Apple’s 4K television opportunity

“This month Sony will begin shipping its first 4K televisions that have screens with a massive 3840 x 2160 pixels, exactly 4 times the pixels of 1080p HD,” Mark Hibben reports for The Motley Fool.

“What can you watch in the 4K or Ultra HD (UHD) format? Not much,” Hibben reports. “The race is now on to develop and deliver 4K content, and this will challenge traditional content distribution approaches as well as provide Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) much rumored iTV with the killer app it needs to be successful. ”

Hibben reports, “Naturally, the digital video industry has been working on a solution to the problem of 4K content delivery, and it takes the form of the successor to the h.264 spec, called h.265. Also called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), h.265 greatly improves the data compression capability of h.264. Where h.264 might compress a 1080p video at 30 frames/sec into a 20 Mbit/sec (maximum bit rate) digital data stream, h.265 can compress a 2160p video at 30 frames/sec into a 25 Mbit/sec (maximum bit rate) stream. H.265 basically makes the factor of 4 in storage size and bit rate go away.”

“With h.265, 4K movies will fit onto Blu-ray disks, and 4K video content of all types, including live events and movies, will be able to be delivered via digital cable and digital satellite broadcast. Live streaming over the Internet will even be feasible for those with high-speed internet connections, say over 20 Mbits/sec,” Hibben reports. “The Apple television would be a 4K TV with a hard drive, a very big hard drive (2TB+). That may not seem very innovative, but from a hardware standpoint, the iPod was just an MP3 player with a hard drive. And just as it was the combination of hardware, software and services that made the iPod work, it would be a similar combination that would make iTV work. ”

Read more in the full article here.

58 Comments

    1. Your home connection would be irrelevant if you played your content from high capacity media such as Blu-ray.

      Oh, that’s right! You’re a Mac user. No Blu-ray for you!

        1. I have that. It’s decent but it drops frames.

          Macs should have received full-fledged Blu-ray support including the ability to burn Blu-rays with an app like iDVD.

          Apple screwed videophiles by blocking Blu-ray. Apple doesn’t always do what’s best for their customers; they do what’s best for their profit margins.

          1. George, you are absolutely right. The Apple community is not best served by Apple’s refusal to support Blu-Ray (and other current state-of-the-art hard media) natively.

            With a few rare exceptions, Apple’s iTunes doesn’t even come close to offering the video quality of Blu-Ray. Super high resolution audio requires special plug-ins, but Apple doesn’t natively support SACD or DVD-A. Pretty stupid considering that Apple once was the clear choice for digital audio and video mastering without the need for substantial 3rd party hardware & software. Once again, Apple is coasting.

            1. Apple IS the clear choice for Blu-ray audio and video mastering. Why do you so frequently insist upon being a blithering idiot?

              Read my post below for further details.

              And yet-again Mike: RESEARCH before you open your mouth!

      1. Only a troll:
        Oh, that’s right! You’re a Mac user. No Blu-ray for you!

        1) Blu-ray has been playing on Macs for YEARS. Equally, recording Blu-ray on Mac has been possible for YEARS. Many professional houses insist upon using Macs for Blu-ray production.

        2) Go search for Blu-ray player software for Mac. There are several options.

        3) Apple kindly stopped all Sony DRM customer surveillance bullshit on the Mac and I entirely concur. Screw Sony and their DRM! This is exactly what Steve Jobs meant when he said Blu-ray was ‘A Bag Of Hurt’.

        4) The fact that Microsoft joyfully perpetrated Sony’s DRM directly into Windows screams volumes about their lack of respect for their customers, just as Sony’s perpetration of DRM screams volumes about their lack of respect for their customers. Screw both Microsoft AND Sony.

        5) There have been hacks to do anything you like with Blu-ray on Macs for YEARS. I heartily endorse cracking all DRM on all media. Thankfully that is entirely possible.

        (Note that I do NOT condone piracy of media, merely personal fair use of media you have purchased without the hinderance of customer-disrespectful DRM crap).

      2. Bluray was out of date the second it launched. Digital files which can be redownloaded have far more flexibility. I bought quantum of solace in HD,720p, and when apple upgraded to 1080p I just redownloaded the new file. Much easier, in fact just streaming it on my appletv works even better as I don’t have to store any files. Bring on HD audio!

      3. I have no desire for Blu-Ray. I’m putting all my dvd’s into iTunes to access from Apple TV so that I can access the same things in multiple rooms, and don’t have to faff around with discs.

        Even if Mac’s had built in Blu-Ray functionality that wouldn’t change my point. Video is accessed online, even if it’s only stuff from YouTube, and I’d rather have existing viewable size and quality content download that much faster than increase the quality even further and have it take the same time. 4K is not something I’m bothered about – especially when existing HD is not ubiquitous because it takes a long time.

        Yes, content is available on Blu-Ray, but do you boycott all other media then? Live content must be tricky.

    2. Absolutely right, I would be better to improve actual tv content than embrace a new format that has almost none content so far.
      I have not use any physical media for such a long time (no CDs, No DVDs, no Bluray), physical media is a thing of the past, it is for the PC guys that still booting their machines from a floppy disc.
      Mac Users can have any content they want just 1 click away. So it would be great if they improve that experience.

      1. Troy, you obviously are not aware of how much superior Blu-Ray is to the files you download from iTunes, Netflix, and other services. Compressed AV files may say “1080 resolution”, but usually the audio will be compressed to a pathetic resolution top and bottom frequencies chopped off altogether, the video colors compressed, black & white levels totally off, the display interlaced instead of true frame-by-frame rendering, and your poor Mac will be wasting CPU effort unpacking and –attempting– to synchronize the AV. Blu-Ray, played on the proper equipment, is true 1080p without all the compromises. And yes, to audiophiles and videophiles who actually purchase premium equipment instead of whatever Chinese junk the local big box retailer doles out, quality does matter. Before Cook & Company started to shun the professional and “prosumer” users, we used to believe that Apple really cared about offering the highest quality equipment to its users too. Without supporting the current BEST media sources, Apple has callen several steps behind state of the art.

        1. I still actually buy a few CDs for that same reason – audio quality. Granted, it’s only for bands that I really care about but I already have a subscription to Promo Only (I’m a DJ) where I get all the latest “hot” tracks as full-size AIFF files. Vinyl would be even better but I’m not quite that anal – yet.

          Would be nice if Apple offered full-size files at some point. AIFF files “Mastered for iTunes” should probably be pretty decent quality.

          1. Doubt that will happen as long as the record companies continue to guard their high resolution masters under lock and key. Even though some vendors out there sell uncompressed high res song downloads, my understanding is that a lot of the track are simply upconverted to a higher bitrate from lower resolution masters. The files themselves might use a high resolution bitrate and uncompressed format, but they do not represent bit-for-bit transfers from the original high res masters. This has been a fairly heated topic on some of the audiophile boards.

            And all the resolution in the world is just wasted if large numbers of the songs sold on iTunes continue to suffer from shoddy mastering practices (and poor recordings and mixes). “Mastered for iTunes” represents a step in the right direction, but those guidelines remain too broad to provide any assurance of good sound quality.

            1. here is no reason to bother with AIFF. Apple should be supporting FLAC, which is a lossless compression format and entirely FREE to support thanks to it being open source. I have not-a-clue why Apple even bothered with ‘Apple Lossless’ format and ignored FLAC, which is now THE WORLDWIDE LOSSLESS STANDARD.

              And FLAC plays very nicely in real time.

              Stupid move Apple. And it’s not the first time I’ve told you so!!!If the record companies treated their customers with respect and actually PUSHED for higher quality, higher resolution audio in the public market, they would NOT have the current massive piracy problem.

              Treat your customers with respect and they will reciprocate.

              Treat your customers with DISrespect and they will respond with DISrespect, aka retribution, aka piracy. It’s dead simple Psych 101. But our Corporate Oligarchy is too stupid to notice.

              RIAA: You get what you give.

          2. AIFF files “Mastered for iTunes” should probably be pretty decent quality.

            There is no reason to bother with AIFF. Apple should be supporting FLAC, which is a lossless compression format and entirely FREE to support thanks to it being open source. I have not-a-clue why Apple even bothered with ‘Apple Lossless’ format and ignored FLAC, which is now THE WORLDWIDE LOSSLESS STANDARD.

            And FLAC plays very nicely in real time.

            Stupid move Apple. And it’s not the first time I’ve told you so!!!

        1. However, the current Blu-ray standard tops out at 36 Mbps.

          If you go with an online download (and have the bandwidth to support it) you could, in theory, not be limited to *any* maximum bit rate. If you wanted fantastic quality and had the time (or bandwidth) to support it, you could, in theory, download a movie with minimal compression and have a maximum bit rate of 200 Mbps or greater. (But you’d first have to find a service that offered downloads at such a great quality!)

          Hell, in theory, with a gigabit per second connection you could download a Digital Cinema 8K standard (8192x4320p) movie in near real time! There is no optical media (outside the lab) that supports that today, but in theory the gigabit connections being installed in certain cities today can do son — if there were sources to get the movie at that quality.

          The problem is that video download services over compress their offerings. The quality suffers. They do this for two reasons: 1) less to store on their server farms, and 2) less bandwidth needed for download. (It’s no different from Apple not offering music through the iTunes store in Apple’s own lossless format: too much storage and too much bandwidth.) This is why iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. don’t offer true Blu-ray quality through their downloads.

          1. true, but why would i want to pay for a faster internet connection for streaming when i can just use that money for blu rays?

            i have 20/1 which is one of the cheapest tiers from time warner cable. might go to 15/5 FIOS in a few months.

            blu ray is not a perfect format but neither is buying of digital movies and it doesn’t really offer anything over blu ray

      1. And you actually believe that? The author of the article does not know about what he is writing, and you buy into it?

        H.265 is, on average, twice as efficient as H.264 (i.e, if the total information in the video in a movie is 40 GB with H.264 for 1080p it is going to be approximately 20 GB for H.264 for 1080p, on average, for that exact same movie, same quality, etc. for 2160p). That has been shown time and time and time again by many different international, independent organizations. H.265 is a very good, very efficient, new standard that will help with bandwidth issues. It is NOT a miracle worker.

        UHDT (2160p), if you keep the color information the same, is four times the video information of HDTV (1080p). Thus with an average betterment of compression of a factor of two, that still gives a factor of two increase in the information — not 25% more.

        NOTE: UHDTV is NOT 4K! 4K is the Digital Cinema standard that is 4096×2160 which is different from Ultra High Density TV [UHDTV] which is 3940×2160 or sometimes called 2160p). The Digital Cinema standard has been out for many years. It is different from what the TV manufacturers are pushing in a 16:9 standard which gives the 3940×2160 format.

        1. You seem to be confusing the efficiency of the compression algorithm with the type of media on which the file is delivered. Increasing the speed or minimizing the resulting file size does nothing for downloads that can’t equally benefit hard media.

          The reality is that a significant PERCENTAGE improvement in compression packing comes nowhere near good enough to offset the 4 TIMES the data that doubling resolution requires. … and that’s even before considering that most ISPs and video download services can’t even offer timely 1080p media today.

          Thus for the majority of the planet, hard media is the only viable choice. Blu-Ray or its successor can indeed offer ANYTHING that a streaming service can offer — while allowing the user to avoid being gouged by your local ISP.

  1. If ever Apple released a full on television set, it will be a disaster and cost the company billions in lost sales. iCal me on this. Apple is in no way, shape or form competitive in the television market, especially when compared to such giants as Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, etc.

    A snowball would have a better chance of survival in hell than Apple will have of selling a television set. There will be tons and tons of unsold and unsaleable sets sitting piled floor to ceiling high in the Apple Store.

    1. I actually agree with you on this one. It’s a commodity market. Unless Apple can bring something substantial and truly unique to the table, like a la carte channels, or the ability to download, immediately, almost any show via iTunes, an Apple-branded TV will be DOA.

    2. I would buy an apple 4K television. Provided its not ridiculously expensive. What $1200ish region? perhaps a scosch more if its balliner than I’m imagining

  2. Planning a pretty vast remodel of our main floor for this fall . . . will be in the market for a larger television . . . IF true, would love to see this baby ship in September.

    The only piece of this that doesn’t entirely make sense is the idea that Apple could only innovate if it uses the latest specs. Cupertino has never really been about specs but simplicity and superior UI design. However, retina displays are one area where Apple has bucked its own trend so perhaps 4K really will be one of its major selling points.

    I still think if they are at 60 inches, they won’t sell many if they’re beyond the $2,999 price point (and they’ll sell a ton if they can get that to $1,999. Not sure if 4K is mature enough yet for those to be reasonable price points.

    1. Ha Ha Ha Ha, you make me laugh.
      A 60″ 4K TV for $2,999, I think you will need to add at least 2 0s to that and if it’s from Apple another 20% on top of that.

      1. The current *cheapest* UHDTV (3940×2160) sets are under $1,500 now — cheapest in *all* senses of the term. The big players are starting to sell them for under $5,000.

        This is not 18 months ago when UHDTV sets were being offered for $20,000 to $25,000. Prices fall with time and there has been a *dramatic* decrease in price in the past 18 months.

        By this time next year, it would not be odd, given the trend over the last 18 months, to see the major players selling UHDTV sets for less than $3,000.

        So… Apple *could* do it for $2,999 by this time next year. The question is, “Will Apple do it?”

      2. Prices have dropped and by the time this comes to market, those price points could be plausible.

        I realize that Apple is known for selling premium products and commanding larger margins than the rest of the industry . . . but it’s not an electronics boutique that commands huge prices. It’s a high quality mainstream brand.

        If Apple doesn’t hit price points that at least the upper middle class can afford, it will be a dud. I’d look for margins in the 25 to 35 percent range, at least at first.

  3. One good thing about 4k resolution is that streaming your pics to an AppleTV will look a whole lot nicer. Right now, it looks kinda crappy viewing an 8mp pic on a 1080p screen. It’s just not as sharp as it could be. It looks ok but could be a lot better.

  4. 4K sounds interesting but it will just the same as HDTV and 3D. Little content for a long time. So first adopters will only and it will not become mainstream for a long time.

    Apple’s success is in launching products that can sell at least a million units a quarter. I doubt that the 4K market could sustain that.

    I disagree with BLN comment in that Apple could not compete with the likes of Sony on a TV. Technically a TV is easier to build than a tablet or iMac. Apple are great at getting excellent pricing on components and having them manufactured efficiently. Adding a Apple TV component would be a piece of cake.

    The tricky thing would be distribution and integration with cable / satellite sets. For distribution Apple would need to go to all their current vendors plus more. For cable / satellite having a easy way to access those boxes via the TV and remote would really set them apart from the crowd.

  5. The problem with TV is not the number of pixels on the screen but the quality of the content represented by the pixels. The vast majority of what is on TV is not worth watching, no matter how great it looks.

    1. I think that’s backwards, actually. I think that whether someone’s watching the local news or How the West Was Won, they want the best picture possible.

      1. I cancelled my TV service a few years ago because the value of what there was to watch did not equal even the cheapest TV subscription cost in my opinion. I have a 50″ HD Plasma TV and I watch the few things that I find worth watching by buying them at iTunes and watching via Apple TV. From 12 feet back in my dark family room even SD iTunes content is wonderfully enjoyable. As for the news, that’s usually so depressing that I’d rather not see it in higher definition. I get all my news from the internet.

        “I’ve got 13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from.” – Pink Floyd – The Wall

  6. At less than $300 the 4K TV will make a decent monitor for the new Mac Pro. Until then, what else would you use it for?

    3D didn’t catch on, 4K will have the same problems and the same lack of answers.

    1. UHDTV as a $3,000 monitor is not unrealistic. It will sell to those people who need it. Remember what the original 30 inch Cinema Display cost: $3,299, if I remember correctly. Even at that price it really helped usher in the world of large computer monitors. That old 30 incher sold quite well for some time.

      A good quality UHDTV computer monitor for $300 or less is not likely in the next two to three years. But in five years? Maybe.

      Personally, I hope Apple comes out with a 32″ monitor that is 4096×2560 (16:10 aspect ratio). It will never happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

      And as to what to “use it for”… Most movies shot today are being shot at the Digital Cinema 4K (or 5K and down sampled). Movies that are being digitally remastered today are being done at the Digital Cinema 4K or 8K. The availability of this level of imagery resolution is increasing. It is no different with UHDTV imagery availability growing with time than it was for 1080p availability. Today it’s sparse. In 5 years it will be prevalent. In 10 years it will be the norm.

  7. The 4K TV will be great for user-generated content. It will drive a new-generation of higher resolution, still and video cameras.

    The 4K TV will ensure that iOS Apps are more readable at 10-foot distances. Mac OSX on my 1080p HDTV must be re-scaled to 720p to keep tbe type large enough to read at eught feet. the results are just a bit fuzzy. Remember, the App revolution is coming to the big screen.

    4K will be great for gaming content, and ensure that iOS games will be competitive with next-generation console games.

    The list goes on…it would be a mistake to gauge your need or desire for a 4K HDTV based on yesterday’s standards.

  8. Content is king. If Apple where to sign up the NFL and College Football for transmission of 4K video, every sports bar in America would want several 55″ 4K Apple iTelevisions. Apple is really the only company with the resources to pull this off. This would jump start the technology, break the CATV bundles, and instigate a new round of network upgrades for Telephone and CATV companies. Within two years Apple would be the first or second manufacturer of 4K Televisions. Computer monitors would follow with a massive pixel DPI increase instead of a frame rate increase. Monitors would then be crystal clear and extra sharp making work much easier. I’m thinking the magic number for 4k 55″ is $2.5k and 4k 46″ $2k. A lot of room for profit.

  9. This is, of course, a load of nonsense. Apple STILL does not support Blu-ray after all this time, but they are going to jump on this niche-within-niche technology?! Amusing to say the least. Maybe someday when every household in the US has Japan-quality broadband speeds- not before.

  10. For 2 years now, we have been experimenting with using large screen TVs 70″ and 80″ in stead of projectors. We have found that 720P is the finest resolution you can use to show content to a room of 8+ people. This is not about watching movies, but all forms of content.

    Our TVs are capable of 1080P, 3D 240Hz, etc. The specs are wasted in the fact it doesn’t work on large crowds. I don’t believe UHD is going to be functionally necessary unless we are talking about 50+ ft screens.

    1. I respectfully suggest that you and your friends get your eyes checked.

      Even using the grossly inaccurate “one arc minute resolution” as the breakpoint for what the human eye can actually see (and this does not take into account other known aspects that drive visible resolution even further) and taking the conservative approach of a comfortable viewing angle of 60 degrees (even though a lot of “experts” believe comfortable viewing angles can be a great as 90 degrees) the math works out to a LOT more than 720p.

      That dumb, inaccurately low one arc minute value translates to 3,600 horizontal pixels that a person can comfortably see (60 arc minutes per degree times 60 degrees). The 720p value is 1280 horizontal pixels or just over 1/3 of the supposed minimum value. Even 1080p at 1920 horizontal pixels is not that much higher than 1/2 of the supposed minimum to get beyond the widely claimed “retina resolution”.

      So… I again respectfully submit that you and your friends get your eyes checked if you can’t see anything better than 720p.

      1. There is the audience of one and of many. When you speak of many, you can’t assume everyone can see. Also in our circumstance we are looking at distances of greater than 8 ft. 30ft is not unimaginable for some people.

        For me personally, on the iPhone, I need 3 to see pixels. I won’t benefit from UHD, and I think 4K is a testosterone spec if anything else. Unless you are talking about very large screens which is also a very small market.

    2. I don’t believe UHD is going to be functionally necessary unless we are talking about 50+ ft screens.

      Something in that range. How ridiculous that people are voting down your post, because you got it right. 4K and 8K are FAIL technologies outside of professional applications. It’s going to be yet-another loss leader technology for Sony.

      Hey to all the down voters: You have ‘GEE WHIZ!’ deer-in-the-headlights’ syndrome. Wake up. And please remember I told you so. No average media user is going to find anything useful, noticeable or beneficial about 4K or 8K. Go for 1080p and you already have more than wonderful.

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