Nov 18, 2013
I’ve attended a few events lately with vendors in the PC, laptop, tablet, and display markets. In their attempts to drive a desire in users to upgrade or change their devices, these vendors are finding it a struggle to push the speeds and feeds as they always have done of old. Whereas there are still the technogeeks who will still pay for faster processing, better graphics, and a humungous great fast hard disk drive, the majority of users are now more like magpies: if it catches their eye, then it’s a good start — they are looking for something that looks nice and enables them to make a personal statement in the bling stakes.
Therefore, more vendors are making greater style statements in their new offerings. Ultrabooks are thinner and more stylish; tablets are lighter and sleeker; smartphones are glossier.
However, the biggest move seems to be on the display front. With Apple having pushed the Retina display for a while now, others have also gone for increasing pixel density to match or exceed standard HD (1920×1080 pixels). However, there seems to be an increasing push now to go for either the ultra-high definition video standards, 4K (3840×2160 pixels) or 4Q (2560×1440 pixels). On top of this is deep color depth — generally 8- or 10-bit, the latter being 1.7 billion possible colors, or far more than the human eye can actually perceive.
On the face of it, this is a pretty simple evolution that is becoming more of a requirement. Many screens are getting larger — some professionals in the media markets will be using 30″ or 40″ screens for their work, and at that size standard HD can look a little grainy. Cameras and videos can now create images that are in the multiple tens of millions of pixels, so even a 4K display’s 8.3 million pixels will only be displaying a cut-down version of the real image. However, for a smartphone or a 10″ tablet, it does seem a little on the overkill side.
The problem for many, though, will be the impact it could have on the network. Textual documents using TrueType fonts will not be a problem — their size will stay the same. However, with pin-sharp resolution on their screens, many content creators will now move from 72 dpi graphics to 300 or even 600 dpi images — with a massive impact on document size.
Images — even those being posted on Facebook — will be sized to impress those on such high resolution screens. Videos will be streamed using the higher resolutions by those with the capability to show them on their screens.
This will have an impact on the underlying network, unsurprisingly. A reasonably well-compressed, visually lossless HD film currently requires around 3.5Mb/sec bandwidth. Move this to 4K, and you are looking at 14Mb/s — a good means of bringing a network to a halt if ever I have seen one.
Sure, an organization could prevent such large files from being accessed, but such a negative approach will only be putting off the inevitable. Technologies will be required that allow such high definitions and larger files to be embraced and encouraged. More efficient compression codecs; incremental viewing of files using low-resolution first pass, building up to high resolution; content delivery networks, and other caching techniques and network acceleration techniques will all have a part to play.
From the noises I’m hearing from the likes of Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo, ViewSonic, and Iiyama, 2014 will be the year of introducing 4K/4Q displays. This will lead to an increasing network load of higher definition files through 2015 and beyond — maybe it is time to start planning for this now.
Image credit: WikiMedia Commons