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CES 2014: from 4k to bendable TVs

Blog
08 January 2014

If you believe Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, then streaming 4K to the home couldn't be easier.

“You can 4K stream over WiFi if you want to,” he said of the VOD provider's forthcoming service which will require just 15Mbps of in home bandwidth. “This is very practical,” he added.

Hastings appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show at the press conferences of both LG and Sony trumpeting their respective new Ultra HD TV line-up and the ability for customers to watch House of Cards 2 or a remastered Breaking Bad in 4K.

The ease of getting 4K over the internet has other net giants like YouTube, Amazon and Microsoft Xbox in the box seat for the launch of services. Cable companies are also salivating at the prospect.

“We like applications that take a lot of bandwidth,” said Tony Werner, CTO, Comcast. “We have the capability to do it. We think it’s highly manageable all the way through. What's more important is getting the content cycle to start.”

Broadcasters are notable by their absence at this year's CES. Few if any have been rolled out to talk about new 4K ventures.

According to Tom Cosgrove, CEO of Discovery, IMAX and Sony linear channel 3Net, though, broadcasters aren't far behind.

“You will see non-traditional platforms take a bit of a lead but in a couple of years there will be a fair amount of content available on all the sources we have today,” he said. “Things will even out. It's really a matter of how far and how fast prices of UHD sets to the home can reduce.

Among the 20,000+ new product launches at this gargantuan tech fest are inevitably some which are just flying a kite for business. Curved, transparent and flexible screens for example are exhibited mainly just to show what is possible.

Samsung, for example, is touting the world’s largest curved UHD television, with a 105-inch screen and cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio – just because it can. It also showed a Bendable TV concept which can switch between a curved and flat screen at the touch of a button. Apparently this curve makes the viewing experience more cinematic.

Panasonic is featuring a massive OLED video wall with both concave and convex panels. “This is a business solution unless you are the head of a hedge fund,” quipped Joe Taylor, chairman and ceo.

It's not just TV screens that are getting bendy either. Samsung's G-Flex mobile phone is designed to curve around the user's ear piece for better audio.

This year CES is also about wearables, a new product category which the Consumer Electronics Association predicts is set to explode. In part this is due to the rising installed base of smartphones and tablets which provide the hub displays for connected services and wearables like health and fitness wrist-worn sensors.

Around 1.5 million smart watches will sell globally in 2014. “This is a very nascent market which is still looking for a killer app,” observed Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the CEA.

Other items of note: Sharp is exhibiting an 8K glasses-free 3D screen using Dolby's autostereo technology. The output resolution is 4K.


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