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Blu-ray Disc a 'bag of hurt', says Jobs

Licensing a pain, consumers don't want it

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Want a Mac with a built-in Blu-ray Disc drive? You're in for a long wait - Apple's waiting until the technology becomes more firmly established with consumers.

Speaking at the launch of Apple's new notebooks yesterday, CEO Steve Jobs described Blu-ray as "just a bag of hurt" - this despite the company's membership of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA).

Jobs admitted the optical disc format is "great to watch the movies" but, he added, "the licensing of the tech is so complex".

His strategy, then: "We're waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace."

In short, when there's a demand for it, we'll supply it.

Jobs has already questioned the need for new optical disc formats, saying he believes people will be keener on download and/or streaming offerings.

Indeed, Jobs' lieutenant, Phil Schiller, was quick to say that iTunes is Apple's HD content platform.

So, Jobs' comments are not those of a disinterested party.

But is he right? Certainly here in the UK, Blu-ray isn't exactly flying off the shelves. With the defeat of HD DVD, you'd have thought more consumer electronics companies would have leapt in to back the victor. Not so. Sony and Samsung both have players out, as do Sharp, Panasonic, Pioneer and Yamaha, but there are plenty of other big names out there who don't.

Maybe they will, but it's clear they don't anticipate big consumer demand in the coming Christmas sales period. Some laptops come with BD drives, but only as optional extras or in top-of-the-range SKUs.

Ironically, the demise of HD DVD has eliminated the drama that was largely responsible for bringing the technology to the attention of consumers. Without it, interest has waned.

The BDA argues that independent research - from Futuresource, a company that under its previous guise, Understanding and Solutions, was very pro Blu-ray - shows the format's uptake is ramping up at a rate faster than DVD managed.

Again, maybe it is, but it'll still be some years before Blu-ray truly goes mainstream, giving broadband time to evolve and fill the bandwidth gap needed for decent downloads. In some countries- France, for instance - it's arguable already there.

Looks like Jobs could be right to wait. It'll be easy enough to add drives when it's clear that punters want them.

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