Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is Blu-ray Dead?

ZDNews has a column on the impending death of Blu-ray. It goes into some of the problems that Blu-ray faces but he misses a couple of vital reasons why Blu-ray will not take off like DVDs did.

Tiny Market
To play a DVD, all you need is a DVD player. To appreciate a Blu-ray you also need a fairly high-end high-def TV. Not a lot of people have these. This changes blu-ray from an impulse purchase to a major entertainment system upgrade. Conventional wisdom says that the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD hurt them both but this overlooks how few people had TVs that would show the better picture.

High Entry Cost
Blu-ray player prices are coming down but they are still high. The lowest are in the $150 range (according to the ZDNews column). At this point in their life-cycle, DVD players were already commodity items going for under $100. Just as important, DVD prices were around $5 less than VHS tapes. It didn't take many purchases before you saved the initial cost of the player. Blu-ray disks cost around $5 more so switching to Blu-ray will cost you beyond the initial purchase.

No New Functionality
DVDs offered several advantages over tapes. A better picture was one but the smaller size, the ability to go directly to scenes without having to fast forward or rewind, and the DVD extras made it a completely different experience than a VHS tape. Blu-ray offers a better picture but no other new features. Many people consider the DVD extras the best part of the DVD and that drove DVD acceptance as much as anything.

If Blu-ray hangs in there then it might eventually gain market share as people upgrade their TVs but this will take a decade. Does Sony have the patience to support it that long?

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