Cooper here explains to us why the disc is dead, and eventually this may come to pass, however, Dr. Media says, oh really! Sean, please, while you make a great case, you forget a few interesting things. A case in point, reminds of how a few years ago the tech world was convinced that movies would be delivered by DBS to theaters and cans would be gone. Hasn’t happened, why, cost , quality,etc. Why won’t consumers leap on this, same reasons. If you can get a ipod type device that will pack as many films at high quality like music, then maybe, but until then a disc is the cheapest, best quality method of delivery.
The Death of the Disc
Why HD-DVD and Blu-ray are dead on arrival.
By Sean Cooper
Posted Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006, at 12:57 AM ET
recently, the history of home entertainment was the history of encoding
formats. For movies and music to get into our homes, manufacturers had
to invent some medium that was capable of holding Star Wars or ABBA Gold.
And so it went: vinyl, eight-track, cassette, Betamax, VHS, CD, DVD.
Our shelves filled with slabs of plastic, spools of magnetic tape
inside cartridges, and 5-inch discs stamped with binary-encoded metal
Now, home entertainment has a new idea: high-definition
video. By increasing the number of pixels in an image, HD encoding can
deliver a sharper picture. Because high-definition images pack more
visual data, HD movies require more storage space than DVDs can
provide. So, naturally, we’ve now got two new encoding formats: the
Toshiba-backed HD-DVD and Sony’s Blu-ray.
The movie studios and
electronics manufacturers think—wrongly—these new high-def formats will
extend the market for home-entertainment media indefinitely. Both
formats will fail, not because consumers are wary of a format war in
which they could back the losing team, a la Betamax. Universal players
that support both flavors of HD should appear early next year. No, the
new formats are doomed because shiny little discs will soon be history.
Here are four reasons why.
The Internet. On Nov. 22, Microsoft will unveil its Xbox Live movie-rental
and download service—the first to include HD content. This is obviously
a shot across the bow of Sony’s PlayStation 3, which includes a Blu-ray
player. (The Xbox 360 plays only standard DVDs out of the box.) The
significance of Xbox movie rentals reaches beyond the console wars,
though. For one, using the Xbox for over-the-wires delivery of HD
content removes the need for physical media. It also removes a key
barrier for iTunes-style sales of movies, particularly high-definition
movies: Once you download The 40-Year-Old Virgin in HD, how
do you get it from your computer to your plasma screen? Few people have
their PCs connected to their TVs. But every Xbox 360 is connected to a
TV, and most are connected to the Internet (to use Microsoft’s Xbox
Live online gaming service). Don’t have an Xbox? Similar services from
Apple, Netflix, and others will soon pour HD movies into homes using a
broadband connection and a cheap set-top box.
Like Microsoft’s console, your Comcast box is a fat-pipe conduit
between the company’s inventory of HD content and your HDTV screen.
Furthermore, on-demand playback is immediate—you don’t have to wait for
downloads to complete. Movie studios wary of siphoning money from DVD
sales have mostly avoided making new releases available on demand
(proof, perhaps, of on-demand’s potential earning power down the road).
That’s starting to change, though, and a premium tier of titles is now
hitting on-demand at the same time they’re hitting Blockbuster. And
just as record labels’ fears over music downloads were placated by
copy-protection schemes implemented by iTunes, Rhapsody, and other
online services, the cable companies will soon put together content
deals that make sense for the studios. Microsoft’s Xbox movie rentals,
which expire 24 hours after they are downloaded, are a good example of
what those deals will look like.
New formats mean pricey hardware. After spending $3,000 or more on an HDTV and multichannel audio gear, nobody’s in the mood
to burn another pile of cash. HD players aren’t cheap: $350 to $600 for
HD-DVD and $750 to $1,000 for Blu-ray. Sony’s decision to support
Blu-ray in the PlayStation 3 is a strong-arm tactic to drive demand for
Blu-ray-encoded movies. But this loss-leading move could sink Sony’s
new console—and maybe even the whole company—when Blu-ray stalls out.
The rise of the hard drive.
When you buy a DVD, you pay for the cost of embedding a piece of
plastic with data, packaging it, shipping it to retailers, and stocking
it on shelves. Movie downloads require only the space necessary to
store the data on a hard drive for as long as you want to hold on to
it, either for a single viewing (in the case of rental downloads like
the Xbox 360’s) or forever (archived on your computer or an external
drive). On iTunes an album costs about 10 bucks—as much as $8 less than
some CD retailers charge, partially because of the reduced cost of
getting music to buyers online. Look for the same savings when it comes
to downloading movies. And then there’s the fact that hard-disk storage
capacities are pushing ever upward while size and price drop. In a few
years, you’ll buy every episode of The West Wing on a drive the size of a deck of cards rather than on 45 DVDs in a box the size of your microwave oven. If you think that sounds far-fetched, consider that shortly after releasing a comprehensive, eight-DVD New Yorker collection (since updated to nine discs), the magazine released the same collection on an (admittedly expensive) iPod-sized hard drive. Which would you rather have, especially once the price of hard drives sinks even lower?
no mistake: Buying movies online isn’t there yet. Titles in
standard-def are few, in hi-def fewer still. With five times the visual
information of a standard-def flick, an HD download of The Matrix, were
it even available, could take all day over the average broadband
connection. And a simple, consumer-friendly system for storing, backing
up, and accessing a large movie library is probably a year or more off.
As for cable on-demand services, they are clumsy to use, lack a deep
back catalog, and lag behind DVD release schedules. (Meanwhile, DVDs
fit nicely on a shelf, rarely fail, and don’t require annoying download
periods or sophisticated gear to get them to play on your TV.)
of that will change—and fast. It will change because consumers want it
to change. Music buyers used their modems to force the major labels
into the fear zone and Tower Records into bankruptcy. The same will
happen to the movie studios and DVD retailers unless they curb their
Sean Cooper writes about music, technology, and pop culture for various publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
Why HD-DVD and Blu-ray are dead on arrival. – By Sean Cooper – Slate Magazin