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Jobs: Blu-ray wins HD format war then loses to downloads

Physical media out-evolved, apparently

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Blu-ray Disc beat HD DVD, but who cares? Downloads, not physical media, are the future of HD content consumption. So said Apple CEO Steve Jobs this week, a comment that's a distant echo of allegations made by Transformers director Michael Bay last year.

Bay grumbled that the HD format war was, in part, Microsoft's fault, the fight being stirred up to worry consumers into not buying eitehr format and give the software giant to put movie download and rental services in place. Which is, of course, just what Apple launched this week: HD-ready iTunes Movie Rentals.

You can hardly accuse Apple of doing what Bay accused Microsoft. The Mac maker may have joined the Blu-ray camp in March 2006, but it's done almost nothing to promote the format since then, not even offering high-end machines with optional integrated Blu-ray writers.

Did Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard add Blu-ray support, as was rumoured last year? If it does, Apple isn't saying – or whether it supports HD DVD too. Has anyone even tried it with these media to see? There doesn't seem much interest in finding out, which probably tells you all you need to know about computer-centric demand for both formats at the moment.

“Clearly, Blu-ray won, but in the new world order of instant online movie rentals, in HD, no one will care about what format is where,” said Jobs, precied by CNBC reporter Jim Goldman.

So will movie-oriented consumers reject Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD payers, and buy Apple TV boxes instead? They're more likely to now that Apple's offering rentals. But there will always be punters who like to maintain large libraries of discs, and for them boxes like Apple TV will never appeal.

Then there's the PS3 crowd. They may be games players first, movie watchers second, but hat's prove sufficient to have driven Blu-ray ahead of HD DVD in the early days, and now that the PS3 supports DivX, it too is geared up for Jobs' world of downloads.

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