Jobs: Blu-ray wins HD format war then loses to downloads
Physical media out-evolved, apparently
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.
I'm all for downloads
While the infrastructure is not there for this to be mainstream, I can't wait for it to happen - and for individuals it's already do-able.
Look, I use torrents for all my TV, Movies and Music. I have done for three years, and have been a user of music filesharing for a decade now. It's not about the 'free' price-tag (and shows that really do it for me get a DVD purchase, even tho I don't ever watch them and usually bin them). I do it because it's simple, the quality is DVD, the choice is more than wide, and the ocmmunity efforts of torrenters puts the customer service and foresight of any large company to shame.
The moment networks/music industry start doing this, I'm on board and a more 'legal' consumer. But they drag their feet and do it in a restrictive/we've-got-no-clue-what-we-are-doing way that it would be laughable if it wasn't so embarassing.
Other parallels to 1995...
Actually this whole format war reminds me of a similar escapade in the first half of the nineties. Sensing the need for something else other than CD to deliver music – ideally something more portable, and that allowed recording, but at similar quality to CD – Sony developed MiniDisc and Phillips developed Digital Compact Cassette. Huge amounts of R&D investment, huge marketing budgets, huge hype.
MiniDisc won the battle, with the vanquished DCC disappearing in 1996. But it lost the war.
In 1998 the first mp3 player appeared. In 2001 the iPod appeared and killed MD for good. So perhaps Jobs, love him or hate him, has some form on this type of question.
The pertinent question is whether people want the level of HD associated with HD-DVD, or just want something that looks good on their 42” TV. It’s not about downloading the entire Blu-ray disc, it’s about downloading something the consumer is happy to watch in their lounge. And perhaps that’s coming earlier than 2018…
Downloads NOT GOING to substiture Blue-Ray
Jobs should know better. Even after all this time download of music from iTunes and similar service is a minority of sales when compared to actual CDs sold.
Not only the bandwidth is not there for HD download but:
1) HD download is not the same quality of a BD disc. No studio is going to put a 40GB file to download, they'll be compressed to something like 4GB, at that point why inventing BD and HD-DVD at all since that could fit a regular DVD?
2) People like to collect movies. I own over 500 DVDs and I'm not the only one
3) Can you imagine the nightmare of your hard drive crashing and having to re-download the whole HD content? What if the downloading service has closed down or you don't have the file with the license anymore (their downloads would be protected for sure).
Just today I downloaded a 45 minutes TV show from Amazon Unbox, I have broadband and yet it took 11.5 hours to download. That's bullcrap! Imagine a 2.5 hours High-Def movie... Much faster to go to my local video store and buy/rent the Blue Ray.
one last spin
I think network bandwidth constraints will allow blu-ray at least modest success in the entertainment market, but I think it's likely to be the last physical format in widespread use. By the time we see blu-ray as old and busted, the combined forces of network speed-ups and more advanced compression will make electronic delivery a compelling offer.
Moving forward, I think the trick to successful blu-ray consumption is in getting a low cost player and never buying a disc- stick to the rentals. There isn't likely to be a good resale market as there was with VHS and DVD, and most people who are in the market for home HD playback already know this.
Try this for size and quality
Try this for size and quality, don't believe me. Comment after you view it.
Divx HD hi resolution encoding at 0.5Mb/Second, 30Mb per minute, making for a 90 minute movie at 2.7Gb, a lot lower than the sizes mentioned above. Download cost to me would be NZ$2.70 to download (I pay exactly NZ$1.024 per 1024 Mb)
# 1920 x 816Resolution
# 63 mbFile size
Personally I am a fan of H264/aac .MP4 format as being better than Divx, but that's only my opinion.