Daily Blog – Brian Florian – February 20, 2008: HD DVD MAY BE OUT OF THE GAME, BUT BLU-RAY STILL HAS SOME WORK TO DO.

Following Toshiba’s announcement yesterday, there’s been much talk about HD DVD “losing”.  I’d just like to point out the fact that this does not necessarily mean that Blu-ray (BD) has “won”.

Studios can pour out as many BD titles as they want, but the format is not going to be a success in the classic sense until mass market adoption.  Remember DVD-A and SACD?  No one really rose from that debacle because the mass market took no notice of either one.   The dissolution of HD DVD simply means that Sony will have only itself to blame if it does not get in gear and reach the level of operability and accessibility the mass market demands.

Case in point:  by now this should be old news to most, but in the event you had your head buried in the sand this past week, the Blu-Ray compatibility and playability issues have apparently escalated to the point of a class action suit being filed against poor Samsung: http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/02/samsung-sued-ov.html

Many would like to sweep this under the rug, citing how DVD overcame its early technical problems.  Notwithstanding the fact that, in my opinion, BD’s grace period for this sort of thing has long expired, with the exception of one very overpriced boutique brand DVD player, DVD’s early issues were nothing like the roulette game BD buyers/renters are going through.  No one back then rented a new release and held their breath when they put it in their player waiting to see if it would have a hissy fit.  Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but you have to admit “Firmware Update” was not a household phrase for DVD like it has become for BD player owners (our Editor-in-Chief prefers using his media server to play BD movies because of all the hassles he’s gone through with stand-alone players).

I love expanding my movie collection in a 1080 line format, and as of right now BD is the only game in town.  As such I sincerely hope we are on the cusp of DVD’s replacement and not another fringe enthusiast-only format (LaserDisc anyone?).

4 Responses to “Daily Blog – Brian Florian – February 20, 2008: HD DVD MAY BE OUT OF THE GAME, BUT BLU-RAY STILL HAS SOME WORK TO DO.”

  1. Ovation Says:

    Your wish may prove illusory. There are just too many people who think SD DVD looks “good enough” for Blu-ray to be anything but a complimentary format. I doubt it will remain as niche as laserdisc, but I doubt even more that it will supplant DVD. HD DVD had a very slim chance of that with its combo discs (despite the fact that “enthusiasts” seemed not to like them) IF they had become single inventory releases once the production capacity for that got up to speed (SACD should also have gone that route with hybrids–but the ship has long since sailed).

    I remember posting somewhere (could have been here at Secrets–more than one place, at any rate) that “upconverted” DVDs would make HDM a hard sell with the masses. I got the “no way, the difference is HUGE…blah, blah, blah” responses from several sides. However, when I went HD with a display (front projector) last summer, I added an HD PVR to my gear. SD DVD, processed by my Sony AW15 fed via component 480i looked nearly as good as HD cable. Not quite, but the difference was not overwhelming. I was content to wait for HDM player prices (whichever format–I wasn’t picky) to fall before I plunged into that. In fact, because SD DVD looked so good, my ceiling price for going HDM became far lower than my ceiling for SD DVD back in the day. (I spent 700$ in 2001 for SD DVD, without regret–even though there were lower priced players. For HD DVD, I spent 170$ and was only willing to go to 200$ as a “try-out”. If “blu” was that inexpensive at the time, I may well have tried that one first.). I consider myself an “enthusiast” (though not as fanatical a videophile as others I’ve encountered on the net) and while the better HD DVDs have convinced me that HDM is worth having, my wife doesn’t see the big deal (thankfully, she indulges and even helps finance my hobby). Some of my friends have been impressed, others, not so much (the “big” screen–64 inch 16×9 impresses them more).

    Unless Blu-ray studios only release Blu-ray titles and stop SD DVD releases, I don’t foresee the masses going “blu” (and even if they do so, it could backfire). Hell, my parents got their first ever DVD player on the morning of 25 December 2007!!! And, believe it or not, they are not the only people I know who did not have a DVD player (I know several who could easily afford it if they wanted).

  2. John Johnson Says:

    Once everyone has an HDTV, and there is pretty much no other choice at the TV stores now, no one will want to stay with conventional SD DVDs. By that time, also, Blu-ray will be a standard codec on all players. So, if some consumers wait until then to buy a player, it will have Blu-ray decoding by default.

  3. bmz Says:

    John,
    I wish you were right, but the SAF factor means that Ovation’s concerns are probably accurate. I have seen many homes with HDTV’s, but none of them, except for mine and my sons” have large enough screens to actually see HD resolution from the distances at which they watch (to be sure of my sons — I bought their HD TVs for them). The most popular size HDTV being purchased today is 37 inches (this is consistent with what I have personally observed). The largest (other than my own) I have seen in homes is 50 inches. However, the 50 inch screen, was being watched from 16 feet away–this four to one screen size to distance ratio has been amazingly consistent in all the other homes I have visited. Call it the SAF factor — or the designer factor (check pictures of Interior designer design rooms — the four to one factor — consistently). At four to one, you can’t distinguish between 480p and 1080p.

  4. bmz Says:

    Addition: There will be, for the foreseeable future, a large price differential between HD and SD players and discs; hence, Blu Ray will remain a niche market.

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