Blu-ray Revolution

Published by • January 8th, 2008 RSS News Feed

Blu-ray wins this battle, but has it won the war?

According to the experts, there’s a clear-cut winner in the prolonged and drawn out battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

Earlier this week, Warner Brothers dealt what many consider to be the death knell to HD-DVD by announcing that beginning in May ’08, it would release new movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. Interestingly enough, the impetus for Warner Brothers decision was that its customers overwhelmingly prefer Blu-ray over HD-DVD. This leaves Paramount and Universal as the last 2 major studios standing behind HD-DVD, although rumors are circulating that they will both abandon ship once their contracts to support HD-DVD expire. Universal, however, issued a statement today denying that it would opt out of its contract and would continue to support HD-DVD. Tellingly, Microsoft, which has long opposed a Blu-ray supported Xbox 360, recently changed its tune and said that it would consider Blu-ray support for the Xbox 360 if there’s enough consumer demand.

With that said, a larger question to ponder is how consumers are going to get their HD content in the future. Assuming that Blu-ray has in fact won its battle with HD-DVD, consumers will rush to hook up their HDTV’s to the aggressively priced Blu-ray players. As someone who has seen a Blu-ray player hooked up to a full screen 1080p Sony Bravia, I can testify under oath that it will blow you away.

Will Blu-ray dominate the living room?

So will Blu-ray soon become the key component in everyones living room? Not exactly. This isn’t the year 2000 and hooking up an external device to your TV is not the only way to access digital content. The iTunes music store allows you to download movies and stream them to your Television set with an AppleTV set top device. Also, Netflix also allows its users to stream movies onto their computer. Moreover, Netflix recently partnered up with LG Electronics to produce a set top box that will stream Netflix movies from a users computer to their TV. In essence, it’s another version of Apple TV. The wrinkle is that iTunes and Netflix do not yet have HD content available for download, so if optimal picture quality is what reigns supreme, then Sony can sit back and smile as the millions roll in. But don’t expect Apple and other competitors to just sit back quietly.

If anyone has perused the iTunes store for movies, it’s clear that Apple will have to step it up BIG TIME if they want to be a player in digital movie content. Again, the movies are not HD, and their selection of movies is lackluster at best. But with MacWorld a week away, there are already rumors that Apple is going to announce new partnerships with a variety of movie studios that will beef up its current selection of paltry movies.

The War Over Digital Media Is Just Getting Started

So while Blu-ray seems to have won its battle vs the Microsoft/Toshiba supported HD-DVD standard, the war for digital multimedia is just beginning. If streaming HD Content from a computer to an HDTV set becomes common, I imagine people would be less inclined to purchase a Blu-ray player. When you add cable companies into the mix, it becomes a full-fledged battle royale. There is a lot of money to be made with HD movies and cable companies are in a unique position to enter the fray. Comcast, for example, is planning to significantly increase the number of movies it offers to customers via its on-demand service. It’s only a matter of time before people will have the option to choose from watching HD movies on their Blu-ray player, as a video stream via iTunes or Netflix, or through their cable provider. The consumer is clearly the winner in all of this.

If people are particular about their 1080p, however, then Blu-ray will have an early advantage. You see, if iTunes or Netflix comes out with HD content sometime soon, it will be in 720p. 720p is still HD, but 1080p is what Blu-ray is all about! The rub is that the difference between 720p and 1080p is negligible on TV sets smaller than 40 inches. Confusing? Yes. Which is why Warner Brothers taking sides with Blu-Ray is so important. Up until now, the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray was a bottle neck that prevented mainstream adaptation of High Def consumer electronics. With the brunt of that battle almost behind us, we can now focus on the new battles that are starting to take shape between some of the big name players in the HD Arena.

Itola Author

is a business / tax attorney from the windy city. Yoni is also a gadget enthusiast who enjoys writing in the third person.
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Comment by Joe
2008-01-11 17:53:27

I have to disagree. BD has a clear advantage because streamed HD content is in a content war of it’s own. As you mentioned netflix, Apple,Microsoft, Sony and cable companies are all competing against each other with incompatible products for downloaded content. A Netflix download will not work with Apple TV but, A Sony BD will work on a Samsung BD player.

Add to that US internet providers have caps on the maximum amount of bandwidth you can download. Right now they are far beyond what most people use but only because they do not download hd movies.

For now, physical disks are the best way to deliver HD movies to a mass market.

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