As Toshiba officially declares defeat on the HD-DVD format (leaving some 1.3 million people in a lurch), I’m not convinced this spells victory for Blu-ray. Does a single format benefit the industry, consumers and producers alike? Sure. Does it mean consumers will flock to buy Blu-ray players and disks? I think that’s a little less clear at this time.
I’m looking at the state of the industry:
- We have a new format that is higher quality than the existing, dominant format, but is most imperceptible to typical consumers.
- The current format has been around for several years, has achieved utter dominance, and was a clear improvement on the previous format.
- A format war has occurred, leaving most consumers sitting on the sidelines for a long time, minds filling with doubt.
- At the same time as the new format is gaining some traction, alternate media consumption methods have emerged.
- The cost difference to adopt the new format is fairly foreboding.
- There is a lack of content available in the new format.
- Specialized hardware is needed for the new format, and it’s not inexpensive.
- There is a lot of jargon and confusing terminology associated with the format.
Here’s what’s interesting (to me, at least) is the description I have above is applicable to not only Blu-ray, but also DVD-Audio. SACD. Laserdisc. Minidisc. HD Radio. I’m sure there are more if I dig deeper. Fundamentally, I believe the timing is simply not right for Blu-ray to win independent of other activities. Here are some specific concerns I have:
- Consumers, for the most part, can barely tell the difference between an upscaled DVD image and a Blu-ray picture (especially not for $300).
- They probably don’t have the confidence (yet) that the format is here to stay.
- The content library is weak (it may be growing, but it’s presently weak – Amazon has 176 titles in the Action/Adventure category at the time of writing).
- The 720p vs 1080i vs 1080p debate is full of inconsistencies and confusion as to true benefits to the consumer (made worse by companies using marketing terms like TrueHD and Full-HD).
- Products like the iPod, Slingbox, and AppleTV and services like Hulu and even YouTube are giving consumers more options in how they choose to watch and consume content.
- Also, the above technologies are all presenting wider content options in lower quality, thereby not reinforcing the need for a “better” HD format (just as the iPod/MP3 decimated the opportunity for DVD-Audio/SACD).
If some/many/all of these issues change rapidly, we might see Blu-ray emerge victorious. What could take it’s place? I don’t know, the question might go unanswered for quite some time.
The war may be lost for HD-DVD, but it is far from over for Blu-ray.