Ultra High Definition: What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Quick! Name the play! It’s Romeo and Juliet, of course. And it’s certainly one of Bill Shakespeare’s best lines, particularly in the way it encapsulates Juliet’s whole Montague/Capulet dilemma.

Names, of course, are tricky things. In the 1930’s, the once-popular name Adolf fell off the charts, and has never returned. More recently, Apple called its new small tablet the iPad Mini and not the Newton. And it’s not surprising that Windows 8 wasn’t called Vista 2.

All of which brings us to TVs. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has decided that the new generation of 4K TVs should henceforth be called “Ultra High Definition.” The day after that announcement, Sony announced, thanks but no thanks, we’ll just call ours “4K Ultra High Definition.”

A famous Japanese saying is, “The raised nail gets hammered down.” Sony has always relished being a raised nail. Consider Betamax. while the rest of the world was VHS. Or how Sony continuing to push MiniDisc while everyone else was moving to flash memory. It’s not surprising that Sony would insist on using a variant name for its next-gen TV, even if it potentially confuses consumers. A new name would have been even more confusing; Sony has been selling 4K TVs for a year and changing the name now would be nuts.

But you know what? 4K is a better name than Ultra High Definition. For starters, “ultra” is a worthless term. These days, everything is ultra or super or Xtreme or something. Putting “ultra” in front of HD will be a distinction without a difference for most people. “Ultra” will be lost in the marketing clutter. Besides, it’s too late. The 4K train has already left the station.

“4K” is geeky, but at least it sticks out a little. Plus, it gives the salesperson at Best Buy a natural talking point, explaining that it’s called 4K because it has four times the resolution of full HD. Speaking of improvements, when newer technology comes after this one, what will the CEA call it — Mega Ultra HD? If we call it 16K, then it’s clearly a distinction from the old technology, and it’s better and thus worth buying. Sony made the right call. 4K is a better descriptor. I’m calling it 4K, and if that makes me a geek, fine.

Plus, babes really dig geeks.

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