Technology Futures

Commentaries on Directions That Will Impact the Future of Technology

Archive for the tag “Television”

Ultra HD: Worth the Wait?

Sharp 85" UltraHD Prototype TV

So you just bought the latest and greatest super-thin 3D HDTV, thinking you are now state-of-the-art.  Think again.  Here comes (maybe) Ultra HD, also known as Super Hi-vision.  This format, proposed by NHK (the Japanese equivalent of PBS), offers 16 times the resolution of today’s high definition TV.  That is 7680 x 4320 pixels, about the same as IMAX.  A 2-hour movie in this format will require about 24 terabytes of data without compression!

In addition to the video, up to 24 audio channels can be used.  You might start thinking about where you are going to place those 24 speakers.

NHK expects to broadcast in UltraHD by 2020.  In the meantime, a few companies have prototyped systems that accommodate the format.  For example, Sharp has built an 85″ Ultra HD set.

To confuse matters further, some companies are looking into an in-between technology called QFHD (Quad Full High Definition).  This technology increases the pixel resolution by a factor of four rather than the 16 factor of Ultra HD.  The resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels.  Samsung showed off a prototype TV display for QFHD at CES, and Toshiba will be selling a 55″ QFHD set called the Regza 55X3 this year priced at about $12,000. Although it is being sold in Japan and Europe on a limited basis, it is not clear that an American audience will pay that price.

That set, by the way, is autostereoscopic, meaning that you can see 3D without glasses.  Although there is no 1D content yet in QFHD format, Toshiba uses it by showing the two stereo signals needed for 3D, each in full 1080p resolution.  People who have seen the display report being very impressed.  In addition, the set is designed to accommodate multiple viewers within nine different regions.  The television utilizes extremely small lenses to split the video feed up into two views at different angles. The user can calibrate the views using face-tracking software built into the television.  Supposedly, one can be situated at many viewing angles and still see a clear picture.

Satellite TV provider DirecTV has announced that it will soon be able to broadcast QFHD signals and maybe Ultra HDTV signals by switching to a new generation of Ka-band satellites that offer significantly more bandwidth than the current Ku-band satellites.

Not to be outdone by the Japanese and Koreans, the Chinese television manufacturer, TCL, debuted the world’s largest 4K 3D LCD television this week at 110-inches. Offering 4,096×2,160 pixels of resolution, the television requires active shutter glasses to view 3D.  In addition, it utilizes multi-touch technology to create a touch-screen on the front of the display and offers dynamic backlight technology as well.  TCL is labeling the technology “China Star” and eventually plans to roll out the technology in smaller sets.  There have not been any price announcements nor is it known if the sets will be sold outside of China.

So get ready to toss that state-of-the-art TV you just bought.  The nature of the business is that state-of-the-art is a moving target.  Naturally, you will want to move with it.




TV: Wherefore Art Thou Apple

Steve Wozniak

Image via Wikipedia

Steve Wozniak was quoted in a January 4 article in USA Today, stating ” I do expect Apple to make an attempt (to get into the TV business) since I expect the living room to remain a center for family entertainment, and that touches on all areas of consumer products that Apple is already making.”  In response to that statement, I say “duh.”

It is certainly true that Apple could equip a TV with an iPAd/iPhone
interface.  The article mentioned above cites a Barclay Capital analyst
as saying that Apple could sell $19B worth of TVs so equipped in 2013.  I think the guy is smoking something illegal, but I was wrong once before.

The fly in the ointment as it were is, of course, content.  Why should Apple be able to cut better deals for content than any other company?  Cable and satellite companies are making more money than ever.  What could induce them to share the goodies with Apple or anyone else for that matter.  Of course, they could theoretically cut deals with the content providers like the networks and independent production companies, but why would those companies give Apple an edge over other big players like Google TV/Sony, or even Microsoft.

For Apple to compete profitably in the TV business, it will have to offer something truly unique.  TV hardware, including network interfaces is essentially a commodity.  Embedded network interface hardware costs around a dime these days.  Who wants to play in that game outside of a few crazy Korean and Japanese companies who will probably get knocked off by Chinese competition?

I don’t see much happening to change the TV landscape in any fundamental way UNLESS there is consolidation with the content providers.  Given that Google, Apple, Microsoft et al are gagging on cash these days, perhaps that is not beyond the realm of possibility.  As you probably know, Sony owns a bunch of Studios like Columbia and Tri-Star.  Suppose you could watch the product of those studios only on Sony TVs or at least less expensively than on competing products.  I think that is called “thinking-out-of-the-box.”  Apple is pretty good at that.


Big Screen TV: DLP Offers Great Price/Performance

DLP Technology

Developed by Texas Instruments, DLP (Digital Light Processor) technology is used in theaters offering digital projection and in home TV projectors – the kind you hang from the ceiling that projects imagery onto a screen. If you want to know how it works, click here. This article is about rear-projection DLP-based big screen TVs and why they should be considered in the face of tough competition from plasma and LCD TVs.

Price Considerations

Five years ago, a 65″ DLP TV cost $3500, a 65″ plasma cost $8,000 and a 65″ LCD was not available as a production product. Today, a 65″ DLP TV costs $1200 and a 65″ plasma or LCD costs $2500. While that is a significant difference, the numbers are even more intriguing as the size increases. Current DLP prices for a 73″ screen are $1300, for an 82″ screen, $1600, and for a 92″ screen, $3400.

Compare those prices to the latest big screen commercial offerings from plasma and LCD manufacturers: Sharp makes 70″ and 80″ LCD TVs that sell for $3000 and $5500. Panasonic makes 85″ and 103″ plasmas priced at $20,000 and $70,000. If you visit the CES show early in January, you will undoubtedly find companies like Samsung and LG showing 100+” LCD TVs, but they are not production models for sale to the general public.

From a price standpoint, DLP is the clear big screen choice for Joe Couch Potato. But there are, of course, other considerations.

The most important pros and cons:


  1. No motion blur, unlike LCD, because of a very fast refresh rate
  2. No worry about burn-in by leaving a static image on the screen like plasma
  3. Very sharp picture, as good as any other technology
  4. 3D is included and doesn’t require expensive glasses


  1. Not a flat panel, up to 25″ deep for a 92″ model
  2. Off-angle viewing not as good as LCD or plasma
  3. Lamp must be replaced every two years at a cost of $85 – $150.  Typical lamp life is 10,000 hours.
  4. Limited competition

Latest DLP Models Emulate Theater Projection

Mitsubishi recently announced the LaserVue Series.  This series uses the same laser lighting technology used in its theater-quality digital projection systems.  There are three lasers, one for each color, that provide the lighting instead of the incandescent bulb used in its standard models.  This lighting system provides extreme clarity, and there is no need to replace a bulb.  The lasers should last indefinitely.  The LaserVue comes only in a 75″ screen size and sells for $5500, although the price is likely to come down over time.

Mitsubishi is the only DLP TV Manufacturer in the North American Market

Mitsubishi is the only major manufacturer committed to DLP rear-projection TV selling into the North American market.  You may find models on store shelves from JVC, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba, but all of these companies have announced that they are abandoning the DLP rear-projection market, although they all sell DLP ceiling projectors.

The underlying technology continues to be developed by Texas Instruments and its many partners. Given that has a monopoly for projecting digital movies in theaters, it should be around for a very long time. In other words, the risk of betting on the technology is very low.

In Conclusion:  Big Screen DLP Should be Considered

In conclusion, if you want a big-screen TV today, a rear-projection DLP model offers quality viewing at the lowest price. Before buying one, however, make sure you see it and are satisfied with the quality of the picture. Since big screens take up a lot of shelf space, even the largest stores will not have a wide selection on display. Call first to be sure the one you want to see is actually in the store.

Note: Prices quoted in this article are the lowest US prices I could find via Internet search as of late December 2011, and may not be what you will find in stores or other online sources.

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