The UHD Alliance, a coalition of 30+ companies, is developing the technical standards that define the ecosystem of 4K Ultra HD television comprising displays, content, and distribution. The group has previously published various specifications, but the complete 4K Ultra HD specification has only just been completed, and will be debuted at the upcoming CES in 2016. The spec took forever to hammer out because of a curious disparity in display technologies. Exactly what the hold up? Brightness.
I recently blogged about Millennials, the demographic that is displacing Boomers at the top of the consumer food chain. I described how Millennial purchasing will increasingly define the audio/video markets and their preferences will increasingly define the nature of those products. Predicting the future is a dangerous game, but much like watching a bunny passing through a python, we can observe demographic bulges passing through the consumer market. Let's take a closer look at Millennials.
When you buy a Blu-ray Disc for $25, you expect the very best quality. When you rent a Blu-ray for $2, do you still expect the best? Or would the budget pricing lower your expectations? Do you simply assume that the bits comprising a rental movie are the same as the retail movie? You might be surprised to learn that not all bits are created equal. And therein lies a mystery.
Remember when flat-screen TVs first appeared? Whoa! That was the coolest thing ever! They were so flat! And so big! We couldn't get rid of our CRT TVs fast enough. We all bought them. Then when the prices dropped, we upgraded to bigger and better ones. Now we all have really nice TVs. So, are you planning to buy yet another new TV this holiday season?
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are defined as the demographic with birth years ranging from the early 80s to the early 00s. In other words, Millennials are about 15 to 35 years old. I am appealing to you. You account for almost half of all audio hardware sales. More than any other single group, you are the ones responsible for screwing it up for the rest of us.
When we think of audio companies, images of tall buildings, rows of cubicles, and loading docks usually come to mind. And it’s true that many audio companies are still like that. But a more contemporary image of an audio company would be you in your pajamas. You see, technology manufacturing isn’t what it used to be.
You might recall a recent Signals column about a Google patent application that described an anthropomorphic entertainment controller. The microphones/ears and cameras/eyes of the proposed Chucky-like device really creeped me out. Then a reader alerted me to an Amazon product that has similar functionality. It's not a document in the Patent Office; it's a real thing keeping tabs on people in their homes.
Everyone is familiar with virus attacks on PCs and Macs. We take precautions to minimize the risk - making sure the firewall is up, keeping our antivirus software up to date, and not clicking on scary attachments. We are perhaps less vigilant with virus attacks on our phones. Of course, the danger is just as scary. Adding even more anxiety is a new virus called Stagefright that can be embedded in MP3 and MP4 files.
It's not easy being a corporation. Take Volkswagen, for example. Right about now, they are probably wishing that Ferdinand Porsche had never stuffed an air-cooled engine in the back of a Beetle-shaped car. Along similar lines, Toshiba probably wishes it had hired more ethical accountants. In particular, it recently announced that it had overstated its profits by $1.3 billion over seven years. Oops. Not exactly a rounding error.
As you may have noticed, things are becoming more complex. Blame Moore’s Law, or whatever. But things are complicated. To help us manage that complexity, companies are devising even more complicated things that give us, the human users, the illusion of simplicity. However, a recent Google patent application, aimed at simplifying the operation of things like home entertainment systems, is just downright creepy.