Why Macs Will Never Get Blu-ray

64 Comments

Ever since 2008 when Blu-ray and HD-DVD were battling for consumer mind share, Mac users have been speculating about Apple’s (s aapl) next optical drive technology. Since 2001, SuperDrive has been Apple’s name for DVD and CD burning optical drives built into or available in every Mac sold, and now SuperDrive is standard but Apple doesn’t mention it anymore because it’s not that big of a deal to include in Macs. Almost every PC manufactured today has this.

The MacBook Air was released in 2008 with no optical drive, which started a flurry of rumors about Apple’s thoughts on where we were going as Apple mentioned the irrelevance of optical drives since content was available via iTunes and the web and you only needed one for installing software since even backups could be done over the air with Time Capsule. Apple still sells a $99 USB SuperDrive for the MacBook Air for people who need one. As a Macbook Air owner, I have never needed one since all of my software was installed via the web and all consumable content (movies, music and podcasts) are all available in iTunes.

The two most notable technology visionaries of our time, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, have both weighed in on Blu-ray since it became the standard physical media for  high-definition content so I thought it would be beneficial to provide their quotes here before I give a bit of my thoughts.

Bill Gates gave two very powerful quotes on the subject. The first:

“Well, the key issue here is that the protection scheme under Blu-ray is very anti-consumer and there’s not much visibility of that. The inconvenience is that the [movie] studios got too much protection at the expense consumers [sic] and it won’t work well on PCs. You won’t be able to play movies and do software in a flexible way.”

and:

“For us it’s not the physical format. Understand that this is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything’s going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk. So, in this way, it’s even unclear how much this one counts.”

[inline-ad align=”right”]The note of it being anti-consumer is frankly a matter for any digital content these days. Movie studios will have their DRM on any future media that they control whether you get that content from Microsoft (s msft), Apple or built into a disk that you put into a dedicated player. DRM is the current reality unless you pirate it, but Gates’ comment about Blu-ray being the last physical media is very important. Gates actually said this in 2005. Yes, five years ago. Gates said this long before YouTube was a house hold name and at a time when the iPod with video was a brand new product and before the Apple TV. Of course, Microsoft had its home theater software built into Windows XP, but if you look at how we consume media today, it’s apparent that he was on to something.

Then, in October 2008, Steve Jobs gave his thoughts on Blu-ray with one line:

“Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.”

Of course, Blu-ray has taken off in the marketplace but Steve hasn’t changed his tone very much in the last year and a half. An email response from Steve Jobs last week mirrors Bill Gates’ comment in 2005 and reiterates Apple’s stance on Blu-ray and pretty much sums up why we’ll never see the technology included in future Macs:

“Blu-ray is looking more and more like one of the high end audio formats that appeared as the successor to the CD — like it will be beaten by Internet downloadable formats.”

After the customer sends an email response to him again stating Blu-ray has a purpose for use of system backups and high-density storage or the distribution of home movies Steve adds:

“No, free, instant gratification and convenience (likely in that order) is what made the downloadable formats take off. And the downloadable movie business is rapidly moving to free (Hulu) or rentals (iTunes) so storing purchased movies or TV shows is not an issue.

“I think you may be wrong — we may see a fast broad move to streamed free and rental content at sufficient quality (at least 720p) to win almost everyone over.”

The rise in broadband speeds paired with the fact that you can download a movie anywhere in the world (with a cell phone connection) to your mobile device and it’s clear that Steve simply doesn’t see a point in Blu-ray being included given the complications of licensing it and echoing sentiment into Bill Gates’ opinions of DRM via the new format.

Steve thinks that with a Time Capsule or an online backup system (like SugarSync and Mozy) paired with YouTube for sharing video and iTunes at the center of it all with media consumption, the industry has made Blu-ray obsolete before it even makes it to Mac machines and I agree.

I once thought Blu-ray was a key addition to have on my Mac and now that I have a Mac without an optical drive, I don’t miss it. Everything I own is synced to my iMac and MacBook Air over the web in real-time, my iPhone and iPad can purchase movies and they download over the air and I can share a movie with my family that I shot and edited on iPhone 4 and uploaded to YouTube within one hour compared to burning and shipping a Blu-ray disk to them. Blu-ray is something a lot of pros want but it’s out of desire and not true need.

I’m not a professional filmmaker and I’m not working for a movie studio, but DVD Studio Pro and products like Toast from Roxio support Blu-ray if you buy a drive separately and plug it into your Mac. Apple just won’t be shipping support for the technology anytime soon and it may never include it in its machines and I bet that most consumers are okay with that.

64 Comments

dylan

i see things from both sides

i don’t seen alternative any time soon to real movies from a shop it would take me around 3 days to download a 8 gb movie thats not convenient and that would use all of my bandwidth for the month.

On the move a low quality movie is sufficient, but i would not be happy with that if it was at home on my 50″.
i think the bigest limitation at this point is bandwidth it is not possible to stream or even download a blu-ray quality movie over the web to me in regional Australia.

i do agree that online is the way of the future but to be realistic it is years away and for now a dedicated home theater system is the only way.

as far as blu-ray being necessary on my computer it’s has been 3 years or more since i last used a optical drive to instal a program on my computer.

There are better solutions for backups that 10+ blu-ray discs especially with multi terabyte systems becoming the norm.

for my computer a blu-ray is unnecessary for my home theatre it is crucial

Eric

You, Bill Gate and Steve are wrong.

Not 1080p + Cable bandwidth restrictions means HD streaming sucks in comparison to Blu-ray.

Until I can stream 1080p video, with the best audio and the extras we get on Blu-ray discs, streaming/downloading is not an acceptable substitute.

Period.

Adam Jackson

I agree completely but I don’t see droves of wallet wielding consumers speaking with their wallets and demanding this kind of solution. Some consumers buy Blu-Ray and some buy via Apple or another alternative.

Where’s this “bring 1080p streaming w/ good quality to the masses” revolution?

I’ll sign my name and grab a pitchfork if such a group ever comes to fruition.

prateek jain

thanx for great insight into future of blue ray technology….i agree wid ur views that internet downloading has already made it obsolete.

Evo Yoo Suck

Just go with Steve and be done with it. Why waste any of your brain cells on this topic. Basically if it isn’t already part of your Mac than you most likely don’t need it. If you do need it than you can always buy a PC instead.

Most Mac users have the utmost trust in Steve decision making. His track record speaks for itself. No other CEO of a technology company even comes close to Mr. Jobs record of success especially with regard to choosing appropriate next technology for the masses.

A little more objectivity

That’s because he’s catering to the uniformed. The people that don’t want to use their brain and think for themselves… the ones that want someone else to tell them what they want and how to use it.

You have read about the days when kings and masters kept their slaves and countrymen dumber than dumb so they wouldn’t start asking “why” and start revolts demanding better? Same thing here. If Jobs keeps his public uniformed (dumb consumers that don’t know what better audio sounds like and better video looks like) then they won’t ask for more… and they’ll keep thinking Jobs knows best and is looking out for their best interests (which he is clearly not).

Brian

Hmmmm… so let’s say you go with Steve. You spend 4x to 6x as much as a PC to get a Mac.

Then you show up at the client site, and they say “here are all the creative assets on Blu-Ray disk.” You slide it into your shiny $3,000 MacBook Pro and… nothing.

Then, Joe Competitor with his $800 PC grabs the disk, slides it into his PC with Blu-Ray, and loads it right up.

You lose the contract because you cannot even access the client media. But at night, as you rock yourself to sleep watching your revenues plunge, you whisper “Steve is right, Steve is right, Steve is right, I DON’T NEED BLU-RAY, ONLINE IS THE SOLUTION.”

Melaure

Why I will never have an Apple product under my TV.

“Quality is good enough for most people”.

It is exactly the kind of crap which is the image of the actual Apple. Apple User since 1982, I have seen this company making efforts to provide the best of a few technology. SCSI, Wysiwyg, 32 bit colors, Firewire, etc …

Now Apple try to convince us that middle quality (and ofen overpriced) is the best for us. No, it is the best for them, because there is only one credo for Apple today : making more and more money, and don’t pay for other’s technologies (and now the BR codec is much cheaper, so no excuse …).

The videos sold on iTunes are very poorly encoded compared to a BR disk, especially when you have a big screen, but even on a 27″ inch monitor (if you have no eye problems)! And personnally I don’t by music or video from iTunes. I don’t want that Apple choose the encoding of my music/video.

All this is really disappointing but thanks to Apple, we are a lot to buy Sony products (I where in the Sony Building in Tokyo two weeks ago, very nice for BR and 3D)… Apple have now no respect for consumers and what they wants. All products seems to be defined for Steve Jobs use only …

Ken H

Only ONE person even remotely touched on the pay as you go bandwidth issue. Cable Companies are already starting in on this. Imagine the expenses racked up with buying the video online then paying EVEN MORE to download it. Add going over your allotted bandwidth and overage charges and those extra minutes on your cell phone are going to be cheap by comparison. Sorry, just give me a physical disc with higher quality video and better sound.

Adam Jackson

Agreed. We haven’t even discussed how Internet traffic limitations imposed by most Internet companies is going to severely damper the plans of content producers and media companies betting it all on streaming this content to our device.

I’m capped by Comcast and so are many other Internet lovers and a 4-8 gigabyte streamed file (assuming it’s 1080P) only allows you to watch 7-10 movies every month with no other content (web, music, youtube, facetime).

This cap must be raised before we can start demanding higher quality content.

Veggiedude

Apple reinvented ‘SuperDrive’ in 2001. They had a high performance floppy drive called the Superdrive back in 1990. My SE/30 had one.

Adam Jackson

You’re absolutely correct. Thanks for the clarification.

ViewRoyal

Unfortunately, Steve Jobs didn’t really respond to the comments made “After the customer sends an email response to him again stating Blu-ray has a purpose for use of system backups and high-density storage”.

That is what most people want Blu-ray recordable drives for… archiving!

Yes, you can archive to hard drives, but this medium is not as durable (safe) or as compact as BD-R discs.

And yes, you can archive to DVD-R discs, but they only hold a maximum of 8GB vs. Blu-ray’s 50GBs. It’s a waste of resources and time to archive many large files to many DVD-Rs when it can be archived on a single BD-R disc.

No one wants to leave archive files on their computer’s hard drives, and they certainly don’t want to spend time and money uploading Terabytes of files to the “cloud”.

Robert White

p.s.

Another huge difference between Blu-ray and iTunes is that Blu-ray is available everywhere. Even small grocery-stores stock blu-rays.

720P iTunes downloads are typically ONLY available in the US. So for many, many shows and movies I don’t even have the option to consider iTunes as an alternative. The same is true for the PSN’s huge video store.

Maybe Steve has forgotten that there are other people in this world than only Americans?

Robert White

I don’t agree that the low bit rate 720P offered by iTunes is sufficient for the average consumer.

It’s only sufficient in the sense as b/w noisy NTSC was once sufficient in the 70-ties, and blurry and still noisy color NTSC was sufficient in the 80-ties and DVD was sufficient in the 90-ties.

People who think 720P is sufficient simply haven’t seen blu-ray yet. I do agree that at some point there is no advantage in even higher bit rates and higher resolution. The Super audio CD is a good example, people just don’t hear the difference. 10MP photos compared to 5MP ones is another example. You just don’t see the difference.

HOWEVER…

Low bit rate 720P is -=*NOT*=- at that point!

People DO see the difference. With high bit rate 720P on relatively small screens (36″ or smaller) it’s a maybe another story, but iTunes is LOW bit rate. It’s typically 4~4.5Mb/s if you’re lucky. Good quality 720 is at least in the 12 ~ 16Mb/s range. iTunes is NOT offering you that!

It will take some while before the bandwidth and local storage is able to cope with that. In the mean time, Blu-ray is really the only thing out there that makes sense. In a year or five to ten, things may be totally different, but if you want to have good quality NOW, there’s simply no way around Blu-ray. If you have a large (50″+) screen, don’t even think about low bit rate 720P. It *will* suck…

ryemac3

Sorry, but I don’t want to watch shitty youtube videos on my 55″ LCD. I want to watch my blu ray movies that I paid $30 for.

Edwin

Seriously, there is only one Apple way to get content/apps and that’s iTunes. Hence, no Blu-Ray or anything else that isn’t iTunes.

Bumper

This article and comments could well signal the end of the Internet as we know. A well written article, based on objective research, backed up with matching evidence. No hysterical fan boys comments, just well reasoned discussion of the pros and cons, only one slightly snarky grammar retort.

This is not what I have come to expect from such topics, well done the lot of you, carry on, I guess I’m off to MSNBC to restore my lack of faith in humanity.

John

The issue is HD content, in a freindly format – by friendly, I mean stone-axesimple for people to operate.
DVD for example, even my 3year old can select her disk from the shelf, open the CD tray on the player and put the disk in. She knows which button on the remote changes to the DVD channel on the TV and the mentus and arrows for all the menus make sense (most of the time – surprisingly it is often the kids videos with the worst menu navigation).
Compared to the “iTunes” experiance where she must first login (she has that figured – thanks Apple, the parental interface on OS X is super simple) but then itunes. She my know the icon for iTunes, but it still requires much more skill to operate, find the content, especially if it is on the network, or not in her library, or is on the web in some way, then play the video, make it full screen etc. Front row is a step in the right direction, but there is almost no content available at an affordable rate on the iTunes stores. Certainly very little kid friendly content, so that acually leaves me with ripped content wchich has to be ripped from the physical media.
Then there is Blue-Ray. For NZ$30 you can buy the disk, and it will usually work just like the DVDs. (Except the ones swith more draconian DRM – Thanks Avatar, my first returned Blue-ray. DRM sure worked well for you there James C) (BTW, exchanged for the DVD version, and then ripped it. Upscaled DVD looks just fine actually) But my point is aside form the DRM bag of hurt, it is easy to operate. Digital downloads are still actually hard for some people to figure out. My wife isnt dumb, but she doesnt actually care that much about IT. She barely even uses the iPod shuffle I bought her (the easiest one to use, it only has 4 buttons) because she finds iTunes too confusing. It has taken years to get her to use the media players I have under the TVs (XBMC -also really simple to use compared to iTunes)
Then there is the cost. With two kids hitting Youtube over a wet weekend, we ate 4 GB of data. I only have 20GB a month before my DSL dropps to a crawl. 8( Most of the world isnt like the US.

IcyFog

I don’t really see that Blu-Ray has “taken off.”

Andrew

I live in Canada. No Hulu. No Netflix.

I like to both give and receive movies as gifts. DVDs and Blu-rays make that easier than trying to explain to Grandma and Grandpa what you need to do in iTunes or something equivalent. They can go to Walmart and be as old-fashioned as they like. They get the difference between Blu-ray and DVD well enough.

I like to make backups of stuff and put it in a safety deposit box. Like old accounting records. Like 50 GB of iPhoto data. Like my iTunes library. Like stuff I don’t necessarily want to upload to the cloud for safe-keeping. Blu-ray can make that a more pleasant experience.

The last few times I wanted to watch a movie that was in iTunes, I had the option to buy for $19.99 but no rental option.

There are plenty of reasons to offer Blu-ray hardware with Macs that have nothing to do with competing with the iTunes movie distribution model.

On the other hand, an AppleTV or Mac Mini that was able to play Blu-ray media would be considerably more attractive and hard to believe it would be detrimental to iTunes sales. After all, you would then have the hardware and eventually would likely buy more stuff in iTunes if it really was good enough or available for rent or whatever.

I’m sure the visionaries see where this is all headed, and I’m not going to question that, it all makes sense, but in the meantime, this is something that would be useful today.

Rory

I think Jobs’ refusal to put Blu-ray drives in Macs is really disappointing and very anti-consumer. I held out for a long time before I finally gave up waiting for Apple and bought an external player. Streaming everything is just not a good proposition for me. I’m one of these weird old fashioned people that like’s to own things. So I don’t want to just rent movies and I don’t want to have to worry about managing and keeping backed up countless gigabytes of downloaded content for the rest of my life. Heck I don’t want to still be stuck using iTunes to watch my movies 20 years from now on an antique computer because it’s the only thing that will open them. One blu-ray (or DVD) will easily last much longer than that and requires no real effort on my part to keep in working order for any time that I want to watch it. It will work in any player made by any of hundreds of manufactures and I have no real concerns about it not being supported long into the future.

Alex Bowles

Believe me, it’s very pro consumer, since the technical requirements impose by BluRay licensing would park your expensive Mac somewhere between ‘painfully unstable’ and ‘totally useless’.

Except for watching movies in beautiful HD, of course.

Jobs told Sony (in essence) “No f****** way am I letting you guys write your f****** RootKit s*** into the pristine core of my OS.”

Gates concurred, then quietly handed $100 million in technical support to the HD-DVD consortium, just to slow down the BluRay launch long enough to keep the market empty while the the streaming model got through its window of peak vulnerability.

When pressed, the very slick MP PR person said they we’re shocked by the allegations of strategic obstruction, and insisted that they had not invested a single dime in Toshiba’s HD DVD. Technically, this was true. Strategically, the brief but pivotal format war was decisive.

Had Sony approached MS & Apple with a cheap, awesome, must-have, and ready-to-go format with only minimal strings attached, both Apple and Microsoft would have been forced by their customers to concede, especially since online video was still a critical few years away from market, to say nothing of prime time.

As it was, Sony made it ridiculously easy for these gatekeepers to say no, giving them the narrow opportunity to render BluRay (largely) irrelevant.

No slouches, these tech guys.

Rory

That’s nonsense – Apple already restricts the playback of HD DRMed video coming out of iTunes to displays that support HDCP. It would be no worse with blu-ray. To say it would affect overall system stability or require ‘root kits’ is just uninformed hyperbole. No doubt Sony could have handled things better, they seem pathologically inclined to shoot themselves in the foot as frequently as possible, but if Apple wanted to offer a pleasant and painless blu-ray experience on Macs they could.

Alex Bowles

“If Apple wanted to offer a pleasant and painless blu-ray experience on Macs they could.”

I’m guessing you’re unfamiliar with “licensing agreements”, “courts of law”, or “multi-million dollar fines”.

That’s just one difference between you and Sony.

Rory

You know having dealt with both the music and film industries I’m pretty sure Apple is very familiar with negotiating tough license agreements. Whether I have personally encountered these things is entirely irrelevant. Apple is one of the big boys and is quite capable of fighting these battles. If little old PowerDVD can offer Blu-ray playback on Windows I can see no reason why Apple can’t.

Alex Bowles

I was wrong about the specifics of BluRay’s DRM support in Vista. It’s actually embedded quite deeply. Here’s a link describing just how much control it has over the OS. Here’s another pointing out the same details from a slightly different angle.

Assuming that similar demands were being made of Apple, these links really put Jobs’ “world of hurt” remark in context. In fact, he may have been understating the case.

This arrangement is also profoundly different from iTunes DRM, which relies exclusively on components entirely owned and controlled by Apple. By way of analogy, making this work is like going to the Moon in your own rocket. Including Vista-like DRM in OS X would be like going to Jupiter in partnership with the Russia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.

Adam Jackson

Alex and Rory – Great dialogue. Thank you for sharing.

annonymous_man

I haven’t upgraded to Blu Ray for a few reasons:

1) Blu Ray DRM being more restrictive
2) concern over lack of interoperability across operating systems (according to some reports hackers have now been able to get BlU Ray on Linux machines but its likely never going to be legitimately be available on Linux due to licensing and DRM issues; yes Windows Vista and higher seem to offer some level of Blu Ray authoring and playback — Blu Ray drives are available for PCs — but no Blu Ray on Mac either)
3) Blu Ray has been pricey — the format war was good for consumers as developers of the expensive Blu Ray format had to drop player prices to compete with the cheaper HD DVD. The price war benefited consumers. Of course HD DVD was cheaper to manufacture and cheaper to buy. Blu Ray prices were cut to gain market share but in the process were losing money. Selling Blu Ray drives at a loss by selling them cheaper than they cost just to gain market share was the strategy. After the format war ended Blu Ray prices that were lower during the format war went back up to their normal levels for some time. There are reports their starting to come back down somewhat at least now and may decline somewhat over time — but think about it how much can they afford to cut prices today and still keep Blu Ray profitable? They don’t have to worry about gaining market share over a rival format anymore by entering a price war — and there’s no competitive need to sell Blu Ray at a loss anymore to gain market share. After the format war they seemed to shift back toward selling it at full price to make a profit on the hardware and raised prices for a while.

Even Blu Ray media has been at least somewhat expensive compared to DVD media. I know Blu Ray quality is better than standard definition DVDs and costs more to manufacture/produce but as long as DVD media continues to be produced and sold (when DVDs first came out new movies were being sold on VHS and DVD) will stick with DVD format.

Once I found BBC America’s TV series Robin Hood Series 1 being sold via BBC America Shop’s website on Blu Ray for $99 and on DVD around $69. I bought the DVD. It was cheaper after all (a no brainer!) since then the cost of the Blu Ray version has come down in price. Now its even lower than DVD box set in price. At the time I bought the DVD they were offering FREE shipping with my order. Consider also different retailers may offer slightly different pricing. Currently, the Robin Hood Series One DVD on BBC America Shop.com is being sold for $79.98 with the Blu Ray version being sold for $59.98.

However, Amazon.com is selling the same DVD package for $52.49. All these prices are for new sales not used discs but new sales (considering used DVDs are often sold far cheaper than buying the media in new form and used sales — if you buy a used DVD the retailer keeps all or most of the sales — whereas when you buy a new DVD they have to pay the distributor/manufacturer for the sale and the distributor allows the retailer to keep some of the profit) also the Blu Ray version of Robin Hood Series One is being sold on Amazon.com for $45.99 currently.

Now one could buy the entire Robin Hood series (all three seasons) via iTunes Store in SD or HD versions (HD though is compressed 720P) — benefit with HD version is they give you an SD copy also to put on a video iPod while buying the SD version just gets you the SD (640X480P) version for $1.99 (standard SD pricing) or anywhere between $2.99-$4.99 for HD content (some TV content from HBO on iTunes was once being sold at $3.99-$4.99 price range) in fact I’ve bought some television shows via iTunes including some episodes of Robin Hood Series One and Two as well as some movies but they fill up storage space on your computer pretty fast. Especially if you have the HD version and SD version or just the HD version.

Most of the content I bought and downloaded via iTunes I did out of interest to experiment with this new model and see how good it is. I’ve been wary of DRM in iTunes though also to some extent.

The HD is not even full HD — if I were to buy HD content would prefer full 1080P that Blu Ray offers. I know this as I’ve bought some HD content via iTunes and it was better than iTunes (SD) but still not up to par with the quality on Blu Ray Discs.

Also Blu Ray format is improving though to offer 3-D experiences as new 3 Dimensional Televisions are being developed and distributed on the market now some movies may be developed and released in 3D form.

If the future is downloading media then computer manufacturers will have to offer much larger hard drives to store all that media. My Mac Mini (purchased in 2006 with Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 — still running Tiger by the way) which I’m on right now has an 80GB hard drive (that was advertised size of hard drive) when I got it had 90 GB of free disk space. Quickly filled it up with iTunes downloads — music, movies, TV etc now only have 20GB free space left. Actually had to delete some media recently to free up space.

By the way I have a 160GB Apple TV connected to my Television, and a MacBook Pro with Mac OS X Snow Leopard pre-installed, an old 5th generation 80GB video iPod (my TV content purchased via iTunes is synced to it) the iPod’s disk space is also nearly full. Yes I have experimented with some iTunes downloads and have bought some of Apple’s merchandise. I love my Apple TV by the way and sometimes though I hate it because its so restrictive compared to new platform devices being talked up like Google TV.

My point downloading all that media and having to store it on a hard drive can fill up hard drives fast. I still prefer physical media. As you can re-sell content used once you buy it if you don’t want it anymore. First sale rights exist and technical ability is there to do this.

My point I have experimented with digital downloads and their still not as good as Apple’s Steve Jobs says they are. We have to consider bandwidth issues — download speeds, the issue of Net Neutrality — will the Internet remain an open democratic medium or will corporate cable and phone companies be able to control the Net and stifle connections — in which case an ISP could make downloads of specific content and services work faster than others — cable company ISPs could block users access to iTunes or slowdown connections when downloading big videos to discourage Internet users from turning to the Web to get video. Cable company ISPs are experimenting with TV Everywhere to protect their digital cable TV businesses from online competition and may try to stop users from downloading via iTunes, Play Station Network (PSN), XBox Live Video Marketplace or any other download site. They may try to limit bandwidth just because its in their commercial interest to prevent customers from switching to IPTV services.

Then there’s the issue of the Digital Divide — which represents how many people are left without high speed Internet service in the U.S. compared to other countries with more competitive, affordable and innovative markets for broadband access. Just 62% of American households according to a news report I heard on TV a few days ago have broadband access right now. If the future of consuming media content is digital downloads and/or streaming — streaming at least doesn’t eat into storage space — what about people who lack high speed Internet that don’t want to be left out of the market for consuming media? The U.S. Government under the Recovery Act is providing some federal grants to expand broadband access but unless the market becomes more competitive, open and affordable and unless we’re able to keep the Internet open and free of corporate discrimination (open access encourages higher public participation) we won’t see much higher adoption.

So there is still uncertainty in going purely digital. I’ll stick with my DVDs for now and will wait and see. Perhaps I’ll take the plunge eventually and get a Blu Ray drive as I don’t see a download/streaming only future coming any time soon.

Adam Jackson

That may have been the longest comment on this blog. Bravo. Thank you for sharing.

Alex

Why the hell are you deleting media to make room for more iTunes content? That is the dumbest thing I ever heard. You know that external hard drives are dirt cheap, right??

I have the same computer as you. I also have a 500 gig FireWire external hard drive for all my media. I think it cost me like 50 bucks??! You really can’t spare 50 bucks to solve all of your space issues??

Matt Larson

DVD Studio Pro doesn’t even support Blu Ray. You can “send” a movie to a Blu Ray using Compressor, but you can’t author it in any way.

Blu Ray shouldn’t feel too bad though, Jobs hates all physical media: DVD Studio Pro itself hasn’t seen any updates since January 2006

Jack Bauer

i was just talking with my father about this. my teenage sons haven’t bought a physical CD or DVD is years. in 5 yrs or so, nothing will be physical. and if it is, it will be a 50GB SD-like micro card. no one wants to walk around with external drives, cd’s or dvd’s. it’s almost 2011, tell me the last time you saw a 20 year old at a red box machine? they deal with the lack of digital HD for the trade-off of being able to view it anywhere they happen to be or on whatever device. they watch the same movies on their iphones, ipads and laptops. they could care less about 1080p or i and they are the ones that will drive the next technology shift, like the floppy, say goodbye to all physical CD or DVD’s…..say hello to the personal cloud.

Ed

I have well over 500GB of photos, representing more years of my life than I like to remember. All of them would fit on 10 or 15 double sided discs. Asit is they are on dozens of DVD-Rs and present a hell of a storage problem.

If Steve Jobs thinks that I will entrust those files to his mobile me cloud, the cloud that synced my keychains to somewhere in outer space, he is very much mistaken.

Bill Gates might not like Blu-ray But I can buy an internal burner that will run in Windows off the shelf and from what I have heard and read that is very chancy with a Mac.

Dan

ED, Why not buy 4 500 GB Hard drives, they are like $50 each now, throw them in a fire proof save, give the other 3 to people you trust and viola.

And if you need to add more you can get them back and add more, or spring for the 1TB drives for $80. Honestly, HD’s and enclosures have become so cheap I don’t even see the need for optical media anymore. It used to be convenient to be able to burn 4.7 or 9.4 GB of data, but now it just takes way too long. Hard drives have dropped so low in price while their reliability has increased to the point where I just can’t justify burning anything anymore. I just have a 500 GB passport drive that I throw whatever I need to on and I’m done with it. :)

LOL

Viola? So you’re saying that the solution to someone’s problem is a stringed musical instrument?

Please, learn to spell the foreign words you don’t possibly understand.

V-O-I-L-A

Yacko

You can buy an external data burning Blu-Ray solution right now from several dealers including Other World Computing. A recent LG or Pioneer drive and Toast 10 and you will be burning $5 25GB BDs that will mount on the desktop (OS 10.4.11 and up I think?) in no time. Just because Apple didn’t provide a packaged solution doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Scott H

I like the article and the thoughtfulness, but please, can you get an editor? Semicolons, commas, and periods are your friend. It’s very difficult to absorb the content of a piece when there are so many run-on sentences. Thanks.

TY

It, was: such an’ interesting. article that; I failed: to notice; that ,there, may: have ‘been. punctuation, errors’ but out of curiosity? I, went: back and reread, it again: looking for! errors, even going as far, as reading, it out: loud and? try as I: may I: couldn’t: find, anywhere. that. I would have: added anything: although I do, know that. correctly: placed punctuation. and carefully constructed sentences! indeed add? to readability!

Jeffrey L Miller

I don’t as much care if the Mac does not have an internal Blu-Ray player. But now the way it is even if I buy a Blu-Ray player for my Mac Pro I still can’t watch any movies via it. This requires OS support and can’t be added by another program. Blu-Ray might be interim technology but streaming of the same quality is certainly not here yet.

Kevin Ballard

There’s something that is very rarely said and yet seems very important, which is that even if Macs came equipped with Blu-Ray drives, you still cannot use it to distribute your own movies. The licensing terms for Blu-Ray absolutely require using their DRM, which means you have to pay a rather hefty sum to get an encryption key from the consortium in order to simply create your Blu-Ray disc. You are absolutely disallowed from having non-DRM’d Blu-Ray discs. And that alone makes it completely infeasable for use as a personal storage format.

Yacko

Not for data, right? Macs don’t wig-out when Blu-Ray drives are plugged in and Toast 9 & 10 support Blu-Ray data burning. I believe there are also additional cost Toast plugins you can buy to enable movie authoring. I presume Sonic pays some sort of royalty fee so you can buy and use the plugs. Macs are just not equipped to decode and watch Blu-Ray video discs.

Lee

No way! This streaming compressed crap is fine for music, which most of us play in the background while doing something else. But a movie demands my complete attention (at least a good one does) and I’d like to watch that in the highest possible quality.

Alex

It’s funny because you say that now, but I bet you that if I downloaded an HD movie from the iTunes store, and then threw an HD movie into a Blu-Ray player that you would have a very hard time being able to tell the difference between the two. (assuming I didn’t tell you which was which, and that I didn’t put them side by side.) And if it’s that close of a match-up, does it really matter?

Think about it. For the cost of seeing a few artifacts in your video during playback, you gain instant-access to movies, cheaper prices, convenience, a rental model, global sync across all Apple sanctioned devices, portability, and much more. Yet, you are willing to give that all up in the name of resolution and surround sound quality? Really?? And the thing that REALLY gets me, is that most of the people that bitch and moan about this stuff are the same people that would turn around and illegally download a movie online in some crappily encoded format and watch it on a somewhat decent sized computer screen. Oh the hypocrisy!

Unless you are an audiophile, you don’t have the ear drum capacity to differentiate between bit-rates in songs. And most people DON’T CARE.

The same applies to video. Most people don’t have 20/20 vision, nor do they care about how “sharp” the picture is. They just want access to the content.

Any guy that has a girlfriend can attest to how much this kind of stuff DOESN’T matter to (most)women (or the general consumer population) It only matters to hardcore geeks that read tech blogs all day long and have nothing better to do then incite inane debates or play Devil’s Advocate for something they probably barely care about.

In the future, when insanely high bandwidth is commonplace, we can add the intricacies of Blu-Ray movies that the streaming model has removed due to limitations. But we have to lay the ground work for it now. We can’t just flip a switch in the future, and just expect everyone to adopt an online streaming model overnight. You have to slowly build it from the ground up.

Listen, it may not make many people happy as it stands now, but you have to start somewhere! Trust me, you are going to see lots of people walking around with their feet in their mouth in 2015…

Adam Jackson

Alex, your comparison was PERFECT. I don’t believe there’s a difference between men and women but most men obsess over such things as tech specs and details and every girl I’ve ever tried to “impress” with Apple Lossless Audio piped over my Shure SHR840 earphones or 40GB Blu-Ray rip on my 30″ Dell LCD has just said, “meh” and would rather sit on the couch and was more impressed that the movie was available instantly via Apple TV direct to the television for $4.99 in HD than the fact that the blu-ray version had 15% less artifacts.

Great comparison and no I’m not saying women or men are better or worse….but the girlfriend comparison as being general population is correct.

Rory

What about the principle of often paying as much for a lower quality version on iTunes as you would for a DVD or even blu-ray copy? This may not be the case so much in the US but the UK iTunes store gouges like hell on video pricing.

Here’s another merry scenario for you though – your girlfriend really likes the movie you watched and think’s her sister would like it too, so she asks to borrow it and you then get to explain to her that she can’t because of something called DRM make’s that impossible.

There are plenty of times when convenience in one regard is an inconvenience in another.

Yacko

“But a movie demands my complete attention (at least a good one does) and I’d like to watch that in the highest possible quality.”

I haven’t watched a movie beginning to end since I don’t know when. I catch a piecemeal half hour to an hour at a time, sometimes just a few minutes. Attention span fragmentation is the future. It has affected many activities up to now and will even hit what was considered single activity entertainment. It is far more important to me to be able to see the video on a choice of several devices than have a good quality version tied to a physical disc. If you have the ability to set aside and kill a couple of hours or more without interruption, more power to you. The average person is heading the opposite direction.

KsbjA

As far as I know, the main problem is that Apple isn’t licensed to use Blu-ray because they refuse to add DRM junk to their products.

Hexagon

I agree with bluray being transitional, even though I have a player. The reality is that most of the movies and shows I watch these days are streamed in HD from Netflix to my XBOX 360.

I watch maybe 4 movies a month on my PS3, the rest of the time it is unused.

tiny

I agree with you that an optical drive isn’t a must! But I really think that Steve Jobs should start to realize that not everywhere in the world people are able to open itunes and download and buy movies to their mac!!! Here in Austria we can’t buy movies in itunes! That’s so annyoing! I only say “oh here is the ipad it’s so super awesome, revolutionary and magical just open itunes on it and download movies and surf the web” that’s a real joke! They really should start to make the content available in every itunes store arround the world before telling that blue-ray or something like that is the past…

PC

My understanding is that the availability problems you describe are mainly due to the music and video companies, and the countries controls over content, and not just Apple blocking countries.

Mike O

My gripe is that what Steve is peddling (highly compressed 480p and 720p video and compressed audio) is accepted as “good enough”.

I’m sorry, but a 448k Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and highly compressed 720p video doesn’t come anywhere close to the high bitrate 1080p video and loseless audio that comes on Blu-ray.

Further, it will be many years before there is enough bandwidth to stream this sort of quality in near realtime.

The reason Steve doesn’t want to support Blu-ray is because it means less money for Apple and the iTunes Store.

I, for one, will stick with Blu-ray, especially when you consider how many titles come with a version that’s compatible with iPod, iPad, and AppleTV at no extra cost.

Josh Pigford

But really, what Steve is peddling here is in fact good enough for the large majority…which is who they’re after.

iTunes doesn’t offer lossless files for music downloads, because the large majority of customers don’t care. So why would Apple start offering movies in a lossless format when, again, the majority don’t care?

Offering more download options (SD, HD, Lossless, etc etc) is bad from a usability stand point and Apple doesn’t really stand to gain anything from it.

Of course Steve won’t support Blu-ray if it’s a bad business move (financially or otherwise)…why would you expect anything less?

DrWho

Actually it is good enough for most people who aren’t obsessed with or even aware of things like bitrates.

Adam Jackson

Mike. I do completely agree. It’s a reason why I own a Blu-Ray player for my TV and iMac where I rip movies I buy and encode them in h.264 in 1080P direct from the Blu-Ray disk (legally) in an effort to get better quality than what Apple provides

However, as Josh and others will say, it’s not a big deal to consumers. Star Trek in 720P via iTunes is good enough compared to what you and I demand. There’s a reason I use $600 headphones and encode all of my music direct from CD in FLAC or Lossless but for most people, 256kbps via iTunes Plus is perfect for the apple included headphones.

There will always be us 5% people who demand better quality but most of the world doesn’t care or just doesn’t see the difference and Steve is providing a product that’s perfect for “the rest of us”

Alex Bowles

@Mike,

There’s a reason most people think H.264 at 8-10Mbps 720p is A-OK; it’s way better than old-school NTSC TV.

As it turns out, there’s a sweet spot between file quality, file size, and the price or processors that can handle HD seamlessly. These specs mesh with it perfectly. Apple could give away BluRay with everything, and it wouldn’t change a thing at this stage.

Back in 2003/4, things were very different. Video-grade streaming services were non-existent, computers that could play smooth HD were inevitably top-of-the line, and if you wanted to rip a movie, you really had to know what you were doing. That was the weakest and most vulnerable point in the evolution of what Jobs and Gates described above.

Had Sony followed the computer industry’s cue by offering much more for much less year after year, they wouldn’t have treated BluRay like a premium product. Instead, they would have flooded the market with cheap players, and made BluRay less expensive than standard DVD. They would have encouraged studios to migrate away from MPEG-2 encoding very rapidly, opting for MPEG-4 at bit-rates in the 50Mbps range.

Audiences would be amazed. At the same time, studios would be creating massive, hard-to process files that would swiftly fill up or choke any drive arrays or internet connections used by prospective pirates. Instead of obsessing over DRM, they’d just make it impossibly large to handle with anything besides BluRay, then focus on redefining the public standard of ‘great’ as widely and rapidly as possible.

Sure, some people could do the grunt work of aggressively down converting and reposting, but why would anyone care? Cheap movies, cheaper players, and absolutely mind blowing images with no remotely close alternatives at any price would keep this safely marginalized. Seriously, Mike, you know better than most that the real magic of super-high bit rates isn’t simply in resolution or detail, it’s in Vermeer-grade color and a genuine sense of depth. You’re not just improving quality, you’re practically adding another dimension. Spend 2-3 competition-free years cementing your base by selling that for $10-14 alongside decent players for $200-300, and by this time today, your competitive position would be unassailable.

Within one Holiday season – two at the most – the format would have be everywhere. Movie theaters would be tripping over themselves to upgrade their projectors and screens in a desperate bid for relevance – especially when cheap credit and home-improvement loans were still fast and easy, making the decision to ‘invest’ in a home theater absurdly easy. Just like that, home entertainment’s technical foundation would be set for years to come.

Best of all, this amazingly shrewd pre-emptive strike would appear to the public like a giant and totally unexpected gift. All the buzz would be about how good and clever the movie studios were, and how – unlike those stupid, vicious record labels – Hollywood was going to respond to the 21st Century by doing what it did best; straight-up giving the people want they wanted, and doing so with a billion-watt smile, must-have technology, and a can’t-say-no price. Coming across as true American heroes would do far more to cultivate social pressure against pirating movies than those ridiculous “you wouldn’t steal a car ads” ever did.

Sure, a smart launch would probably include some light DRM to help preserve regional markets, but without a massive installed base of legacy players to create conflicts – and more importantly, no more convenient format for consumers to prefer, who would care? Allowing people to make personal copies on their BluRay equipped PCs (instead of requiring DRM so brutal that BluRay PCs would inevitably break), would mean that Jobs and Gates wouldn’t have rejected the format so completely. Not only could this have solidified the format’s grasp, it could have extended its reach to the X-Box, and non PS3 market for games.

Meanwhile, the Netflix / Hulu streaming model would have been sidelined until 2014 at the earliest. And that’s assuming Comcast starts sucking a lot less, and fast. Unlike mp3, which offered 90% of CD’s quality and 1,000% more convenience, streaming 720p would have had a vastly steeper hill to climb before hitting the freshly redefined ‘good enough’ point at which convenience becomes decisive – especially since convenience matters far less with video formats. Here, mobile playback is an relative anomaly, and BluRay-equipped laptops could dominate the one space where it does seem to matter.

Yes, the vastly less lucrative streaming models would eventually compete, but not before the studios had had enjoyed a solid decade to get their houses in order, while advertisers, networks, music producers and video games did the heavy work of pioneering the new media landscape.

Instead, they spent billions they may never recover on R&D, ‘launched’ this format-to-end-all-formats with a ridiculously expensive, market destroying war, squandered the next two (totally critical) years by keeping their market anemic with transparently inflated ‘premium’ prices, hand-delivering their most dangerous competitors the pivotal 24-36 months needed to grow from vulnerable to formidable.

Yes, the format is enjoying a measure of currency today, but its miles from breaking even, and its window of opportunity for achieving license-to-print-money-dominance is entirely dead and gone. Instead, studios are trying to spike an eroding home entertainment market with rush-job 3D. Sure, they’re delivering higher theatrical grosses than ever, but this is small consolation for having shot themselves in both feet of their single most lucrative channel.

Then again, given the extraordinary lack of market-savvy their choices revealed, it’s fair to say they earned their failure. Still, it’s amazing to think how truly completely they managed to screw up the last sure thing. I suppose it just goes to show that not every story in Hollywood has a happy ending.

Ted

Peddling isn’t the correct word, he had no choice because bandwidth wasn’t high enough until recently, plus the hardware simply couldn’t support it.

720p is excellent and plenty for 95% of viewers, so while i understand your concern, 1080p is coming, blu-ray is dying, so be patient.

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