4K TV: Sony bets on ‘bag of hurt’, Apple doesn’t

“Sony and Panasonic intend releasing Blu-ray disks capable of storing 300GB or more by the end of 2015; meanwhile Apple [AAPL] seems set to maintain its focus on online distribution of 4K content,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld.

“In Tokyo, Sony and Panasonic revealed a deal to jointly develop a standard for larger capacity optical disks. The partners aren’t solely focused on DVD/Blu-ray disk replacement, but on data. They hope to jointly develop an optical disc with recording capacity of at least 300GB by the end of 2015 — but is physical media of this kind still going to be relevant by then?” Evans writes. “Reading through the announcement it seems neither partner is especially focused on use of optical drives within the consumer-facing entertainment industry. While they discuss their achievements within this space, it appears the target outcome is to develop inexpensive yet reliable high-capacity optical disks to serve the need of data centers and the video production/broadcast industries. It’s questionable if the sheer quantity of data that’s expected to be in daily production by 2015 will be best served by the firm’s offering up of this kind of optical disk.”

Evans writes, “I don’t think optical disks will be the future means of 4K content. Movies, TV shows and other video assets may well be made available in 4K, but the transportation and delivery mechanism will be electronic… When it comes to consumer-focused video delivery services it seems inevitable Apple will eventually enable UltraHD content acquisition via iTunes. This matches industry trends, of course, though I consider it likely Apple hopes to secure a first mover advantage in terms of implementing such video delivery services in conjunction with or shortly subsequent to the debut of the Apple television.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote mid-month:

4K Ultra HD (UHD) television plus High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), aka h.265, delivered via cable, satellite, and/or high-speed internet (20+ Mbits/sec) is where the future lies.

Related articles:
RUMOR: Apple in talks with LG, Sharp about 55- and 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TV panels – July 18, 2013
Sony sets stage for Apple to dominate the 4K Ultra HDTV market – May 13, 2013
Apple’s 4K television opportunity – May 10, 2013
Apple iTV may launch for Christmas ’13 with Ultra HD 4K resolution – March 29, 2013
Analyst: 60-inch Apple iTV to launch this year – April 3, 2013


    1. 1. Still need AFFORDABLE delivery systems–internet, wireless, disc, etc.
      2. Still need content companies and broadcasters to convert everything to 4K–still a huge expense.
      3. Still need widely available & affordable 4K displays (under $1000) before 1 or 2 will lift a finger. And vice-versa.

          1. Where? Best Buy already carries the Sony 4k XBR55, so you can have it today if you like. It’s five grand though, so you may not be interested.

            Seiki Digital has been selling a 50″ 4k TV all year for around $1300, then down around $1100. A month or two ago, they announced a 39-inch 4k set for around $700 retail. $700 Retail!

            Then, just this month, TCL announced a 50-inch 4k set for $999.

            So, there are a couple of options now, and there will be more this fall. It’s the Chinese third-tier brand selling the affordable models now, but the rest will follow suit in the next year or two, just like ChrisM said. In fact, I’d say there will be a few 50-inch 4k sets from the big manufacturers for under $2000 by this time next year.

    1. Disc — even the future one — is going to costs like $0.30 in mass production, while flash will not be this cheap even much later.

      3840×2160 resolution does not need 300 GB. With H.265 codec, it will only need like 75 GB at most.

      Those 300 GB discs are meant for future standard that is even much better than 3840×2160 — namely, 7680×4320. And with H.265 codec, 300 GB disc will be able to include stereo version of this quality with 48 frames per second.

      Internet will not work that well for that standard even years from now, so 300 GB discs still can have future (though limited one).

  1. Meh. I still prefer physical media with movies. The quality is much better.

    I guess with 4K, it won’t really matter that much, since, at that resolution, any quality differences should be hard to see.

    1. I’m with you on this for the moment, I personally don’t care how it’s done physical media or streaming but the biggest roadblock is the ISP providers and lack of bandwith to bring this kind of quality consistently. I can pop in a blu-ray disc and for 2hrs get consistent 1080p quality, not so with streaming and I’m paying for 18Mbs which I never get. If the media companies want to push us off physical media then the internet providers have got provide consistent speed and no throttling.

  2. Not once was it noted that the NEW Mac Pro is set up for three 4K HDTV streams. Small and black like the rest of my home entertainment system. So, when you stream that 4K to your house and you need to save and later stream the 4K HDTV media to those new 4K HDTV sets, what will you want for your home entertainment server? Come on analysts. Think now. You are going to want those new Made in the USA Mac Pro home entertainment servers.

    You know that Apple will need several billion dollar servers to stream that iTunes media from. Oh, Apple has been building 5 that we already know about.

    Clueless idiots!

    1. I don’t think there is a large market for US$3000+ media servers. There may be some people who can afford that price tag, but that is not enough for Apple to care.

      1. Agreed. If or when there are enough 4k displays in homes, Apple will be able to sell a 4k Apple TV for little, if any more money than they sell the current 1080p model, no Mac Pro necessary.

  3. A couple issues – if Apple goes out of business, or decides to sell off its cloud business one day, or it gets regulated out of practicality, or the government decides it wants to see all of your online business and forces Apple to play ball, where does your content go? Or how much might it cost you to continue to maintain it?

    And what about my own content? Projects, files, photos, videos, music, etc. I’d love to be able to store that stuff on physical backup copies off-site periodically.

    Also, what about the large numbers of people in the world who still can’t get reliable internet (if any)? I get 2 megs down at home when I’m lucky (currently nothing – the ISP that services my development went bankrupt and the employees were fired).

    I want my physical media, just more efficient and reliable. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

    1. If you’re talking about movies and TV shows, it doesn’t matter all that much Apple goes out of business. You can get the same content from Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Time Warner, or somewhere else. If they all go out of business, others will emerge to fill the content distribution void. Even if the content owners disappear, their movies and TV shows will more than likely still be available somewhere on the Internet.

      If you’re talking about your own stuff, use hard drives. They are higher speed, better for automated backups, better for rewritable storage, they get cheaper all the time. 1-3 external hard drives can provide enough storage and redundant backups for any typical user. If you need more storage, get a RAID enclosure: use and swap as many 1-2 Terabyte hard drives as you need, quickly.

      1. It most certainly does matter if Apple goes out of business. You lose all your licensed material. Sure, you can get it again from the other companies but you’ll have to pay for it again.

        If I get a Blu-ray movie from Warner Brothers and they go out of business, I still have my Blu-ray movie.

        I’m already using 3 TB hard drives. I have a stack of them here. I have video projects that are 200 GB. It sure would be nice to put them on a Blu-ray disc for archival.

    2. I can’t play cassettes that I own. Nor eight track tapes. Nor laser discs. I have a bunch of floppy disks gathering dust. Most would be unreadable even if I had a floppy drive. Owning the physical media has not been as much of a benefit as it had seemed.
      On the other hand, Apple has been in business for a long time. Songs that I’ve purchased electronically sound just as good, and often better, than they did the day I bought them. And I can play them using devices that had not even been invented the day I bought the songs.

    1. Indeed. The key is ubiquitous connectivity and affordable bandwidth. Lacking to a many Americans today. Supposedly America is too big to succeed at this. I think success will be achieved when we recognize connectivity and bandwidth are infrastructure and properly in the purview of the government, just like roads and water.

  4. I understand MacDailyNews’ take, but the fact is that there is a 12/24 month gap to fill before the infrastructure is ready to deliver 4K content. The TV manufacturing industry wants to capitalize on the 2014 World Soccer Championship to promote 4K sets but that alone is not enough. You need more content to sell the new TVs and most cable companies are not prepared. In addition, for now, not a single Internet TV company (including Apple) has announced plans for 4K content and the industry needs to sell these premium TV sets for Christmas. So, from a commercial perspective, 300GB Blu-ray media makes sense, even though the product should disappear fairly quickly.

    1. A lot more than 12/24 month gap.

      Just look at how long it took for the content companies to move from VHS to DVD and then from DVD to Bluray. Do you honestly think they’re ready to get on board with gobs of titles just about the time they finally transferred their libraries to BR?

      Then you have to get the delivery companies to upgrade their systems and NOT charge out the wazoo for consistent 20+ Mbits/sec speed.

      Then you have to get all the local yokel TV broadcasters to upgrade all their cameras, editing gear, storage, software and workflow.

      More like a 5 – 10 year process. Making affordable 4K TVs (under $1000) is the easy part and that alone will take at least 2 – 4 years.

  5. My DVD collection gets used so rarely these days. I don’t even remember the last time I borrowed or rented one either. Online video is just so much more convenient.

  6. 4K and 8K:
    Great for professionals.
    Pointless for average consumers.
    I predict: Dud in the consumer space.

    Meanwhile: Optical media still profitable in the consumer space in 2015? I don’t think so. And, seeing as Sony managed to so horrendously botch Blu-ray’s debut with GOUGE pricing and 3X DRM crap infestation, I hear yawns echoing from the future. (-_-)zzz

    1. Derek,

      First, these are NOT “4K” or “8K” systems. The terms “4K” and “8K” apply to the Digital Cinema Standard that have been out for eight years or more. These are UHDTV and beyond. The “4K” standard is truly 2160×4096 with the “8K” standard at 4320×8192. These UHDTV pixel counts are 2160×3840 and 4320×7680. There’s even a formal “2K” standard at 1080×2048 as different from 1080×1920 “Full HD”. If you want to see a true “4K” image on your UHDTV set you’ll either need to crop it or letterbox it.

      Also a little simple arithmetic I’ve posted here before:
      The average person with “20/20” vision (even corrected) has a per pixel angular resolution of one arc minute. Also, the average person’s comfortable viewing angle is 60 degrees or more. This puts the minimum total number of horizontal pixels at 3,600 or more. This is *well* beyond that of HDTV’s 1920 and barely below UHDTV’s 3840. (If we get into the perceived acuity and wider viewing angles that some believe are more accurate, the number of horizontal pixels can exceed 50,000 before we exceed the maximum limit of what some researchers believe can be “perceived”.)

      Optical media will still be profitable in the consumer space for quite some time. The new game boxes all have optical media. Data sets are expanding. UHDTV has an expanded color space as well as four times as many pixels. If this is coupled with 120 Hz or 240 Hz 3D capabilities that don’t require those annoying glasses, then the data space doubles or quadruples again.

      So, simple arithmetic:
      The LOTR Extended Editions are two 50 GB Blu-ray disks for *each* film or about 100 GB total. Quadruple that for UHDTV, then half that for H.265. Now were are at 200 GB. Add about 25% for extended color range. Now we’re at 250 GB. Then double that for glasses-less 3D. Now we’re at 500 GB.

      Hmmm…. Maybe 300 GB disks are not big enough!

      The one thing I fully agree with is that we can’t have another MPEG-LA fiasco. The licensing fees damn near killed Blu-ray. Apple never picked it up natively because of this. Sony and Panasonic (and whoever else) need to learn from Blu-ray’s near death. If they don’t, you may be right and this next generation of optical media will never catch on. Not because it’s not needed, but because of licensing stupidity. (Same as Firewire that started out at 50 Mbps in 1990 with a base licensing fee plus $1 per connector, i.e., $2 for a simple cable!. Apple eventually lowered the licensing fee, but by then it was too late and it never really took off.)

      1. Holy crap, there’s somebody else here other than me that his done his homework, understands the simple math, and doesn’t just repeat the old “there’s no benefit” line.

        As someone who has spent some time watching 4k in controlled environments, on screens large and small, I can definitely say there is plenty of room for improvement well beyond 1080p. Bring on the 4k!

        Ditto on the licensing. Get the attorneys out of the room and keep the licensing simple and affordable! A tiny piece of a big pie is much better than a giant slice of nothing.

  7. I live in a city of over 1 million. There is not one single video rental house open any more. I couldn’t buy a movie locally if I wanted to. I do not want to buy every movie I want to see, and I note that every time I buy a film thinking that I’ll watch it over and over, it sits in its wrapper. I’ll re-read books, and listen to music over and over, but never films.

  8. Build a disc that can contain hundreds, now thousands of movies and that might fly. Heck people might even use it as a backup or an external backup drive.

  9. This is nonsense. 3D is already dead; only a tiny fraction of first adopters wanted it. Now everyone is expected to throw out their equipment in favor of a new tech that costs many thousands of $$- for which there is no content? Delusional.

  10. 4K will be DOA for the exact reason 3D already is- consumers WILL NOT invest in the tech until the content is everywhere. But the content will never exist unless consumers buy the tech upfront. How’d that work out for 3D?


    1. I guess you could have said the same thing for CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray disks, etc,

      You can buy a 3 CCD UHDTV camera today for less than $30,000. That is inexpensive enough for even the small studios to afford. You don’t need the $200,000+ rigs of a few years ago. Portable drives with fast interfaces are now reasonable too. At that price individual TV stations and news sources will start to switch over. And we all know the prices for this equipment are going to go nowhere but down!

      The 4K Digital Cinema Standard is fast becoming the norm for theaters with over 60% of theaters supporting that format last time I checked (a couple months ago). Movies are starting to support this as the default.

      You can buy a *cheap* UHDTV television for less that $2,000 or a decent UHDTV television for less than $5,000. This is where “Full HDTV” was a less than a decade ago. Plus, at that time there were no huge libraries of “Full HDTV” content available. Hell, one of the major TV channels had just declared that they would *never* go to 1080p and would only do 720p. How did that turn out?

      Change is happening. It’s not as fast as those avidly pushing UHDTV into the home would like, but it is happening. I will be extremely surprised if 2020 does not see UHDTV in the same position as “Full HDTV” was back in 2010. I believe by 2025 HDTV will be looked at like SDTV is now.

      Now, 4320p is different. Yet, even 8640p will eventually happen. Not for the native resolution, but for other reasons. But that, as they say, is a different story yet to be told.

      1. No, it’s not the same as the same thing as CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray. CD’s were clearly more convenient than LPs; DVDs were a quantum leap in picture quality over VHS. Blu is incrementally better than DVD, but would not being doing as well as they are without the mandated switch to digital TV broadcasts and everyone upgrading to HDTV as a byproduct. Discs are really not selling all that well overall. The barrier to entry with CDs, DVDs and Blu was not thousands of $$.

        4K is certainly not “fast becoming the norm” in theaters- we have a few multiplexes in the Boston area with a single screen that supports 4K- they’re not showing Pacific Rim or The Wolverine. They’re showing Grownups 2- only- in 4K. It’s nothing more than a gimmick. There’s a movie that screams out to be seen in 4K!

        Here’s the thing- like 3D, 4K is an answer in search of a question, a solution in search of a problem. Consumers are not asking for this – the TV manufacturers are. They are desperate to differentiate themselves, and un-commoditize the sale of TVs. They failed miserably with 3D – this is the next thing they’re going to throw against the wall. Yes, there will be obsessive videophiles who will dive right in. More power to them. But it’s fantasy – TV stations and content creators ARE NOT going to throw out everything and start over for the sake of a few more pixels. Everyone updated to HD BECAUSE THEY HAD TO. It was not “change is happening”. Trust me, no one is going to invest in all this for some imaginary payout in 2025. They can’t afford to. Look how quickly 3D died. It was a blip on the radar. This is all fantasy- it’s TV manufacturer pron. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

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