Televisions of the future unveiled
Massive curved ultra high-definition screens offer cinematic experience, say manufacturers, if consumers can be persuaded to upgrade
Television giants at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are touting the wonders of ultra high-definition screens despite doubts by analysts that people will buy them.
Screens offering picture resolution about four times more vivid than current high-definition sets starred at an array of events staged on the eve of the showfloor opening on Tuesday.
Japanese titan Sony made Ultra HD, or 4K, sets and content the centerpiece of a presentation that ran a gamut of gadgets.
"I can't stop talking about 4K," said Sony Electronics president Mike Fasulo. "I tell everyone it is like looking out a window."
South Korean rival Samsung earlier on Monday showed off a "jaw-dropping" ultra high-definition television with a 105-inch, curved screen.
"It is a massive screen, and curved for a truly cinematic experience," Samsung Electronics America executive vice-president Joe Stinziano said. "Ultra-HD is going to drive the next change in the industry."
The "4K" refers to horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels. Current-generation high definition screens have pixel density of 1,080.
But analysts remain sceptical that 4K will be enough to convince people to spend thousands to replace their current high-definition flat-screen televisions.
"TV makers are primed to be disappointed because the most important thing that will happen in TV in 2014 will be the continued expansion of online video into the TV screen via over-the-top solutions like the Xbox One, Roku, and Google's Chromecast," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
"Instead of raising the quality and cost bar like 4K does, these over-the-top devices and services lower consumer costs while expanding viewing options."
Streaming rich 4K data smoothly requires high-capacity broadband connections, which can be costly or unavailable.
"Ultra HD is clearly the next big thing, but vendors are hoping it won't be like the last big thing - 3-D TV - which went nowhere," said Avi Greengart, research director for consumer products at Current Analysis.
"TV manufacturers have tried gimmicks to get people to replace TVs, but people don't think there is anything wrong with the ones they have."
Sony also unveiled new cameras for capturing video in 4K.
"But we all know that content is king," Fasulo said. "We have made significant advances there as well."
Sony's Video Unlimited service boasts a library of more than 140 titles, including all of the hit series Breaking Bad.
Sony is also working with Google-owned YouTube and popular online video streaming service Netflix to feature 4K content on television sets.
The internet was the "natural medium to deliver 4K" shows or films to televisions, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said at the Sony presentation.
"It's a chance for the internet to really shine," Hastings said. "Creators are very excited about 4K and what it allows them to show in storytelling."
Stinziano said Samsung had 4K content partnerships with Netflix and Amazon, and film studios Paramount and 20th Century Fox. It has also introduced a striking "Bendable TV" that can be converted from flat to curved screen with the touch of a button.
Another South Korean electronics powerhouse, LG, also announced an alliance with Netflix.
Video: CES stage in Vegas set for new wave of gadgets