CNET is reporting big news from the IFA show in Berlin that the Blu-ray Disc Association is "most of the way done" in defining a version of its disc technology to handle 4K and will begin licensing the technology in the spring or summer of 2015. That would allow products to start appearing by the 2015 holiday season.
Much of the world is shifting to streaming video delivered over the Internet, but don't count out optical discs just yet.
The Blu-ray Disc Association is most of the way done defining a version of its optical disc technology that can handle high-resolution 4K imagery, the group said Friday at the IFA electronics trade show here. It will start licensing the technology in the spring or summer of 2015, and the first 4K Blu-ray players should arrive by the holiday-shopping season of that year, said Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association global promotions committee.
Using physical media instead of relying on fallible and often limited Internet connections means Blu-ray discs can provide the best possible image quality, he said. But there's more to 4K Blu-ray than just four times the number of pixels as in today's prevailing 1080p video, he added.
The new specification also will improve color gamut dramatically and offer a higher dynamic range so details in shadows and highlights are visible. The new format also will be able to show 4K video at 60 frames per second, he said.
"The packaged media and that enclosed, stable environment – that's part of being the best of the best," Matsuda said.
It's not clear exactly now much of the market wants the best of the best, though: people have flocked to streaming services despite difficulties with bandwidth and image quality. With services from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Google, and others, people can watch the video they want immediately rather than having leave the house to get a disc. And subscription services offer access to a library of titles so people can watch as much as they want – and try new TV shows or movies without having to decide whether it's worth the per-show price tag.
Streaming media is also becoming more convenient with players from Apple, Roku, Amazon, and Google. As of the second quarter of 2014, 17 percent of Internet-connected households have streaming-media players, NPD Group said.
But Matsuda believes a lot of the world will continue to use optical discs. Blu-ray is a force to be reckoned with. In the US, 72 million households – about 62 percent – had a Blu-ray player of some sort in 2014, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Many people move to new technology slowly, and outside the US, there's another lag of six to 12 months.
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• Will Blu-ray Discs Be the Real Casualty in Amazon's Current War? at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• How Well Does Ultra HD Work on Netflix? at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• The Color's the Thing That Will Make 4K So Amazing at HomeTheaterReview.com.