Is Blu-ray Doomed?
I'm thinking about buying a Blu-ray player, but I've read some reports that claim Blu-ray may not survive in the marketplace. What's your take on Blu-ray's chances of long-term success?
Is Blu-ray Here to Stay?
It's true, some tech pundits are saying that Blu-ray won the battle but may be losing the war. In early 2008, after a hotly contested battle against the backers of the HD-DVD format, the Blu-ray camp appeared to emerge victorious in the high-definition DVD wars. But even though prices on Blu-ray players are falling, consumers are not flocking to buy them.
So the battle is no longer HD-DVD versus Blu-ray. HD-DVD is officially dead and buried, right next to BetaMax in the technology graveyard. Nobody is making or selling HD-DVD players, and studios are not releasing movies in HD-DVD format. But there was always a third horse in this race. The great minds that control the entertainment industry assumed that once the Blu-ray/HD-DVD issue was settled, consumers would kick their good old-fashioned standard DVD players to the curb, then run to the stores and buy high-def DVD players. But that hasn't happened, at least not in convincing numbers.
Is it because many people can't really tell the difference between standard DVD quality and high definition Blu-ray?
Or is it a money problem? Blu-ray movies are more expensive than the same title in standard DVD format, and many consumers don't want to spend a few hundred dollars to upgrade their DVD player, then pay more for the movies on top of that.
Or maybe there just aren't enough people owning HD TVs? It would be silly to buy a high-def Blu-ray player or movie, and connect it to a television set that can't display high definition content.
Another factor to consider is that many of the standard (cheap) DVD players on the market today can "upsample" DVDs to almost HD quality. Upsampling is a technique used to take a movie that's recorded in standard definition, and with the magic of software, make it look almost like high definition. To the untrained eye, or the average consumer, that may well be good enough.
Then there's the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) which is essentially digital copy protection. DRM can cause problems for legitimate users who want to play their content on multiple devices, and really doesn't offer much real protection against piracy. The DRM code for Blu-ray was cracked even before the format wars ended.
Finally, there's the availability factor. Not all titles are available in Blu-ray format. And although the big movie studios have the resources to release their films on Blu-ray, the smaller independent movie makers may not.
Hope on the Horizon?
Consumer behavior groups are reporting a significant increase in Blu-Ray sales as the holiday season approaches, and prices drop below the $300 mark. Home Media Magazine observed that Blu-Ray players were among the top selling items this past Black Friday. And overall for this year, Blu-Ray player sales since January have edged out traditional DVD players.
But we also have to consider the sheer number of traditional DVD players that are already in homes. Practically and logistically speaking, it appears that people are not seeing Blu-ray's promise of jaw-dropping HD viewing as reason enough to buy a new DVD player. They're waiting until they need a new player, then buying one that will play both standard and Blu-ray discs. It will take a few years for all of the owners of DVD players to either trade up to Blu-ray or replace their unit with a cheaper standard DVD player.
One factor favoring the success of the Blu-ray format is the Sony Playstation. Sony's PS3 gaming console uses Blu-ray discs, and can also function as a relatively cheap Blu-Ray player. Untold millions of PS3 boxes have already been sold, which helps to make Blu-ray financially viable for the hardware vendors.
But in some sense, the timing is critical. If people don't get on the Blu-ray bandwagon fast enough, and in numbers large enough to make it worthwhile for the producers of Blu-ray equipment and Blu-ray content, then the technology could die an early death.
To me that seems unlikely, given the level of investment by hardware vendors and movie studios. But if Blu-ray does bite the dust, does that mean we're stuck with standard definition movies? Again, not likely. And the reason has nothing to do with physical format disc formats. Thanks to the Internet, entertainment is going digital. Just like vinyl records and music CDs are giving way to digital downloads, movies delivered via the Internet will eventually spell the end of the shiny round disc era.
Case in point: Netflix recently announced that they will begin streaming movies via the Internet to Blu-Ray players. The Samsung BD-P2500 and LG's BD300 players both support the Netflix digital download option, and cost about $400. Just connect your player to the network router, and it will download movies from Netflix in as little as 30 seconds. You can also fast-forward and rewind, just as if you were watching the video on a disc. Netflix is initially making 12000 movies available via streaming, and you can bet they'll be expanding that if the idea catches on.
So what about you? Are you craving HD and dumping your current DVD player in favor of a Blu-ray model? Do you think Blu-ray will die a slow death, or catch on like wildfire once prices drop a bit more? Be part of the discussion by posting a comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Dec 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Blu-ray Doomed? (Posted: 3 Dec 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved