Let’s be honest: The difference between 1080p and 720p video quality can only be discerned on HDTV’s that are at least 40 inches. That said, if there’s higher quality video to be had, the masses demand it, even if they can’t reasonably discern any visual difference between two similar options.
To that end, AppleInsider is reporting that Apple may soon begin selling 1080p video via itunes as early as this Fall. The report notes that a number of films set for iTunes distribution in the September/October timeframe are being submitted with “documentation for an optional 1920×1080 resolution.”
For instance, one such film from 20th Century Fox was said to have arrived with encoding options for SD (480p), HD (720p), and a new, third format listed as HD+ (1080p). Similarly, a small number of upcoming releases from two of the other ‘big 5’ movie studios were submitted with optional resolutions of 1920×1080 and an average bitrate encoding of 10,000 kbps.
According to these same people, there have been rumors inside the company of a new version of Apple’s $99 Apple TV device under development that would be capable of outputting 1080p streams via an upgrade to the company’s new A5 chip, unlike the existing model which can accept 1080p content but downscales all output to 720p due to the lack of horsepower in the device’s first-generation A4 processor.
Interestingly enough, it was about a month ago that developers discovered that iOS 5 supports 1080p output for video files. Previously, iOS 4 on the iPhone 4 was only capable, at least officially, of 1080p output for games. Also of note is a report from this past January which relayed news of a next-gen AppleTV powered by an A5 processor and capable of transmitting 1080p video “like running water.”
Of course, while it’s nice that this AppleTV feature, if true, can process 1080p video with ease, the bottleneck here is clearly bandwidth. “The challenge”, AI reports, “remains on the consumer end, where users opting to stream such massive files in near real-time would require a stable downlink in the realm of 10 megabits per second.”
And while Internet speeds in the US are okay, they don’t exactly stack up to some of the speeds experienced by folks in other high-tech oriented countries. To wit, the average Internet connection speed here in the US reportedly falls in the 5.1 megabits range, which as AI points out, is just about half of what would be needed to stream full HD content without first having to go through an extended buffering period.
Lastly, keep in mind previous rumors that Apple is working on an HDTV that will reportedly come with iTunes and AppleTV functionality baked in.
Slowly, it seems, all these disparate pieces are starting to come together.