h.265 and the rest of the Apple iTV puzzle pieces

“Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at last week’s AllThingsD conference that Apple had sold 13 million Apple TVs, and of them, nearly half that figure was sold in the last year,” Mark Reschke writes for T-GAAP. “Host Walt Mossberg and co-host Kara Swisher asked about a new Apple HDTV and what it would entail. Cook was mum on anything resembling an answer, but one thing became abundantly clear: Demand for a way around the cable industry via an Apple solution is ripening at a rapid pace.”

“While Cook used the term ‘intense interest’ to describe Apple’s devotion to the TV industry, there is still no indication as to when Apple would enter with its own solution,” Reschke writes. “The most plausible launch time for an Apple HDTV would seem likely to take place in early 2014, as much needed updates to iPads and iPhone are likely slated for Fall 2013.”

Reschke writes, “4K, or UltraHDTV (UHD) is double the x and y resolution of current 1080p HDTV standard, with the result being a set that contains 4x the amount of pixels than traditional 1080p displays… h.265 is another component to the mystery of 4K technology. What good is a 4K set if there is not content for it? h.265 is being ratified by MPEGLA, which it will license accordingly. The new h.265 compression codec is said to handle 4K extremely well, while delivering a superior color bit depth over existing h.264 technology, which is used on most all HD content to-date. If 4K resolution can enter the living room via h.265 through current cable and fiber providers’ 15Mbps governed speeds, another hurtle will have been crossed to make a 4K set a more reasonable play for Apple.”

Read more in the full article here.

28 Comments

  1. 15Mbps governed speeds?
    Is that the pipeline required to deliver h.265 over the net?
    There still are places that don’t even have internet available.

    15Mbps is not going to settle well with general people.

    1. 15Mbps is the current standard that every cable operator uses to deliver TV to their cable boxes in people’s homes. Whoever has cable today, has 15Mbps pipe coming into their home.

            1. I am not talking about the service you can get for your home internet connection. I am talking about the stream of the digital cable TV that they provide for the programme. Your digital cable box receives the TV programme as a digital stream. That stream flows at 15Mbps. It comes into your home through cable company’s optical and coax wires.

              Because these wires are usually capable of carrying more than just 15Mbps of data, your cable company can offer you internet service, which shares the same wires with the TV stream. How much of this bandwidth they will offer to you for your internet connection depends on how crappy (or good) your cable operator is. In some markets, cable operators compete with fiber optic operators, who routinely offer 20, 50, even 100 Mbps for internet service, so there, they try to match this. In other markets, they top it at 5Mbps (when there’s no pressure from competition). But the TV stream remains 15Mbps throughout, regardless of competition.

            2. PreDrag’s right. Besides, if an existing internet connection can’t handle existing H.264 HD downloads, it won’t handle 4x downloads… which with H.265 are about the same size (a little larger). H.265 will at least provide 1080p at much lower waits, instant for many.

  2. When you think about how long it took to go from SD to HD resolution the jump to 4K is happening in a blink of an eye by comparison. I’m a Cinematographer & VFX guy and even I don’t see the value much for most people past HD. Sure it’s nice but you need one hell of a size TV to make it worth your while and those are and will be cost prohibitive (for most) for years. Sitting 6 -8 feet away from a 50″ Ultra HD set just looks like Blu-Ray. 100″ screen with a UltraHD projector might be the ticket… eventually.

      1. Agree with you and Peter.

        OVERKILL.

        Parallel examples include quad-blade razors and 8-16 megapixel cameras. The average person, guessing over 90% who are not professional photogs, or media publishers, are fine with a couple megapixels for social media posting.

        Common sense limits, please.

    1. The fixation some people have with with 4K is off-base for ATV. The deployment of 4K screens is in its infancy. Apple is focused on the user experience and not some spec that will prove, in relative terms, to be a minor technical enhancement.

    2. It seems there is a constant ‘race for more’ even though ‘more’ doesn’t mean better viewing quality, though the marketing folks make bigger numbers seems better. People generally don’t know, just like they have no idea about the ideal seat in a movie theater is to see the images as the camera did, and frankly most don’t care. Difference is, you don’t have to pay extra for the ‘best’ seats but you sure do for massive amounts of pixels you will never see. On the other hand you can be real clever, as my old cinematography prof suggested in film school, and demand half your ticket money back (for celluloid films) as the shutter was closed as often as it was open and you were ‘watching’ a black screen as often as you were images. Never tried asking, though tempted at the Arclight in Hollyweird thanks to their prices.

    3. The transition from SD to HD sort of required and included the “paradigm” shift from analog to digital. By and large, this shift has been made.

      The shift from HD to 4K, is a much smaller step (relatively), and will likely be far more rapid.

  3. Creating and selling 4K HDTVs at a reasonable cost is one thing.

    Creating a 4K workflow is something else–cameras, editing systems, storage, etc.

    Creating a 4K delivery system–be it cable, satellite or disc–is an entirely different problem.

    And creating 4K content is even crazier because it means getting all the studios, content creators, local TV stations, cable companies, etc. on board.

    Oh yea, have the hardware OEMs agreed on a “standard?” Or will we have another ridiculous HD-DVD vs BluRay fiasco.

    1. Smart post.

      When you look beyond the gee-whiz banner headlines and get down to the basic reality of the production pipeline and more importantly, the overall adoption (DVD vs HD-DVD vs BluRay) competing formats, sheesh, how much more can I see and have to buy?

  4. Well, you guys have all beat the “why nots” into the ground. Some of you sound like the same people complaining that color TVs are way too expensive and the infrastructure couldn’t possibly support such a frivolous waste of resources anyway. So, friends, save your money. Don’t even buy the Retina display. Heck, you can always dial back the resolution on your Mac’s display if you think it’s too much for you.

    The rest of us, let’s reconsider what Apple stands for: innovation. Doing some things people didn’t even know they wanted, or were possible. 4K capability is coming whether you think you want it or not. There are no technical limitations, only price expectations to be met. We expect Apple to be at the forefront, not the ass end of the movement. If any company has the power to move the goalposts for video distribution for the next decade, it is Apple.

    1. Right now, TVs is more ripe for innovation in the interface, content delivery, and ecosystem. 4k is not innovation — right now, it’s nothing more than a feature checkbox that adds little to the viewing experience for any number of reasons (lack of content, lack of production and deliver infrastructure, etc.).

      Consider Apple’s history. Their innovation and market disruption occurred in product categories that were already well established, but lacking in polish and attention to detail.

      Look at the iPod — it did not add anything new to the audio resolution (though it helped widely spread the AAC format as an alternative to the MP3 format), but it used an innovative interface, sound hardware design, and later on, a content delivery ecosystem second to none.

      Look at the iPhone — it did not use any new standards for its voice, texting, and internet functions. But, it brought all of those functions together in a compelling interface, and later on, added an app delivery ecosystem that completely turned the industry upside down.

      With TV, there is much to be desired with finding content and simple user interface issues. TV manufacturers continue to go with unimaginative interfaces that do nothing but check off feature boxes. This is where Apple excels — taking an existing market with existing standards, and raise the bar. That’s where I see Apple innovating.

  5. I think all this 4K talk is waaaaay ahead of Apple. It was only recently that AppleTV’s resolution was upped to 1080p, and that iTunes downloads for AppleTV were more than 720p.

    I just don’t see 4K being practical for downloads for quite some time, absent the David Copperfield of codecs being developed. It just seems like a lot of overkill, and not really innovative.

    Sure, 4K adds a lot of video resolution. Great. But I don’t see 4K as being anything revolutionary for Apple to release, and in fact, if Tim Cook got up on stage and announced a TV set which had a built-in AppleTV and the best thing about it was 4K resolution, he’ll get killed by the media for a lack of innovation. 4K isn’t even Apple’s technology; Apple would just be stuffing it into its own very pretty box.

  6. I don’t see 4k as a gamechanger right now. There’s an entire infrastructure that accompanies any TV standard, and right now, none of it is ready for 4k. Manufacturers like Sony might make TVs that can display that resolution, but the success ultimately comes down to the content and delivery.

    It was only about five years ago that a majority of broadcasters began broadcasting in HD. Studios releasing their content in HD had to remaster much of their library content, because the higher resolution revealed flaws in the earlier digital transfers. Studios currently use 4k masters for archiving, but much of the content is not yet at that resolution. Plus, much of the digital post-production work done over the past decade was only at 2k resolution, and a lot of the digital cinema equipment remains at that resolution.

    Consider that the U.S. HDTV standard was adopted in the 1993, and it took about a decade after the first HDTVs were sold before they made their way into a majority of U.S. households. The broadcast HDTV standard uses MPEG-2 compression and lower bitrate 384k Dolby Digital audio.

    Buying a 4k TV right is the same thing as buying a HDTV in 2000. Buyers were the first on the block to own a TV capable of HD resolution, but they had nothing to play, other than upscaled DVD and a select few HD broadcast signals. HDTV did not take off until HD-DVD/Blu-ray content came online, broadcast channels switched over to HD, and more programs were produced in HD. This tipping point did not occur until about 2008 — a full 15 years after the HD standards were first adopted.

  7. The number of 55 Billion $US is the quote on what it would cost Google to roll out fiber to the United States. Until Tim Cook decided to appease Wall Street and hand out hard won cash Apple had that easily. Apple could have rolled their own, but Cook & Company decided to hand out money and take on a ton of debt.

    Nothing like an opportunity missed.

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