Blu Ray is late to the party, the party has moved to the internet…

IMG_3323 Mike Harvey of the UK’s Times Online ran an article today with the headline, "Time is running out for Blu Ray format."

Harvey reported on the buzz at the CES in Las Vegas, and there apparently wasn’t much buzz for Blu Ray.

Many commenters on the article supposed that owning a physical disc is feels much better than downloading content. Others pointed to the impressive high definition quality of Blu Ray pictures as the saviour of the format.

I agree with Harvey however that time is running out for Blu Ray. One commenter pointed out that VHS won the VHS v Betamax war on the back of the US porn industry. Likewise, DVD also "got a leg up" from said industry adoption. If that’s an indicator of future market trends, then online is obviously where we’re headed.

I recently put together a Internet connected Windows Media Center and started to explore all of the content opportunities that exist online. The Media Center is hooked up to our plasma TV of course, and it serves as our main source of TV, DVD and Video content.

To summarise what I found about the content available online in brief:

  • Bitorrent is an extremely viable alternative for downloading "’on demand" TV and Movie content – Main drawback, it is illegal.
  • Apple iTunes offers high quality movie downloads and they can be played through Windows Media Center with a plugin – Main drawback – It’s still expensive (Iwould think that the absence of DVD packaging, distribution and transport should reduce the cost by at least $10).
  • Bigpond Movies and Apple iTunes offer 24 hour DRM based high quality movie rentals by download – Main drawback – Drawbacks, limited and late selection (i.e. Blockbuster gets them first).

Prior to owning a Windows Media Center, I had Foxtel and often watched movies through Foxtel Box Office.

We found that downloaded content in all of these formats was more than acceptable. Blu Ray aficionados would say, "But the quality is nowhere near as good as Blu Ray." But to us, it just doesn’t matter. We watch a movie to enjoy a story, not to count pixels. We usually don’t watch them more than once.

The choice of format will be determined by the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) factor. And really, even though we have a big HD TV, it doesn’t bother me that the movie has some compression, lower quality sound or a few less pixels. To me, both formats offer a great experience. What matters to me is convenience and cost.

Format choice = Convenience / Price

For me, the convenience of downloading a movie – even if it takes 5 hours to do it – is worth more than going to the movie store. 9 years ago downloading music was a similar experience, but today it’s a no brainer! Today, the huge majority of music consumption is done online (not necessarily sales of). Imagine how stupid it would be to introduce new mass market physical Audio CD format now…

One commenter from England nailed Blu Ray’s missed opportunity:

If Sony/Tosh had learnt anything from the vhs/ beta wars it should have been , let’s not do that again . It left a nasty taste in the mouth for everyone
They should have got together on HD and come to the market with similar technology and realistic prices .
They have lost 3 good years business

Nick Dixon, Sutton Coldfield, England

Sony not only lost 3 years, they lost 3 years of economic boom time. They also lost a 3 year lead on developing technologies.

In the last 3 years, bittorrent technology has developed to the point where it could be used to kill off Blu Ray. iTunes has commenced the delivery of high quality movie content via the Internet. Other services like Bigpond Movies have also started offering downloads.

Sure, broadband access in many places might need to do a bit of catch up, but movie downloads are now well and truly happening and they will only get better. Consumer demand for faster broadband is increasing and it will be fulfilled.

Ultimately, like the Audio CD, the Digital Video Disc and Blu Ray is now doomed to the sidelines. People will still buy physical discs, but they will never be ubiquitous like Records, Audio Tapes, CDs and DVDs once were.

The market will remian fragmented and it’s unlikely that there will ever be a dominant content format for movies ever again.

Written by brettg in: Vista Media Center | Tags: , , ,

Vista Media Center Rocks!

Vista Media Center

Vista Media Center

When I was in Brisbane last year, my friend Luke showed me a Windows XP Media Center. I thought it was pretty cool and I’ll tell you why.

For those who don’t know what the fuss is all about, a media center is like a hard disc recorder (PVR), Foxtel IQ or a Tivo. That’s one of those devices that allows you to record TV shows, pause live TV and play it all back later.

They are usually made up of:

  1. Hard Disk to record shows onto
  2. A TV Scheduler program
  3. Connections to your TV and Stereo

They might also have a DVD burner inbuilt.

I had played with a Windows XP Media Center a few years ago, but digital TV was pretty new then and the digital TV recievers that I had were not compatible with the Windows Media Center software.

Digital TV has come a long way since then and so has the Windows Media Center platform. The hardware to make it all work is now much cheaper and easily avaialble.

So why does Windows Vista Media Center rock?

Well, Media Center is so much more than a Tivo, a Foxtel IQ or a PVR. Those things are purely oriented around TV. But whilst the media center might be connected straight up to your plasma TV or projector, it can also be another PC on your network. So with Media Center you can:

  1. Easily network with your other computers
  2. Share files, photos and videos around the network (think digital cameras and mobile phones that are already connected to your PC)
  3. Connect to and browse the Internet easily in a familiar environment
  4. Download and access online media (Think torrents – nothing illegal of course ;-), youtube, Bigpond movies).

What I found is that there is so much to watch on free to air TV but it’s never on when you’re there to watch it. Vista Media Center fixed that for me, so I cancelled my Foxtel subscription.

So when I have a moment, I can sit in my lounge, browse through some old photos while listening to some cool tunes. When I’m done, I’ll browse through the TV shows that I’ve recorded and find something worth watching!

Now if only we could get the free to air networks to buy some up to date and decent TV shows like The IT Crowd and The US Office… 

I’ll tell you a little bit about how to put your own Media Center together later…

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