen and HD. It looked superb. And soon after that, all the other stations followed.
Same goes with voice programs on the radio. They are far more enjoyable over good FM or digital radio, than over AM radio barely capable of reproducing 3500 Hz (in most AM receivers).
Also, what the eye-brain system can truly perceive is not obvious. A first approximation is something like 1 to 1.5 arc-minutes of resolution, which is what drives HDTV to 720 and 1080 lines. But that's only an approximation. The eyes can also focus in on detail in strange ways. Retinal displays are much smaller that HDTV screens, and yet have higher pixel count (2560 X 1600 compared with 1920 X 1080 for the highest HDTV pixel count, or 1280 X 720).
Human eyes and brain are every interesting. With the 2 resolutions - 720 and 1080 - of current HDTV, most of us can't tell the difference of quality unless there is a side by side comparing. There is no doubt the higher the better. We have to remember what we typically watch in most days - News and possibly TV shows. Do I really care the resolution with these contents? I can actually live with SDTV and even radio with regard to news. Last but not least, the TV broadcasters have to buy new equipments which was one of the key factors for HDTV to wait for 10+ years.
Time will change everything. I have no doubt that there will be better resolution 10 years from now regardless of the screen size. The TV market just doesn't seem to be ready today.
On the other hands, what if digital content is delivered to cinema for any movie title?
Good points Bert. We both remember very well those days in the late 90s when people questioned why anyone would need the resolution of HDTV and whether the average consumer would even notice or care. Well it turned out that they do notice and they do care, even if they aren't quite sure what it is they are noticing and what makes them like it better.
I find it difficult to believe that it is still true that the majority of HDTV viewers are still watching mostly non-HD content. If so, are they watching only DVDs? Since the shutdown of analog TV broadcasting, the only significant remaining sources of non-HD content are cable TV, DVDs, and your old VHS tapes...if you still have a working VCR from last century.
"The majority of HDTV viewers still watch mostly non-HD content on their flat panels, even though so much of it is available. Many can't even tell the difference. The only time they might make the effort to get HD is in live sports and movies."
This is what we always heard when HDTV was just starting out. No one cares. Analog TV is just fine.
Fact is, though, that if people went back to their old CRTs and analog TV now, they would be surprised at how poor the image is. And another point is, these same people rave about "retinal displays" on their iToys. Even though the screen in tiny.
I think the problem is that the average joe probably doesn't analyze what he likes and dislikes very well. It has to be shown to him, before he gets it.
BD85, I agree with you. The main drivers for acceptance are Price and basic support (ie bandwidth). HDTV is really nice to watch if HD is available for your viewing options, I remember the first time I saw a football game in HD. Wow! The blades of grass were clearly visible. The picture was really nice, but having a larger screen also helped drive HDTVs. The addition of LCD based "flat" TVs really helped drive the size and the "need/desire" for HDTV.
Don't get me wrong. I hate being a naysayer myself and I would be the first to admit wanting UHDTV. And yet, I just wonder what else need to happen to get this thing off the ground---aside from giving it "10 years."
The other consideration can be wrapped up in a phrase I like to use: "There are features you can use and features you can sell. They aren't necessarily the same."
Digital cameras, for example, have long past the resolution needed to be an equivalent to the typical snap-shot film camera. In fact, in most cases the lens of the inexpensive digital point and shoot isn't high enough quality to utilize all of that resolution. Smaller pixels also reduce low-light capability.
In essence, if it were really about quality and performance, most digital cameras would have stayed at, maybe 8 Mpixels and focused on other aspects of the technology.
I would say that when 3D first became available in consumer TVs, it fell into the "feature you can sell" category. Now it doesn't really fall into either. Resolution will definitely fall into the "features you can sell" category. Whether is also falls into the "can use" category is a different question.
I strongly disagree with you on this one Junko. UHDTV isn't a question of if, it's a question of when -- and the "when" is likely to be a purely economic issue -- like when the price drops from $20,000 to $2,000.
I don't suppose there is a law for increasing video resolution over time -- analogous to Moore's Law for silicon -- but perhaps there should be.
The Broadcom guy was spot on -- "When consumers come to a store and see the wall of pictures, the best picture always wins."
And the best picture of tomorrow will easily beat the best picture of today.
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