Is 4K Doomed to Tank Like 3DTV? Akamai Says No

by on July 23, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – July 23d, 2014

4K UHD is looking more and more like the next genuinely major thing in TV display technology but it still remains a relatively obscure and not too well established resolution format when compared to the overwhelming popularity of conventional 1080p HD.

This, naturally has led some people to speculate that 4Kmight go the way of the Dodo like another recent new TV technology that completely flopped so far. There is still no guarantee that 4K is what consumers want and fears still exist that it will take the same nose dive that 3DTV did, but, at least according to some:

“I’m a pragmatist about 4K and I’m also a student of history” according to William Law, chief architect of the media division at cloud technology and research company Akamai, speaking at a recent streaming media conference in NYC.

“I wanted almost to print out a session we had at Streaming Media East about six years ago that was talking about the new format coming out, how it was larger, there were no screens to display it, there were no devices to play it, content wasn’t produced on it. And the format was 1080p. Six years ago we were having exactly the same discussion and I think we’re going to repeat it again. In six years’ time we’re going to be looking back and we’ll see a transition from 720 to 1080 to 4K”.

These are encouraging words for 4K technology and a lot of the problems that 4K UHD faces today indeed do mirror those of 1080 HD several years ago even though they never stopped HD from being the major display technology of today’s world.

However, some justifiable fear lies in the fact that 3D also enjoyed the same hype as 4K up until recently, and unlike 1080 HD, it completely flopped.

So the question then becomes, which route will 4K take and what should make it more like 1080 HD instead of 3D?

Well, one key consideration, at least according to Law, is that unlike 3D, 4K doesn’t require new viewing technology. In every sense, the audience use process for 4K is the exact same as it would be for 1080 HD except that the new screen resolution would be much, much greater.

This contrasts sharply with 3D which did require the use of glasses or if screens didn’t require glasses, they would would often give users headaches and eye irritation while offering at best spotty picture quality. According to Law, “If you went to CES 4 years ago, you saw 3D everywhere”……… and, “You go to CES this year, 3D is nowhere. It’s the mark of the devil”.

With 4K display technology, viewers can buy a UHD TV, projector or PC display monitor and just lean back to watch in exactly the same way that they’ve been doing with any other TV they’ve ever owned. Nothing needs to be changed.

This, coupled with the fact that after over 2 years on the market 4K is still growing at a very fast pace and a steady rate of increase in that pace should serve to make 4K take over 1080 HD’s position and not simply disappear into the shadows of technologies consumers rejected.

Fundamentally, the simple fact that resolution formats have been steadily increasing in detail and replacing their predecessors over several generations of TV display technologies has to continue onwards as consumer demand for even better entertainment clarity pushes sales. Regardless of how popular HD still remains in comparison to the still small market percentage that 4K holds, UHD is its most competitive and natural successor. 3D was a side branch that did not fundamentally improve picture resolution in any way.

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