It's a safe bet Sony will not be left behind in the 4K home media arms race, but that's about the only thing clear regarding the topic at this point, because Sony does not yet seem to have a clear strategy for 4K home delivery. Do you need Sony's 4K TV to access it, or don't you? It's now looking like either will be answered "yes." This is because another platform for a 4K delivery service will be the upcoming Playstation 4 video game console (which was strangely left out of their PS4 announcement, probably because 4K is only planned for video, not games, at the moment). While we don't know too much about their 4K home delivery service yet, there's talk about downloads up to 100 gigabytes or greater. But will this really happen, and more to the point, are 100GB downloads the only option for 4K?
When asked by The Verge if "PS4K" was a deal or no-deal, the response from Sony Electronics President and COO Phil Molyneux went only as far as: "I promise you will not be disappointed." I'll take that as a "yes," but one far-flung from "absolutely." Here's The Verge's Nilay Patel more recently on the subject, followed by an interview by Patel with Molyneux:
It appears the company still has some work to do in making the 4K download service a realistic option for regular consumers. Molyneux said that typical 4K movies would be "100 gigabytes and plus" depending on length, and added that file size and average broadband speeds are "challenges that we have to work through... we've got some very good ideas that will make that a comfortable consumer experience." That sounds like overnight downloading of huge files, which Sony already does for PS3 games — and Sony CEO Kaz Hirai called adjusting to long download times "a journey" for consumers when we asked him about it at CES. Molyneux did say that work on improved compression for smaller files was "in active progress," but it seems the first generation of 4K products will involve huge files.
Okay. So first, there was 4K streaming -- or downloading, or something; the talking point here is that you're not buying or renting a future-forsaken disc, it will be internet-based in all likelihood -- available specifically through Sony's 4K TV set. Our own Joe Marine also later mentioned Sony's progressive 4K delivery plans amongst the 4K stories swarming around the most recent CES. The more recent information released about the Playstation 4 pretty much solidifies home 4K's future from Sony, but that's all it really solidifies. Physical media is still not definitely out of the question, but I can almost guarantee you it will never materialize, from Sony or any other company (and if it does it will be short-lived). I can also almost guarantee you that PS4K will eventually be a reality, and this stuff about 100GB downloads will not be part of the conversation for long. Either way, it's just never going to be the reality from any self-respecting video industry leader in a world where REDRAY will offer 4K movies under 20GB total.
Even with greater connections speeds proliferating (and therefore access-per-dollar value increasing), or the perennial ability to opt-in to better ISPs, 100GB for any single movie seems unecessary more than anything else. I'm sure as Sony irons out the kinks, it will become clear where such figures are coming from, just as it will become clear there's a better way to do home 4K. The situation gets a little tricky, because the REDRAY comparison highlights an elephant in the room: the recent lawsuit by RED against Sony, which is all about novel wavelet encoding of 4K media. Granted, that lawsuit concerns on-board camera recording and not distribution, but it will be interesting to see how RED patents are already shaping the space.
What do you guys think? Do you think these figures will stick, or will Sony likely figure something else out?