A few years back when blu-ray was just starting to come about, Richard Weber wrote in an article entitled “The Age of Blu-Ray” detailing some of the main benefits of blu-ray technology:
“Do you remember how awesome it was when you upgraded from you old VHS tapes to DVDs? The picture was way clearer and the sound was amazing, right? Well another technology shift of even greater proportions is on the horizon in the home entertainment industry.
A standard DVD or DVD-R disc has about 4.7 GB of storage, but the new Blu-Ray discs have over 25 GB of storage on a single-layer disc and 50 GB on a dual-layer disc! And all that extra space, over 10 times more than a regular DVD, does not go to waste. Movies in Blu-Ray format will have crystal clear, life-like High Definition picture and superb digital sound. This unprecedented high quality combined with a 1080p High-Definition TV will be like nothing you have ever seen before. Are you salivating yet?”
Weber goes on to mention the pricing of blu-ray players and media presenting a rather large obstacle to its adoption where players were starting at $1000 and easily going up from there. To avoid such a major investment into one’s home theater environment, Mr. Weber recommends holding off until the much anticipated Playstation 3 is released with its included blu-ray player.
As I mentioned, this article was written years ago when this technology was up and coming. However, I think that one of the main obstacles dampening the rapid adoption of blu-ray remains pricing. These days, the Playstation 3 has been released and already upgraded to a revised “slim” model as well. The price of blu-ray players has dropped significantly allowing most home users to purchase a semi-decent player in the sub-$100 range. Despite the drastic drop in price among blu-ray players, the price of blu-ray movies and media remains fairly high. At $20-25 per movie, each movie purchase now becomes a well thought-out expenditure.
Not only does blu-ray technology offer many benefits to improve the home theater and movie watching experience for all users, it also poses a threat to its own adoption. The majority, if not all, blu-ray players offer at least some minimal form of upscaling capabilities. The appliance handles taking a normal DVD quality input and convert it on-the-fly to a 1080i, and sometimes full 1080p, output stream. This means that you do not have to run out and buy blu-ray versions of your entire DVD collection to enjoy the improved quality of high definition content. At nearly $25 per movie, it becomes rather difficult to justify the replacement of all your current DVD movies with new blu-ray versions. I mean, why spend hundreds of dollars to purchase new blu-ray films when you can get nearly (and often times indistinguishably) the same quality from your current DVD’s?
I also think that Sony’s DRM practices will also play out to be another major hindrance to the adoption of blu-ray. Today, users are looking for better and easier ways to get high definition content to their home theater. Lately, this appears to have been lending to the popular upstream adoption of Netflix’s “Instant Streaming” feature. They have been adding the ability to stream users’ “watch instantly” queues to their Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and now even their HD televisions. If Netflix can find a way to improve this functionality and increase the quality of their streams to near 1080p quality, they could greatly capitalize on this market. Users don’t want to pay outrageous prices to purchase media that they are then told how, when, and where, they can view it. Especially when the system for controlling these aspects has such a great chance of failure. Sony will need to either rethink its DRM practices and strategy or look forward to failure. I will be writing more on the details of the digital rights management (DRM) that Sony uses with the blu-ray technology later.
So what do you think about blu-ray? Do you like it or are you still holding on adopting it in your home theater setups? What do you think are the advantages and obstacles to blu-ray technology these days? Chime in and let us know the above and your thoughts on the current state of DRM in blu-ray and how it effects your decisions in the home theater arena.