Top 5 Home Tech Opportunities for 2013
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4K Ultra HD TV: New Platform Could Bring Profits Back to Video
By Julie Jacobson
When was the last time integrators got excited about TVs? Not when manufacturers came out with 3D and not when they came out with smart TVs. You probably have to go way back to the advent of 1080p TVs when the story was all about image quality.
Today, the most exciting thing in displays is again image quality and resolution. Welcome to 4K Ultra HD - so called because it has almost 4,000 lines of resolution (3,840 by 2,160) and offers four times the resolution of 1080p.
The topic drew 70 consumers to one seminar at Bjorn’s, a leading A/V and integration shop in San Antonio, Texas.
“4K? I gotta tell ya, the customers, loved it,” principal Bjorn Dybdahl says. “I think we’re going to get a lot of business.”
Like many in the industry, Dybdahl had heard that 4K is a joke, but he says he is convinced the technology will draw traffic to his stores and he will sell a lot of pricey TVs with high margins, especially the $25,000 84-inch Sony XBR-84X900.
And the rise of 4K has an additional benefit beyond its richness and clarity: It makes otherwise obnoxious 3D images stunning, enjoyable with comfy passive glasses.
“My gut feeling is this may be a way for 3D to become more important,” Dybdahl says.
Where’s the Content?
Critics wonder why anyone would buy an expensive Ultra HD TV today when so little content is available. But the content is coming, slowly but surely, just as it did with 3D. Sony already has announced 10 films it is shipping free of charge with its new 4K sets and Sony spokesperson Rob Manfredo says the company is committed to releasing more content to the home.
Furthermore, the NFL is shooting one game a week with 4K cameras, and at least two TV series are filmed in 4K. And even without native 4K content TV watchers can enjoy excellent video via built-in upscaling.
The focus on quality, resolution and potential margin has integrators excited about the prospects of 4K Ultra HD technology, such as LG’s new unit.
Critics also balk at the high prices of 4K. The research firm IHS has said it “believes that neither consumers nor television brands will have the interest required to make the 4K LCD-TV market successful.”
That’s because eight million pixels only make sense for TVs 60 inches or larger, a segment which represented only 1.5 percent of total television shipments in 2012, according to IHS director Tom Morrod.
“[T]he market for 4K sets during the next few years will be limited to very wealthy consumers or to commercial uses,” Morrod says.
For most CE pros, those are market segments that are often right up their alley. So what’s not to love?
The 4K Ecosystem
To enjoy 4K content, you “don’t have to revamp your ecosystem,” says Jay Vandenbree, head of LG’s U.S. Home Entertainment business. He notes that DVDs can already hold 4K and HDMI already supports 4K.
But Steve Heintz, senior product manager at Atlona gives three reasons why CE pros need to be on their toes:
- Most switching equipment such as AVRs and dedicated switchers currently sold don’t work with 4K. Chipsets are just now coming from the manufacturers.
- Cables that were tested to 1080i won’t work. You’ll need true HDMI-certified High Speed cables.
- Most extenders won’t work. HDBaseT extenders should work. But since there isn’t any equipment out there, compatibility hasn’t been tested.
- Meanwhile, Gefen says it is ready for 4K with new switchers, splitters and matrixes.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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