Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
It's all a pipe dream
Best Argument: It's all a pipe dream
Audience Favored: It's all a pipe dream (58%)
4K is unstoppable. It really is
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
The shift to a new TV technology doesn't happen fast. Sometimes TV evolution takes side-tracks such as HD-DVD and Super-VHS. Eventually, though, the new technology catches fire. First, with video fanatics and then with everyone else. It's going to be the same way with 4K.
It's not going to happen tomorrow. But, late this year, high-end TV fans will be switching to 4K, and by late 2014 it will be moving into the mass-market. And, by 2016, Jason and I may be having a similar debate about whether the world is ready for 8K. The answer, by the way, will be yes.
4K will arrive but the content won't
I agree with him that videophiles will jump to 4K like flies on poop and will happily throw tens of thousands of dollars away on these displays.
The problem is that for the rest of us, even when the prices of these units come down to commodity levels (and they will sooner rather than later) our broadband infrastructure, the TV production studios as well as our frequency spectrum that is allocated for digital TV broadcasting are nowhere near being ready to accommodate 4K UHD let alone the 8K UHD that will almost certainly replace it in less than a 10-year timeframe, and will have even more serious bandwidth and data moving demands.
Indeed HEVC and SONY's new recording formats will make the data streams smaller, but even at a (highly optimistic) 100 megabits per second for acceptable video quality, that's a good ten to twenty times larger than what most American homes can reliably transport from content distribution networks today.
The FCC has put out a request for all 50 US states to be ready to deploy Gigabit broadband in at least one selected community by 2016. That's nice, but when was the last time the FCC was able to achieve anything that ambitious in such a short timeframe? The FCC makes the United Nations look like an effective legislating organization by comparison.
The previous DTV transition was stalled and took over 10 years to execute, and in some markets it's not even completed yet. Getting gigabit to residences is not like freeing up spectrum, it will require dealing with municipal governments and convincing communities to jackhammer streets and bring fiber and high speed copper in to the home, or alternatively gigabit wireless which will have its own unique challenges.
So yes, we'll see affordable 4K TVs and monitors and tablets within five years. Being able to distribute content to them? That's a whole 'nuther ballgame.
It's a pipe dream
Predicting the future isn't easy, but both participants in this week's debate about 4K TV technology made great points. Jason Perlow's more nuanced take on the subject -- acknowledging that it will soon be a reality, yes, but not for most, and not in the best way -- was more convincing. Because nothing says "pipe dream" like the hollow feeling of a brand new 4K television set playing a 480i broadcast signal.