Blog Post

Will Apple Ever Support Blu-ray?

Apple Blu-ray Disc

With the latest version of Final Cut Studio hot off the shelves, many are scratching their heads over what Apple’s (s aapl) take on the future of DVDs actually may be. DVD Studio Pro hasn’t received a major update since the 4.0 release at NAB 2005, and iDVD hasn’t been updated since 2007, so is the DVD dead?

Well, that conversation has come up plenty of times before, and it always seems like the pundits are waiting for the next version of Final Cut Studio or iLife before voicing their thoughts on whether DVD production is seeing its curtain call.

Many insist that optical discs are dying on the Mac. The supporting arguments are there. The Apple TV features no optical drive, and neither does the MacBook Air. Apple has referred to Blu-ray as “a bag of hurt” and hasn’t made any obvious plans to endorse the standard any further. The only mention of “next generation” technologies is some support for HD-DVDs in DVD Studio Pro (been there for ages) and limited Blu-ray support in the latest version of Compressor.

What a lot of people fail to realize when considering why Apple hasn’t made a huge foray into the Blu-ray world, is just how different Blu-rays are from DVDs (in terms of functionality). DVD Studio Pro aims to allow professionals to create DVDs with all the great features that DVDs offer (menus, subtitles, multiple angles, multiple audio tracks, etc.). When you consider the advantages that Blu-ray brings to the table, such as support for Internet-enabled content, seamless branching, access to local storage, and so on, it’s clear that a minor update to a software title isn’t really going to break new ground in this area. Designing a tool to author these takes time. The current competition, Adobe Encore, is a great tool, but still can’t take advantage of some of the more advanced Java-related Blu-ray features. Apple needs to at least meet the current feature set of Encore to stay competitive. The company has already invested a lot of time, energy and money into the video industry with its growth of Final Cut Studio.

To say Apple is forgoing on optical media altogether would be to say it’s slowly, but surely, bowing out of the video market altogether — and nobody in their right mind would believe that is the case.

Regarding hardware, Apple realizes that most people already have some type of optical disc player in their living room, so why should an Apple TV include one? They serve different functions, just like an Apple TV isn’t going to replace your cable box or satellite receiver. (DVR on the other hand? Well, not yet anyway.) Sure, it would be nice for an Apple TV to include a Blu-ray drive, but if Apple had already included it when it first started shipping these a few years ago, it would be facing an even larger uphill battle for adoption (a la Sony and its Playstation 3).

And the MacBook Air? I’m seriously amazed at those who see a lack of optical drive in these portables as an indication that Apple is ditching the format altogether. Apple wanted to make a statement with the slimness of the portable, and it felt users of this product did not use optical discs on a regular basis. It was a smart trade-off, but hardly an indication that optical drives will start disappearing from other Macs.

If we’ve learned anything, it’s to not listen to Apple when it “writes off” technologies in its shareholder meetings. Though the company has referred to Blu-ray as a “bag of hurt” in the past, it sits on the Board of Directors of the Blu-ray Disc Association. Apple is a huge proponent of high definition (who wouldn’t be at this point?) and, as such, it realizes that more and more people are shooting in HD and need a way to present that. We’ve discussed before the limitations of the iPod and iPhone platforms as they do not support HD content, and even the Apple TV is limited in this regard. What other solution is there? YouTube? While that’s a great start, Apple is totally aware that people still prefer to have something a bit more portable and higher quality than YouTube.

My personal opinion is that Apple is working on developing Blu-ray authoring solutions (as well as inclusion of Blu-ray drives as the price continues to come down). We’ve seen a small taste of this support in the latest version of Compressor; hints of Blu-ray support in the latest version of iTunes; and I think as time goes on, we will see more support in other apps as well. In the meantime, DVD Studio Pro and iDVD will likely stay right where they are at. It’s easy to develop new themes for these apps, but why split your resources if you’re focusing on some whizz-bang, new app for Blu-ray authoring? In their current states, these applications are quite maxed out for now.

40 Responses to “Will Apple Ever Support Blu-ray?”

  1. Tejaswi

    I been using Final cut pro from couple of years as i been longly associated in Commercials. Currently planning to buy new corei7 Macbook pro 17″ but as there hasn’t been any updates in hardware like Blu-Ray,e-sata & USB 3.0.So, that’s the reason i’m stuck for buying the new Macbook Pro.

  2. As far as Apple not including blu-ray in their MacBooks and MacBook pros… that I can understand. Watching a movie (regular DVD) on a MacBook already eats up your MacBook’s battery, so just imagine how quickly your battery would be drained after playing a blu-ray DVD. You have two options: [1] sit with your white-hot MacBook on your lap while watching a blu-ray DVD, then recharge the battery, or [2] plug in the MacBook, and make it a desktop computer.

    ^^ Meanwhile, all the 2009 and 2010-model desktops are more than fast enough to play blu-ray, and they have ample room for a built-to-order blu-ray. Why make a Mac Pro and cinema display and not have blu-ray even there?

    I’m with you folks. I’m likely to hold onto my precious 2004-model iMac until one comes out with blu-ray.

  3. I was all set to but my first Macbook until I found out they don’t support blu-ray. I asked the smug salesperson at the “genius” bar why not and her reply was: “it is still untested technology.” Huh?

    I won’t be purchasing a Macbook that’s for sure. Apple has made a huge mistake in my opinion.

  4. There are BD drive options out there for the mac world and have been for a while now. Internal & external drives for both the Desktops & laptops are available. I’ve been told that VLC will achieve playback although I’m not totally sure about it. I know toast is able to play HD files, but I haven’t tried the disc from an external burner.

    Jobs has been pushing for a discless society for sometime now & just keeps hanging on to that idea/goal. I think he’ll have to come around to at least adding internal drives to all the comps.

    I’ve authored and burned a simple bluray on both my MacPro & MBP using an external burner & it worked just fine. I do want full support from apple though and hope that it comes soon.

  5. Apple really burns me with their claims of “we support all the cutting edge technologies” yet my Macbook Pro doesn’t support Bluray and doesn’t support the use of SSDs natively. Come on Apple, you’re being left behind.

  6. A very well reasoned article. Apple really need to get their act together on Blu Ray now that HD-DVD is a redundant technology. The fact that they haven’t even incorporated Blu Ray playback into Snow Leopard, in the face of it steadily taking the place previously held by DVD in the household, is derisible in my opinion, particularly in light of the fact the fact of their input into Blu Ray at board level.

  7. I am furious at Apple for not supporting Blu Ray . I have a high end HD Camcorder & I am tired of family & friends asking me for the hd footage & I can’t give it to them. I have bought 3 Macs in the past & now I am forced to go buy a PC. I can’t even stream to an Apple TV in 1080p. I have waited for years.

  8. I was going to buy the iMac i7 until I realized Blu-Ray was not supported. And although I’m a video editor who works on a Mac every day, I will not buy another Mac until Blu-Ray is supported.
    Apple needs to take a stance on this soon, they are alienating their Final Cut editors who have been a big share of their customer base traditionally. We want to be able to work in HD like we have worked in SD, ie with seamless integration across the board: capturing, editing and burning.
    Apple risk giving the impression that they are more interested in gimmicks like phones and tablets, rather than providing practical work tools.

  9. I have owned PCs since my last Apple IIe, in the 80’s… As I was looking for an upgrade to an Intel i7 core (PC) for HD Video Editing, I came accross this new iMac and started to love it thanks to the various threads and reviews I read…. The only issue is clearly the Blu-Ray support…. it seems like a no-brainer to have this feature on any HD-capable machine, but for Apple, it seems that the marketing is winning the day, and they probably reserve the Blu-Ray capability to the next OS/iMac version so they can sell as many existing OS/iMac as possible and garantee upgrades to the next generations as well… It’s market share loss today to gain future growth, nice concept there.

    My question is this: Can we still plug a Blu-Ray in the Firewire and burn a BD disc with Nero (for example) under the PC-mode (Bootcamp)?

  10. Judging what I have used on bluray. I have used the data side 16 months pretty decent but slow. Just now are the bluray players and movies hitting the magic price points. $100 players or less and 19.99 for discs. The form factors on the blurays are just now getting the size Apple needs.

    I think judging by Apple’s history they will come to it late with a polished implementation. For now I do my HD video all on Mac use Toast (not the greatest no iDVD I would say) and write the iso to pora drive and burn on my linux box. I do this with DVD anyway so no biggie.

    But I would say to Apple don’t wait forever on this one.

  11. I am a heavy Mac user and a HiDef lover. It pains me that I cannot watch my BluRays on my home office computer. I run two 30″ screens and often play a dvd on one screen while working. I will not download movies for the same reason I don’t use iTunes to buy music… I don’t want to be tied to one file format. At least not as long as it is compressed to be ‘downloadable’.

    I am not upgrading any part of my computer system until Apple adds BluRay support. Get on with it!

    Tempted by Windows 7 now I have to say.


  12. Apple needs to get its HD act together.
    When daddy shoots junior with his full HD camcorder and goes to his historically video friendly mac to edit his video he finds himself at a crossroads. Burn his content onto antiquated DVD or save the file and cross his fingers that Apple will get Blu-ray or develop media-free a way to share his HD content.
    Grandma wants to see junior and the family vacation without having to deal with DRM or going to YouTube. Maybe I will have to head over to Dell, and pick up a PC with a Blu-ray burner. I have been on the Mac train for a long time but the HD conundrum is making me consider greener (high def) pastures.

  13. > Regarding hardware, Apple realizes that most people already have some type of optical disc player in their living room, so why should an Apple TV include one? They serve different functions, just like an Apple TV isn’t going to replace your cable box or satellite receiver.

    Terrible justification. Their goal should be a convergence device. If someone already has a Blu-ray player, make them want to get rid of it by providing a better, more robust experience in a single device. People want fewer devices with more functionality, which is part of the reason the iPhone is so successful — it’s certainly not the phone part that is so appealing (especially with AT&T). And Blu-ray adoption is still fairly low, anyway.

  14. For work I use both a Mac and a PC and am comfortable with both. However, I have a canon HF100 and shoot everything in HD with AVCHD. These files play great on my PS3 which I only use as a media player. I’ve been holding off for 1 year on upgrading my machine waiting for Apple to produce any Mac with Bluray burning support and unfortunately I can wait any longer. My two WD terabyte drives are full and I need to start saving my files to BD-R media. So tonight before buying a Sony I did one last check on the web to see if and when Apple will support Bluray. This article answered my question. As much as it pains me, Apple just lost market share with me. I’m purchasing a Sony VGN-FW590, Intel® Coreâ„¢ 2 Duo Processor T9600 (2.80GHz), Genuine Microsoft® Windows® 7 Professional, Chocolate Brown, 500GB SATA Hard Disk Drive (7200rpm), 8GB (4GBx2) DDR2-SDRAM-800, 16.4″ VAIO extra-wide HD display (1920×1080), ATI Mobility Radeonâ„¢ HD 4650 graphics with 1GB dedicated video RAM, Blu-ray Discâ„¢ playback/burning.

  15. I am very surprised since the latest round of iMac systems all have 1920×1080 screen resolutions, that they still haven’t implemented Blu-Ray into their systems.

    Guess I am still waiting, and I was really looking forward to getting an iMac again. It worked so nicely with my TV.

    Oh well. Maybe next round?

  16. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t get that anyone interested in hi end video quality no longer buys dvds and therefore will no longer be able to watch any blu ray content on any of their apple computers without paying out more for digital downloads from itunes (not happening)

    Therefore, those of us will just continue to sit on the the sidelines until Apple admits its losing marketshare, in not only hi end users, but common people buying blu ray as well who want to enjoy content on their computers, by finally including blu ray options in their products

    Until then, they are just leaving money on the table

    • I could not agree more. Wow the new iMac has 2560 x 1440 screen resolution. Hey, lets watch a movie on it! I have the new UP Blu-ray….ohh… it does’t support it. I guess we will have to buy the movie AGAIN on iTunes HD for $20 or watch it in on a 704×480 DVD.
      Waaan waaa waaaahh waaa.

  17. It will take some time for Apple to embrace Blu-ray technology until it is much popular in the world. I dont think they will experiment for alteast 2 to 3 years until Blu-ray makes its ground.

  18. > The only bag of “hurt” that Apple had with Blu-Ray was the one on their wallets to get the Blu-Ray burner into their laptops

    I think Apple also refered to the quasi impossibility to implement the Blu-Ray protections without seriously damaging the operating system stability and performance. Microsoft has done those sacrifices on Vista with the sucess we know (both in term of OS performance and in term of the media still being crackable).

    > There is no Blu-ray drive in production that will fit in a Mac.

    I believe that if Apple asks nicely to some vendors to start making a Blu-Ray drive with appropriate specs for inclusion in Macs, those vendors will start doing it.

    > I really don’t believe blu-ray will become as common as dvd.

    I Paris, France, the Blu-Ray sections of video retailers has already managed to eat 10% of shelf space over DVD… and the trend will get even more visible for Christmas sales, as decent Blu-Ray players below the $100 price-mark will be available.

  19. I really don’t believe blu-ray will become as common as dvd. Not for watching movies (downloading / streaming them is becoming more common) and neither for sharing your own creations.

    You can store your own video creations on a portable HD or USB stick and watch it by plugging straight into your media system’s usb port or connecting your laptop directly to your tv. Or you can upload HD video to a service like Vimeo.

    Why would the average consumer still want to burn something on a disc?

    • Why? Some of us live in the sticks with poor internet connections. HD video doesn’t work well on country broadband.

      HD video takes up lots of space. What happens when that disk crashes? Do we all need multi-terabyte RAID arrays in our house?

      Flash memory may be stable but it’s too expensive to hold hour and hours of family video in HD quality.

      I need cheep, relatively stable storage that lasts. As soon as 4.6gb USB sticks are only 20 cents, then yes.. that would be a good alternative.

  20. Optical media didn’t pan out… The discs are not robust (as anyone who subscribes to Netflix can attest) and you cannot trust that what you saved on a disc will be there when you get back to retrieving it. As for dives on a laptop, optical drives are gangly and annoying power hogs and unnecessary. Give me a laptop with no moving parts at all, not even a fan!

  21. All Apple products (except the Mac Pro) with optical drives use a 9.5mm-tall slot-load SATA laptop drives. There is no Blu-ray drive in production that will fit in a Mac; most are 12mm-tall and/or tray-load. As others have mentioned, once hardware of the right design and price is available, we’ll probably see it in Apple products. Until then, Blu-ray will remain Windows-exclusive.

  22. Between the movie studios and Microsoft, the bar that Apple needs to clear for ‘permission’ to implement playing BluRay content is crazy. All drivers would need to be signed and verified by Apple to not have any backdoors. New drivers for EVERYTHING (not just things directly part of either the audio or video paths) need to add ‘checks’ that the hardware hasn’t been hacked 30 times a second. The connection between the video chip and the INTERNAL LCD on iMacs and MacBooks needs to be encrypted.

    This isn’t cheap for either Apple, 3rd party developers OR consumers.

    • Almost all computers that have LCD use LVDS for the final connection. Laptops (iMac included since it is a laptop parts) use the same signaling. So Apple doesn’t need to encrypt the signal between the video card and the LCD because no one else does over LVDS. unless they are doing some hacky internal DVI->DVI->LVDS business.

  23. I think Apple is most likely using this as a bargaining chip. I had a friend work for Sony Europe and he had told me that the reason the Apple TV was always shown with a Bravia set was something to do with a contra deal involving Blu-ray

  24. Keep in mind that just last year (2008), Apple was in talks with Sony to put a Blu-Ray writer in their Macbook Pro models:
    This was ultimately dropped as Sony was not going to meet Apple’s price point or the fact that they were not willing to offer Blu-Ray burners to Apple at the time, so I suspect that Apple will be offering Blu-Ray buners on their next round of refresh when Sony finally drops the pricing and offer them to Apple.

    • Errr, we specifically mentioned that in the article:
      “Though the company has referred to Blu-ray as a “bag of hurt” in the past, it sits on the Board of Directors of the Blu-ray Disc Association.”