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Blu-ray 0, SDHC card 1, THX Chief Scientist predicts

In-store downloads, not discs, the future

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Blu-ray Disc will never win mass appeal - we'll all be buying out HD movies on Flash cards instead. That, at least, is the verdict of THX Chief Scientist Laurie Fincham.

Fincham's comments come by way of UK magazine Home Cinema Choice, relayed by website DVD Town. Says Fincham: "I think it's too late for Blu-ray. I think consumers will only become interested in replacing DVD when HD movies becomes available on flash memory.

"By the time Blu-ray really finds a mass market, we will have 128GB cards," he says. "I would guess that getting studios to supply movies on media cards, or offer downloads, will be a lot easier than getting them to sign up to support a disc format.

"In the future I want to be able to carry four to five movies around with me in a wallet, or walk into a store and have someone copy me a movie to a USB device," Fincham forecasts. "Stores will like that idea, because it's all about having zero inventory. I don't want to take up shelf space with dozens of HD movies."

Fincham's words echo those of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who this year said the future lies in downloads rather than physical media. Jobs has a reason to play down formats like Blu-ray: he sells downloads. But Fincham comes from the other end of the chain, the content producers, so his words perhaps carry more weight.

Of course, pundits have been forecasting in-store digital data transfers for years, first to CD then to solid-state media. As yet it's never taken off, largely because the process requires a computer to get content off the memory card and onto the TV. To make Fincham's vision reality, you need plenty of set-top boxes with suitable memory card slots and/or USB ports, in-store data transfer stations and the infrastructure to feed them with user-selectable content.

The infrastructure's there, but as yet the first two elements are conspicuous by their absence. Not so Blu-ray discs and players, so maybe the format does have some time to capture the public's imagination.

This week, market watcher Strategy Analytics forecast boom times for Blu-ray now that rival format HD DVD is effectively dead.

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