When it comes to new technology, there are seldom absolutes. The spectrum of technologies, prices and individual preferences mean that there's a sliding window for new technologies. UHDTV/4K is no different. There will be people who just bought a new HDTV and will be vocal about how curmudgeonly they feel. And then there will be people with a foolish enthusiasm, hardly sobered by debacles of the past and industry aggressiveness.
To be sure, UHDTV is coming, and the industry is, from what I've seen, determined not to make the mistakes of the past. (Read that as 3D). Having been through this process before, the industry knows what it has to do to generate demand. I might have used the words "be successful," but there's no question 4K will be successful. The only question is whether the industry can match its ambitions to the sensibilities of customers.
Of course, there will also be writers who will tell you that you can't see the difference between UHDTV and HDTV at a distance. ( I can.) They'll talk about how little content there is. (Sure, but it's coming.) And you may well end up feeling smug, thinking that it's all just a game to part you from your money.
And yet ... and yet, progress is what our culture is all about. We move inexorably forward. No one uses a 1990's flip phone anymore (except agent Gibbs on NCIS). The question, really, is: how much fun do you want to have and can you balance your checkbook doing it? With that in mind, here are my brief thoughts on the evolution to this new standard.
At CES 2015, the mission seems to be to develop the key technologies in some semblance of a coordinated effort. The Blu-ray group has named the next generation standard "Ultra-HD Blu-ray." These 66 GB dual-layer discs will deliver 3840 x 2160 at 60 fps, 10 bit color and some other niceties. It's hoped that player hardware will be in customer hands next Christmas. Thankfully, it doesn't appear that we'll be troubled by another format war, like Blu-ray and HD DVD in our first transition. Finally, despite the streaming hype, Blu-ray/DVD discs still dominiate in terms of sales, so that's still an area ripe for content delivery
UHDTV streaming has onerous requirements for streaming, perhaps a minimum of 15 Mbps. But the real line in the sand is more like 40 Mbps for a great picture. The industry knows this, and I think the answer will be, as before, get people to appreciate what and Ultra HD Blu-ray player can do, upscale the rest of the 1080p content in the UHDTV electronics, and let the ISPs sort out how they can deliver better 4K content as time goes on.
In some ways, this transition won't be as difficult. In many cases, a UHDTV will be a simple swap out, with the old HDTV relegated to another room. We already have the required HDMI cables, and there won't be the confusion we had in 2006-2008 with RCA Composite, Component and HDMI cables. Your current Blu-ray player will just work, as will the DVR and the Apple TV.
DIRECTV's new satellite went into successful orbit in December and is being tested and prepped for 4K delivery. You won't need a new dish, I am told. And you won't need new HDMI cables. Whether your Blu-ray player or DVR can be updated to HDMI 2.0 software depends on the product. (Here's a great article on HDMI 2.0). In the meantime, it's not a matter of absolutes. Older equipment will work, have its content upscaled, and we'll slowly upgrade with equipment that has native HDMI 2.0.
We wouldn't think about owning a Mac or an iPhone without knowing the ins-and-outs, tips and technologies. The same applies to UHDTV. The more you know about the industry, the better off you'll be when it comes to gracefully integrating a new display into your current system. To help with that, I've collected some CES 2015 articles below that provide considerable insight. Enjoy.
- Coming Soon: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
- 4K in 2014: the highs, the lows and what to expect in 2015
- CES 2015: I want my Ultra HD TV
- 4K Synergy Offers Refreshing Change
- Report: 4KTV Shipments Up 700% in 2014
Despite all the speculation, just how Apple will get in on the UHDTV revolution, if at all, isn't clear. Maybe we'll know more at WWDC.
Next page: the tech news debris for the week of Jan 5. Prospects for the Apple Watch and bad robots.
Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of Jan 5.
My expectations for the two Big Things in 2015 will be UHDTV, as I discussed in the preamble and the Apple Watch. Personally, I think the Apple Watch will be huge, especially as Apple Pay percolates into Canada, Europe and beyond.
Pocket-lint has a nice article that collects everything they know about the Apple Watch: "Apple Watch release date, price and everything you need to know." And then Dan Frommer sizes up the prospects for the Apple Watch in this nifty piece at Quartz. "2015 is the year of the Apple Watch." I think he nails it, mostly. (But I don't agree that if the Apple Watch is declared a failure that it will be a condemnation of Tim Cook's leadership.)
One of the reasons I use Firefox as my main browser is that Mozilla sweats the details that Apple elects to ignore when it comes to privacy. For example, Firefox (and Chrome and Opera) can manage and erase super cookies. Safari users, according to this article, are helpless to delete them. I haven't verified this myself, but I have no reason to doubt it. "New ‘Super Cookies’ Can Track Your Private Web Browsing — And Apple Users Can't Get Rid Of Them." I'll keep an eye on this issue.
Historically, iOS adoption has been good. iOS 8 adoption reached 68 percent as of January 5. However, even though Android's Lollipop release is relatively new, it's not even showing more than 0.1 percent in a recent survey. Here's the latest on Android fragmentation. "Almost Nobody Is Using The Latest Version Of Android."
This next article about Windows Phone is a bit on the shallow side, but provides some important numbers. For example, we know that market share isn't the only metric a company uses to gauge success, but when the market share drops to irrelevance, one has to wonder why efforts continue. Here are the numbers: Windows Phone market share on the U.S. has fallen from 4.3 percent to 3.0 percent in a year. In China, it has gone from 2.7 percent to 0.6 percent. All along, I have been suggesting that Satya Nadella get on with the Bigger Picture at Microsoft and dump Windows Phone. These numbers are just too embarrassing (and demoralizing) for Microsoft. "Is Microsoft’s Windows Phone at long last dead?"
Finally, what happens when quasi-intelligent (ro)bots on the Internet start to do things that make us uncomfortable? And don't seem subject to traditional law. Here's a sobering article. (Suggestion: finish your coffee first and avoid a CTTN moment.) "Robots are starting to break the law and nobody knows what to do about it."
2015 Celebration graphic via Shutterstock.
Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.