Blu-ray is dead: the sequel

Blu-ray is dead: the sequel

Summary: Bill Hunt, Blu-ray defender?Over on The Digital Bits blogger Bill Hunt rebukes me for calling Blu-ray dead.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility

Bill Hunt, Blu-ray defender? Over on The Digital Bits blogger Bill Hunt rebukes me for calling Blu-ray dead. Then he goes on to agree with almost everything I said - except for the conclusion.

With friends like that, Blu-ray doesn't need me!

Industry cheerleader opinion: Bill says I don't have the expertise to comment on a home video format - despite my large video collection, 10 foot HD home theater, Blu-ray player and HD video production work - but then goes on to say:

  • ". . . Blu-ray Disc player and movie prices are still too high."
  • "The BDA's licensing fees are too high. . . "
  • ". . . there are still too many barriers (not the least of which is cost) to smaller content producers . . . ."
  • "The need to continually update player firmware for title after title has been very frustrating . . ."
  • "The economic slowdown and the lengthy format war haven't helped either."

He even says:

I do think the industry should take a look at Harris' recommendations for what a more "forward looking strategy" for the Blu-ray format ought to look like. I actually agree with a couple of them.

I think he meant "all of them" since he didn't note any disagreements.

Then he sums up his view, saying:

Blu-ray isn't going to replace DVD, the single most successful format in the history of consumer electronics, and anyone who thinks otherwise is out to lunch. But Blu-ray's future is plenty bright, folks.

My Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) AACS Decoder Ring defines "bright" as

(adj) struggling to achieve market parity with a 10 year old technology.

Bill, I am humbled.

Download denial We differ in how the drama plays out. I think that watchable HD downloads will enable the iTunes generation to stop buying bits on plastic.

Bill doesn't mention the download alternative for HD content distribution. That makes it tough to figure out what he thinks about it other than he rejects it.

If I had to guess, I think the mix a few years from now is going to be 50% DVD, 30-40% Blu-ray and some smaller percentage of downloading.

Diving into downloads The knocks against HD downloads fall into several buckets:

  • Poor quality. Those crummy 128k tracks killed iTunes. Seriously, codec technology is improving at a high rate. The percentage of people who can tell the difference will continue to shrink.
  • Bandwidth limits. True, America trails much of the industrialized world in last mile bandwidth, but we are improving. And don't confuse downloading with streaming HD - the former doesn't need high bandwidth to work.
  • Storage cost. Storage prices are dropping 40-50% annually. If it is a problem today - and most consumers have lots of unused disk space - it won't be tomorrow.

Remember when people used modems? The same objections held then against music downloads. Today's trends work to make video downloads commonplace.

The Storage Bits take It doesn't matter that videophiles, studios, hardware vendors and rental chains love Blu-ray. What matters is what consumers think.

The high-def war has been over for 8 months. Blu-ray's less than 4% share of disk unit sales hasn't budged - although its revenue share is about 15% due to its higher prices and younger catalog.

Cheaper players will help grow the available market. But there is still the disk price problem. Blu-ray disks are, on average, about 4x the average DVD price once you factor in the $5.99 back catalog specials.

Like SACD, Polavision and DIVX some home media formats fail to catch fire with consumers. Blu-ray, it seems, is another.

I'd like to see Blu-ray become as common as DVDs are today. But the window of opportunity is closing fast.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility

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  • Absolutely ... You are dead on

    And you don't give payperview HD enough credit here
    either. I have Verizon FIOS and can watch a growing
    selection of movies right now with no problems at all.
    And the movies are $5.99 in HD.

    Download, streaming and home networking is making the
    plastic obsolete.
    • Pay per view: good point!

      I confess that I don't have a land line or cable - just a
      wireless ISP and a cell phone. So I'm not up on the latest and

      Thanks for the note. Adds fuel to the fire.

      R Harris
      • Yes pay per view is the future

        With Comcast on demand you can watch a good number of TV shows in HD for free, and a small selection of movies in HD also(usually based off of what premium channels you currently suscribe too). You can also stream instantly for a rental fee a large number of other HD films. I really dont see any reason to buy a blu-ray player if this trend continues.
        • If quality doesn't matter...

          Comcast's on-demand quality is weak, even more so than their HD channel quality, which is lacking. You can expect them to continue to squeeze it down as far as possible and charge as much as possible for it. On-demand also lacks every feature except the movie itself, including subtitles, and you can watch the movie for 24 hours for your $4-6. If you just feel like renting a movie and you don't feel like getting off the couch, the meager selection they offer might entice you, but any kind of rental service is a far cry from purchasing a physical copy you can watch as many times as you want. Neither the video rental industry nor the on-demand industry has killed video sales, because people like to build a collection, and no format or system has yet created a viable way to build a reliable digital collection.

          Blu-ray hasn't taken off for a host of reasons, chief among them the fact that people just don't know the difference. As HD becomes increasingly common and accepted as the norm, Blu-ray will get more popular, whether or not it ever becomes the reigning format (which it probably won't). At this point there is no other option that compares to Blu-ray in terms of quality, period. The question is simply whether people will choose to pay for it.
  • If a blu-ray disc is 50GB, how does a download help?

    It also defeats the purpose of "high definition", if one can see the excessive amount of artifacting these sorts compressed videos bring with them - by their very nature.
    • 35 Gbytes of fluff, minimum.

      If HD-DVD can hold the movie and hours of fluff fine (which it did), then the argument becomes a lot less onerous. 10 gig for download? I have 10 Mbit/sec, which means 2.3 hours for the full download, maybe 5 minute delay from watching VS purchase (over computer lines, coax delivery is substantially higher).

      A spinning disk in a DRM encumbered overpriced format is not really poised to take over the industry.


        A spinning disk in a DRM encumbered overpriced format is not really poised to take over the industry, writes Triple II. Absolutely. Let's not forget our sinking economy (we're actually in a recession, no matter how much our politicians deny). I would say the current economic conditions are the death of Blu Ray.
        High Altitude
        • Funny

          It is our politicians who keep harping that the "economy is bad". My economy is just fine, no matter how many times the mass media and our politicians say that it isn't. (What's gas now, $2/gal?)

          The media blitz about a "economy in crisis" is a small part of a grand ruse to get us to accept these big corporate bailouts as "necessary". Just the same as the fake "gas shortages" that they've foisted on us a few times, it is BS, pure and simple.

          Don't be fooled!
          Mike Hunt
          • Just because you're doing well

            doesn't mean everyone is

            if you choose to be blind to the struggles of other people then everything is fine
  • I prefer physical media too

    The question is, when will I - and most consumers - make
    Blu-ray the default?

    Dark Knight I'll get on Blu-ray someday - the fabulous 8k
    special effects work makes it worth while. But romantic
    comedies? Never.

    Thanks for commenting.

    R Harris
    • how about....

      If the Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars series gets on
      Blu-Ray I might have to break down.

      Otherwise I'm with you.
  • ever heard of backing?

    i have 2TB of ripped DVDs (i live in Canada... no DMCA)... and i have
    everything backed up... plus i have the physical DVDs. if hard drive
    crashes.. i go out buy a new hard drive (1TB = $100 these days), press
    a few buttons and it's all restored... don't know what the problem is
    there.... backup is a given, simple and pretty cheap these days and get
    WAY cheaper by the day.

    physical media is a joke, and such a pain in the rear, i kissed it good
    bye last year.. if you have a large library it takes up a huge amount of
    space in your living room to store, it is incredibly difficult to find
    something to watch, or even to know what you have since you need to
    go flipping though 100s of jewel cases... had put mine in albums to
    take up less space, but, still terrible to go through to find something to
    watch.. on top of that it you need to wait for FBI warnings, menus,
    commercials... then there is the fact that they scratch, kids gum theirs
    up with jam and peanut butter.... terrible format.

    by the time you dig through your collection, find something, wait for
    all the FBI warning, commercials, menus etc... this can take many
    minutes... and hopefully it's not scratched...

    with a digital media collection you just skim a few menus (by genre
    etc..), and press play and that's it.. you are watching your movies and it
    takes up almost no space. i love movies and it is so easy to access
    digital movies that i find myself just going to scenes i like in movies
    and watching them (usually comedies)... i would never find myself
    doing this with DVD since the process of watching a DVD takes so long
    and painful in comparison.. with digital media i sit on my sofa and
    press buttons... no getting of the sofa... nice.

    iTunes HD downloads (which are not BlueRay quality but somewhere
    between DVD and BlueRay) take a few minutes to start playing and
    downloads as you watch... this will only get better and quality will only
    get faster...

    physical media is a pain in the rear... i've kissed it good bye and good riddance and when people realize how superior the user experience is
    to using physical media.. it will be over for physical media...

    but yes, a backup strategy is a must for your collection... but these
    days that is really simple and inexpensive and getting more so by the
    day... so that's not really and issue.
    • You're in the "technical" minority

      The vast majority of consumers just want to watch a movie, not be a systems administrator on their computer(s). We're trying to replace a DVD player here. It will be many years before the network infrastructure and Tivo-user level home video servers are built up and affordable, to make any purchased media content business model workable. Blu-ray has a lot of problems, but the network and home servers are even less mature in the mass market today.
      • Only for today.

        While true that he's in the technical minority --- TODAY, the technology ease-of-use is heading in the direction of home on-demand servers. I've done the same thing. All my home movies (about 80-100 hours worth going back to the 70's) are now available online and a few of my DVDs. It's hosted via Vista's Media Center and the user experience is via my XBox 360 in the living room. Works great. I'm a huge HD fan (have a 72" HD TV) and am very quality-aware and this works great. You too will be doing this. Maybe not tomorrow or even next year, but I guarantee you'll be doing this in the not too distant future. Blue-Ray disks will not reach the level that DVDs have. It all comes down to Sony screwing up on many levels (price, customer service, DRM, hosing paying customers' PCs with root kids on music CDs, bricking blue-ray players with "updates", suing "Grandma" because little Billy downloaded a song from her house, and constantly having to update blue ray players' firmware solely to keep up with the keys that keep getting cracked). People don't WANT to be hassled with Sony's DRM and anti-customer attitude and they're certainly not wanting to reward Sony's bad attitude by paying a high price to experience it.
        Software Architect 1982
        • Bending over for DRM

          "People don't WANT to be hassled with Sony's DRM and anti-customer attitude and they're certainly not wanting to reward Sony's bad attitude by paying a high price to experience it." Abso-friggin-lutely. I rejoiced to see DIVX die and I'll rejoice to see BlueRay die a slow death if for no other reason than Sony's DRM practices (PC rootkits anybody). And frankly while I can understand the masses getting duped by Sony on BlueRay, I'm appalled that many so called "tech savy" folks jumped on the DRM side with BlueRay. Do we really want to bend over for DRM in the video space???? We've seen how well it works out in the audio space. :-)
        • boy, do I agree with you...

          Sony's attitude is amazingly bad toward consumers.
          But judging from the blind support for Sony on these
          boards, I wonder of they all work for them...
      • What happened in music...

        will happen with video. iTunes made music and
        now increasingly video easy to get, keep and
        watch. People have been transferring their
        collections of music CDs into iTunes format for
        years now. Ripping normal DVDs and converting
        them to iTunes format is also done by the millions
        each day, DRM and DMCA impediments
        notwithstanding. In the end, a bit is a bit is a bit
        and there is no way to tell the difference between
        one bit and another. It is all basically binary data,
        no matter where it is stored. Any string of bits that
        can be scrambled up in their order by one person,
        can be unscrambled by another. There is a demand
        for convenient, device and location independent
        entertainment. No technical or legal barriers will
        stop people from getting what they want. The
        powers that be tried to stop people from getting
        alcohol. They even managed to make a
        constitutional amendment on that one! We all
        know how that turned out.
    • Inconsitencies

      You claim you have the backup DVD's for all of your movies, yet go on to say that you have kissed physical media goodbye.

      Care to explain what you did with your backup media?
      • I'd wager a guess

        That he did the same thing my husband did with his CD collection. Once he got all his CDs ripped to his computer, he boxed them up and sent them to the basement. Why keep them around and in the way? If the computer crashes completely, he's still got them and can rip them again.

        He's going to get a new external HD soon, and backup all his digital copies there. Then we can ditch the boxes in the basement too. :)
  • Digital d/ls

    Backup, Backup, Backup