Ultra HDTV is made for TVs, not smartphones

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Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a troglodyte. I own and use, in no particular order, a smartphone, tablet and Blu-ray player. I have a Facebook account, a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. I'm conversant in email and the only reason I don't text is that my stubby fingers make it frustrating to type on my smartphone.

With that out of the way, I'm puzzled as to why there would be any fuss about ultra high definition TV (UHDTV) and mobile devices. I can understand that the underpinning technology of UHDTV (aka 4K), high efficiency video coding (HEVC), is a great new compression standard that should help mobile players compress better pictures into less space. What I don't understand is why this is such a big deal. Who wants to watch a better picture on a smartphone or tablet anyway?

The picture I get on my smartphone is, I think, more than adequate. I don't need spectacles to see it and it appears to look just peachy. My tablet screen gives me plenty of resolution. And my laptop and desktop screens are magnificent. The type of content I watch on those devices doesn't really strain the technology, either.

What I'd really like to see is a better picture on my big screen--the device I use to kick back and watch television. In fact, I'd like to see a bigger screen with better resolution, and I'd probably be willing to pay for the privilege.

Perhaps I do live in a (man) cave, but at least in my household the primary entertainment viewing experience is the same as it's been since I was old enough to turn a dial: the television. Things have changed, for sure: Digital and HD and flat screens have transformed that viewing experience and, despite those who pine for the golden age of television, the content has improved as well. I challenge anyone from those golden days of "Bewitched" and "Gomer Pyle" to match the likes of "The Wire" and "Justified."

So, while I guess I should be somewhat enthused that HEVC is gaining widespread acceptance as the way in which smartphones will get more pixels for less bandwidth, I'm a little concerned that the train may be heading down the wrong siding and may take too long to get back on the right track. Concentrate too much on wireless--and as a wireline guy I think there's already too much concentration on wireless--and you might lose sight of the bigger picture (pun intended).

Hopefully this week's spate of announcements surrounding HEVC, UHDTV and mobile are just a matter of timing news with a big wireless event, Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona. And hopefully, after those swallowing that news have returned from Barcelona, the focus will return to wired devices in home entertainment centers surrounded by big speakers and in front of reclining chairs where a quadrupling of picture quality will be more than welcomed. -Jim

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