Sony 4K is a new television format aiming to replace High-Definition. The main improvement is that it increases the resolution of the screen to 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels (up from the 1,920 x 1,080 pixels used in high definition).
If Apple decides to release its rumoured television set, and decides to include this technology it is likely to be branded 'Retina Display', as Apple does with its MacBook Pro with Retina, iPad and iPhone products.
The technology has become more famous following film director Peter Jackson's decision to film The Hobbit movie using 4K technology. Other film studios are also starting to film using the new format.
Sony itself is familiar with 4K technology and has 4K-ready projectors in its cinemas. It looks like this year they will be attempting to take the technology into the home, albiet at a high price for early adopters.
The television that Sony is demonstrating is an 84-inch LCD television. Sony hasn't officially announced a price for the giant, ultra high-definition television set but it's likely to be around the $10,000 mark. Sony's 4K projectors sell for around $25,000.
Sony is also demonstrating a 56-inch 4K television with a price that it's saying will be "accessible".
"It's an unprecedented and revolutionary viewing experience," Kaz Hirai, Sony CEO said. "The experience is so immersive, you want to touch everything in front of you."
Apple itself has been keen on Retina Display technology, so it's a good bet that Apple is at least considering 4K for its television device.
How much will a 4K Apple Television with Retina Display cost?
The answer to this question is pretty wide. We're expecting the Apple television to cost somewhere in the region of £1,000 in the UK. Perhaps slightly more, £1,299 wouldn't surprise us, and perhaps slightly less, £899 would surprise either. This is all finger in the air pricing by looking at the cost of other high end smart televisions, and Apple's range in general. But we don't think it'll go further up or down than these prices.
4K vastly inflates the price and Sony's 56-inch television is rumoured to be north of $2,500. Of course, Apple could include a smaller 4K screen, and what technology it does include (Siri, A6 chips, storage) is all likely to take the price up slightly. Storage is a main issue because 4K films take up a lot of space if stored locally, a 4K movie can easily take up over 100GB of storage space. And Apple is unlikely to want to include a traditional hard drive in the Apple Television, and over 128GB Flash RAM will undoubtedly push up the cost.
Of course, movies can be streamed. But the bandwidth required to stream 4K is high, and many consumers may not have a good enough wireless connection, or fast enough internet connection to stream 4K mobies. This report by Home Theater also suggests that broadcasters have "little enthusiasm" for the vast upgrade costs required to stream 4K content.
Apple's first foray into the television world is unlikely to be a budget-conscious affair, but at that sort of price it's unlikely gain any traction outside of a few wealthy early adopters.
The price of technology such as this can swiftly fall, however.
Where will people get Apple Television 4K Retina Display content?
There is also a problem with 4K content. Many people who purchase a 4K television may struggle to get any content at all on it. Most broadcasters have pushed towards high-definition, but may not want to go into 4K broadcasting.
Sony has remastered many of its classic films in 4K: The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Reecall, The Karate Kid, and so on. And, of course, The Hobbit will eventually wing its way towards home screening. These will be released on Blu-ray discs.
Sony is also planning an online content service to provide 4K. Although details of this are still sketchy.
Will an Apple Television 4K technology be popular enough?
There's also general confusion over the technological push forward. First came digital, then high-definition, then 3D, and now 4K.
Although high-definition has finally made itself feel commonplace, there is the impression that it did this via relentless push from manufacturers rather than demand from consumers. Sony's Blu-ray as a technology has not gained widespread consumer traction, and
Many television manufacturers hoped that 3D would re-invigorate the market, and while sales of 3D televisions have been surprisingly impressive (up 74% in 2012), total shipments of televisions were down last year by 1.4 per cent, which made it down 28% from 2011. This Displays Search report pinned the blame on "the slower rate of price erosion and cautious spending by consumers in Europe and Asia."
Is Apple Television 4K enough?
The general decline of television demand, especially when put in context of the new high-definition technologies and 3D technologies, lead us to suspect that 4K alone is not going to enough of a feature to sell new televisions. But it might compliment several other Apple technologies such as FaceTime, Siri voice activation and iOS Apps on a television display.