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-   -   Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun ( 02-21-2008 11:08 AM

Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun
Cue the Karen Carpenter and skip a meal or two (or 12) because while Blu-ray won the HD disc war in impressive fashion, the battle has only just begun. With Toshiba out of the way via their Kevorkian-esque execution of HD DVD this week, Blu-ray doesnít have to worry about another HD disc competitor in the marketplace. However, the king of the marketplace is still solidly the DVD, and Blu-ray needs to whack that format next.

DVD will be hard to beat, but not impossible by any means, on a number of levels despite the incredibly long list of reasons why Blu-ray makes for a more impressive video experience. DVD players are cheap and Blu-ray players relatively are not, even in comparison to HD DVD players, which are still being sold because they are pretty solid upconverting DVD players. DVD players load quickly and Blu-ray players do not. Load times on DVD players speak to a marketplace that doesnít have much patience while Blu-ray players take what seems like an eternity to load, even with their improved times. Most DVD players can play any disc currently on the market while Blu-ray players frequently cannot. DVD players do not stereotypically require firmware updates while most of todayís Blu-ray players do require such upgrades on a monthly basis to try to keep up with a moving specification for the format. DVD players are sold everywhere, while the likes of Costco and other HDTV-centric warehouse retailers have yet to start supporting the format, although they likely will sooner than later.

Sony, Matsu****a, Samsung and the other electronics companies who are powering Blu-ray to its success must address these shortcomings in the Blu-ray value proposition as quickly as possible. Sony proved it is possible with their rollout of Playstation 3, even when the game console wasnít profitable. They too can make Blu-ray players reliable, affordable and better in every way than a DVD player.

Assuming Blu-ray takes over for DVD, as it very well should, Blu-ray isnít out of the woods. Everyone in the AV business, as well as in the Hollywood studio system knows that downloadable HD movies are coming sooner than later. The Blu-ray camp has to be wary of their ďpartner,Ē Apple's Steven Jobs. While the Apple logo has looked good on the HD disc format war ledger (note: Jobs currently has zero computers on the market with a Blu-ray drive.) (Also note: his current sex-on-a-stick MacBook Air laptop doesnít even have a disc drive at all Ė perfect for downloads.) (Lastly note: Jobs will be selling $2.99 "HD downloads" in an i-Tunes-like store that will allow you to access 720p (not 1080p like Blu-ray) files that you can download on a fast connection in about 30 minutes and watch throughout your house, on your Mac, and beyond.)

Where consumers need to be educated and why home theater enthusiasts need to pull for Blu-ray is the idea that Steven Jobs has proven he is willing to compromise quality for convenience and have the balls to call it "HD." Make no mistake. 720p video is not as good as 1080p. It isnít as bad as the idea of Apple selling people 256 kbps music downloads and calling them HD, but consumers should know the difference. Home theater and video enthusiasts should be throwing a fit over the difference thus educating the masses as best they can.

Today is the day the people on the fence about HD disc formats need to step up and plunk down $300 to $400 for a Blu-ray player. Waiting isnít worth it when a 1080p HD promised land is so attainable. Todayís Blu-ray players are not perfect and future players will surely improve, but it is also important to support true high-resolution video. Satellite HDTV isnít 1080p, but your HDTV likely is. Apple wonít launch with 1080p. They will have 720p. Why should you have to sacrifice video quality when the buy-in is so low? HDTV isnít about sacrifice. HDTV is about absolute performance, and Blu-ray is the best option (a little) money can buy. And is recommending you do just that.

by: Jerry Del Colliano

Ken S 02-21-2008 02:00 PM

Web Movies Show Why DVDs Sell
Here's one for the download pundits:
From The New York Times, Thursday February 21, 2008:
________________________________________ _________________________

Published: February 21, 2008

Ten days ago, Netflix announced that it would abandon HD DVD, Toshiba's entry in the high-definition DVD format war. Six days ago, Wal-Mart dropped HD DVD, too. Then two days ago, Toshiba surrendered, marking the end of the most pointless format war since Betamax-VHS.

Man, if they have Friday beer bashes over at Toshiba, this week's will be a real downer.

Why did so many companies dump HD DVD so fast? Intriguingly, one often-cited reason is the approaching era of Internet movie downloads. The logic goes like this: as long as there's a format war, consumers won't buy DVD players of either type. By settling on a single format - it doesn't really matter which one - the movie and electronics industries can at least start milking the remaining years of the DVD's life.

In fact, though, the Internet movie download era is more distant than pundits think, for four colossal reasons.

First, downloadable movies require high-speed Internet connections - and only about half of American households have them. That number won't change much for years.

Second, downloaded movies don't include the director's commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate endings, alternate language soundtracks or other DVD goodies. It's just not as rich an experience.

Third, movie downloads don't deliver the audio and video quality of DVD discs - even standard-def ones. Internet movies are compressed to download faster, which affects picture quality, and offer older, more compressed audio soundtracks than modern DVDs. (Check out the astounding quality-comparison photos at for details.)

Finally, today's movie-download services bear the greasy policy fingerprints of the movie studio executives - and when it comes to the new age of digital movies, these people are not, ahem, known for their vision.

For example, no matter which movie-download service you choose, you'll find yourself facing the same confusing, ridiculous time limits for viewing. You have to start watching the movie you've rented within 30 days, and once you start, you have to finish it within 24 hours.

Where's the logic? They've got your money, so why should they care if you start watching on the 30th day or the 31st?

Then there is the 24-hour limit. Suppose you typically do not start a movie until 7:30 p.m., after dinner and the homework have been put away. If you do not have time to finish the movie in one sitting, you cannot resume at 7:30 tomorrow night; at that point, the download will have self-destructed.

What would the studios lose by offering a 27-hour rental period? Or three days, or even a week? Nothing. In fact, they'd attract millions more customers. (At the very least, instead of just deleting itself, the movie should say: "Would you like another 24-hour period for an additional $1?")

Then there's the fact that to protect their cash cows, most studios don't release their movies on the Internet until a month after they've been available on DVD.

Despite these limitations, plenty of companies are staking out property on the digital-download frontier. Some deliver movies to your computer screen, which will never appeal to anybody but nerds; virtually nobody gathers the family 'round the old Dell on movie night.

Several boxes, however, deliver movies straight to your TV, usually for $3 to $5 each. Here are their report cards.

Apple TV ($230). Thanks to a free software upgrade, Apple's sleek little box has taken on a whole new life. It now connects directly to the iTunes store - no computer needed. Movies are stored on the Apple TV's internal hard drive.

Standard-def movies begin to play only a few seconds after you've selected them; you watch the beginning while the rest is downloading. High-def movies take several minutes to begin playing.

In a couple of years, Apple TV may be the box to beat. The movie store is fun to navigate, picture quality is high and wireless networking is built-in, unlike its rivals. You can buy episodes from any of 650 TV series on demand (usually $2 an episode, no ads), which its competitors can't touch. Finally, of course, the Apple TV does a lot of other stuff; it can display all the music, pictures and movies from your Mac or PC and play podcasts and videos from the Web.

But the Apple TV movie store's shelves look a little bare. Fewer than 1,000 movies are available, and only 100 are in high definition; compare with the 90,000 titles offered by Netflix on DVD, 900 in high-def. (Apple points out that its store's music catalog started out tiny, too - 200,000 songs, compared with 6 million today.) There are some silly bugs in the debut software, too.

Instant gratification: A-. Selection: D. Overall movie joy: B.

TiVo/Amazon Unbox ($100 and up, plus monthly fee). Here's another box whose original purpose was something other than movie downloads. But among its blossoming portfolio of video features, TiVo lets you rent or buy movies downloaded from's Unbox service.

At least you no longer have to order these movies at (although you can, using your Mac or PC, if you prefer to type movie titles with a real keyboard instead of fussing with on-screen alphabets). You can do the whole transaction right from the couch.

Show time is not instantaneous, either; on high-def TiVos, you can't start watching until 10 minutes after you order, and on older models, you have to wait for the whole movie to download (1 to 5 hours). Selection is still slim: 3,200 movies are available to rent; 4,700 available to buy. None are in high definition.

Instant gratification: B-. Selection: C. Overall movie joy: B-.

Xbox 360 ($350 and up). Yet again, here's a box whose movie service isn't the primary attraction (here, it's games). In this case, though, the movie thing isn't just secondary - it's way, way down the list.

You have to watch movies within 14 days, not 30. The remote control isn't designed for video playback. You pay using a confusing system of Microsoft "points," which you must buy in $5 increments. And although there are plenty of TV shows available, only 300 movies are in the catalog at any given time, about half in high definition.

Instant gratification: A-. Selection: D. Overall movie joy: D.

Vudu ($300). This compact black box comes loaded with the beginnings of 5,000 movies. When you rent or buy one, therefore, playback begins instantly. About 20 new movies arrive on the box each week, pushing older ones off the 250-gigabyte hard drive.

Vudu is the only dedicated movie box . The interface is pure and clean, picture quality is tops and the remote has only four buttons (plus a terrific scroll wheel).

On the downside, many of those 5,000 movies are pure direct-to-video dreck (anyone for "San Franpsycho" tonight?). Confusingly, movies on the list come and go according to Vudu's deals with the studios. And you need a pretty fast connection; basic DSL subscribers need not apply.

Instant gratification: A. Selection: B+. Overall movie joy: B+.

When competing with the humble DVD, Internet movie boxes do poorly on price, selection and viewing flexibility (that is, how much time you have to watch). Their sole DVD-smashing feature is the convenience; you get the movie right now.

Meanwhile, other sources of instant movie gratification are emerging. Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV company, offers 1,000 on-demand movies each month, many of them free; by year's end, it intends to increase that number to 6,000 (half in high-def) - and you don't have to buy a special box.

The point is that the whole Internet-movies thing is still in its fumbling, bumbling infancy; someday, we'll look at these limited-selection, limited-time services and laugh.

In the meantime, congratulations to Blu-ray, the winning next-generation DVD format. Clearly, spinning silver discs will remain the dominant movie-delivery method for years to come.


merv46 02-21-2008 08:28 PM

Re: Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun
People are purchasing hdtv's in huge numbers, they will want the most from there new t.v. retailers will use blu ray players to show big hit movies, people will start walking out with not only new t.v's but new blu ray players. I can't tell you how many people I know that have recently bought a new t.v. that have also purchased a blu ray player or hd dvd player to get the most from the new t.v. It is just a matter of time.

prerich 02-21-2008 09:51 PM

Re: Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun

Originally Posted by (Post 11849)
Satellite HDTV isnít 1080p, but your HDTV likely is. Apple wonít launch with 1080p. They will have 720p. Why should you have to sacrifice video quality when the buy-in is so low? HDTV isnít about sacrifice. HDTV is about absolute performance, and Blu-ray is the best option (a little) money can buy. And is recommending you do just that.

by: Jerry Del Colliano

I will disagree with this point - most HD sets are still 720p/1080i. Newer sets are 1080p but how many average Joes are going to change a set they have had for only 1 year (probrably still paying for it)? The buy in point is low - only on the geek side (any PC owner should jump at a BD player now - I'm trying to think like the aveage Joe). Other than that you make some good points.

HT Junky 02-22-2008 06:54 AM

Re: Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun
I will be getting an Apple TV. I buy Blu-ray discs for all of the movied that I know I want. There are, however, quite a few movies that I would like to see, but don't want to spend $24 to $35 for a disc. I will rent those movies. Renting online is the most convenient way of achieving this.

Check out this web site. This guy thoroughly compared the differing formats for several movies, against Apple TV.

kennyt 02-22-2008 07:32 AM

Re: Blu-ray Wins! But The Real Format War Has Only Just Begun
I wish the Apple TV was just a tad bigger so it could use standard drives, I'd love to have one I could fit a Terabyte into!

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