Vince HoriuchiTribune columnist
Article Last Updated: 02/21/2008 07:05:30 PM MST
The biggest news so far this year in technology and TV is that the high-definition disc format war is finally over (cue "Taps," please). But just because Sony's Blu-ray high definition format prevailed over Toshiba-backed HD-DVD (the company conceded this week) doesn't mean it's going to win the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of home video viewers.
The next battle that will be waged, now that Blu-ray is the clear choice for high-definition discs, is between discs and digital downloads for movies. While Blu-ray and HD-DVD went toe-to-toe for more than a year, the likes of iTunes, Netflix and Microsoft have been working on getting movies to TVs by download services. iTunes just introduced video rentals. Netflix has a service that allows members to watch any of 7,000 movies for free by streaming them to computers and soon to TVs. Microsoft's Xbox Live, the network for its Xbox 360 gaming console, allows gamers to watch streaming movies, too. Then there are cable services like Comcast's Video On Demand and satellite providers that have similar pay-per-view services. The nexus of this new war is whether movie lovers want to own their movies on disc as they have with DVDs or if they just want to rent them by clicking through the remote and paying on credit. Yes, it's more convenient to just call up a movie and watch it whenever you want. But for watching high-definition movies, Blu-ray is by far the best choice. For one thing, only Blu-ray movies have true high-definition video that's crystal clear, full of color and detail. High-definition movies for download currently are available only through iTunes and Xbox Live, and I would barely call them HD. Because the providers have to stream the movies to your computer or TV, the files are much smaller than they would be on Blu-ray and therefore not as clear because the data has to be highly compressed. High-def movies on Comcast's On Demand service can be pretty blocky and pixelated, for example, when there's a lot of action on screen.
There also are no bonus features with streaming movies. Blu-ray has not only extras, but also the technology to include picture-in-picture commentary and interactive features through the Internet. The extras on the "3:10 to Yuma" disc are nearly as entertaining as the movie itself. Also, downloading movies through the Xbox or iTunes is expensive - $5.99 and $4.99 per high-def movie, respectively. Now that Blu-ray has won the format war, a few things need to happen by the end of the year for it to truly become the next-generation DVD technology that people will use: The price of players must go below $199. The price of movies must go below $20. And big catalog movies have to come out in the format sooner rather than later (are you listening, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg?). If those things happen, and I think at least the first two will by Christmas, consumers will move to Blu-ray almost as quickly as they did to DVD. (Studies show more high-def players and discs sold in the first two years they were available than DVDs did.) Otherwise, this new technology could go the way of LaserDiscs and Betamax, and that would be heartbreaking.
Souce from http://www.sltrib.com/themix/ci_8328624