It’s hard to sell 4K television sets to people if they have little to watch on them. Sony hopes to break through that dilemma today with the introduction of Video Unlimited 4K, which it says is the only download service with Ultra HD movies and TV shows. It begins with about 70 full length feature films from Sony Pictures Entertainment and “other notable production houses” — with the library expected expand to pass 100 by year end — the company says. Customers can access TV shows including Breaking Bad, and movies such as Moneyball, Think Like A Man, Premium Rush, Ghostbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man, Funny Girl, and The Guns Of Navarone. Recent films This Is The End, After Earth and Elysium also will be available when they hit home video. A 24-hour rental for a TV show costs $3.99 while a movie goes for $7.99. Users can buy a movie for $29.99. Some titles will include UltraViolet streaming rights in HD or standard definition. The Ultra HD 4K format has about four times the resolution of an HDTV.
The technology sometimes referred to as “Ultra HD” provides extraordinarily vivid images — sets offer four times the resolution of a conventional HDTV — and was all the rage at recent industry shows including CES and The Cable Show. But ordinary consumers probably won’t share executives’ enthusiasm according to a report today from Bernstein Research. Analysts there say that 4K TV viewers would have to sit uncomfortably close to the set to appreciate the extra pixels. Studios and networks, many of whom are still licking their wounds from the premature rush to 3D TV, also are dragging their feet. “The networks have no plans to drive consumer interest/awareness through content (and promotion of that content). That leaves all the marketing/promotion in the hands of the manufacturers, and makes one question the rate of adoption,” the report says. And pay TV distributors, who control most TV viewing in the U.S., see 4K as a bandwidth hog. “Most operators are more worried about delivering speeds for HD, let alone 4K,” the Bernstein analysts conclude.
The 2013 International CES was a lot like last year’s show: Manufacturers concentrated on updating existing technologies, adding more processing power and online connectivity wherever possible, instead of introducing brand new inventions. Still, there were a lot of eye-catching products for those who like to own the hottest gadgets, and have money to burn. Here are a few of the stand-outs. But remember: Consumer electronics makers are notorious for showing off products at CES that never make it to retail shelves, or take far longer to do so than companies envision:
Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC: Want to liven up family game night? Lenovo’s marketing this Windows 8 device with a 27-inch, HD display as a multimode “table PC.” It lays horizontally so that multiple users can play knock hockey, Monopoly, or video games. It comes with e-dice and four joysticks. First models are expected to be available this quarter for about $1,600.
Harmon Kardon BDS-577: Here’s a Blu-ray disc player that’s also designed to serve as an all-in-one centerpiece for a home entertainment system that accommodates everything from the highest resolution TV sets to comparatively lowly MP3 files on a smartphone. It handles 3D videos. But it also boasts great sound with 5.1-channel digital high fidelity amplifiers, decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD surround-sound, AirPlay music streaming, wireless transmissions to home theater speakers. In addition it has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and support for YouTube.
This surprised me. Samsung said at the International CES confab today that its new OLED TV sets make it possible for two people to watch different shows on the same screen at the same time. The company pulls off that trick when viewers wear special glasses, with earbuds, that isolate the program that the viewer wants. It seems the OLED models can handle all of those moving images because the screens refresh 1,000 times faster than conventional HDTV screens. The company says it will show that off in addition to a voice command feature it calls S-Recommendation: Users can use natural language to ask for different programming characteristics, for example an actor they like, and the TV set will offer suggestions based on what’s available on conventional TV, online, and on the DVR. Recommendations will adapt to a user’s tastes over time.
Never mind the ballyhoo about ultra-high definition televisions that Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG, Panasonic and other consumer electronics manufacturers will generate this week at the annual International CES gadget confab in Las Vegas. Only a few consumers have the money and desire to buy one of these beautiful but pricey sets which pack four times as many pixels as a conventional HD television: U.S. consumers will buy just 1.4M ultra-HD sets in 2016, accounting for 5% of all sales, the Consumer Electronics Association projected today. But it looks like the more meaningful announcements for ordinary TV viewers will come this week from companies that want to help them harness their small screens — smartphones and tablets. CEA Senior Analyst Shawn Dubravac says that consumers are becoming “digital omnivores,” adding that “the second screen is now robust.” Dish Network, which likes to use CES to unveil its new technologies, apparently agrees: It’s teasing