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Reports: Apple Skipping Blu-ray, Heading Straight for Streaming

Apple (s AAPL) could skip Blu-ray discs altogether and head straight to streaming video online, if we believe two reports that have popped up over the past few days. Considering Apple’s history of picking winning technologies, that could signal bad news for Blu-ray.

An email exchange between a MacRumors reader and Steve Jobs could indicate that the consumer electronics manufacturer probably won’t be adding Blu-ray disc players to its computing products anytime soon. Likening the Blu-ray format to “high end audio formats that appeared as the successor to the CD” — here’s looking at you, Sony (s SNE) MiniDisc! — Jobs suggested that Blu-ray may soon find itself beaten by “Internet downloadable formats.” Later in the exchange, Jobs wrote that “we may see a fast broad move to streamed free and rental content at sufficient quality (at least 720p) to win almost everyone over.”

Which brings us to the next story: According to a report in Boy Genius Report, Apple iTunes will give users the ability to stream audio and video files directly from Apple’s servers to their computers or other iTunes-related devices, such as the iPhone and iPad. The new service would also enable users to stream files directly from their computers to other mobile devices.

While many other services, such as Pandora and Netflix (s NFLX), have moved to streaming transfer of media, iTunes has historically offered downloadable music and video files. One of the main reasons for that is Apple’s ability to ensure high-quality video and audio consumption without interruption — with the caveat that the user has to wait for a file download to complete before opening a file. That was fine when iTunes downloads began and broadband connections (for the most part) weren’t robust enough to support high-quality streaming. But now it’s 2010, and most consumers have come to enjoy — and even expect — the convenience of being able to watch or listen to content immediately, without having to wait for a file download to finish.

The movement to streaming versus downloading signals a big shift for Apple, but the strategic importance of skipping Blu-ray altogether is even more significant. Apple historically has eschewed aging technologies or bet against those it didn’t see taking off. That includes the company’s focus on putting optical drives into its computers, as opposed to floppies, and, more recently, backing HTML5 over Adobe Flash (s ADBE). That Apple is looking to the future with streaming delivery, as opposed to taking advantage of existing video technologies like Blu-ray, could be a bellwether for the optical industry.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: The Case For Removable Media on the iPad (subscription required)

12 Responses to “Reports: Apple Skipping Blu-ray, Heading Straight for Streaming”

  1. Apple has a weird way of picking formats and technologies to back but they do have a good track record. They were the first to drop floppy drives and adopt USB with the original iMac. Maybe now is another one of those times when Apple is being visionary. But it could end up being a bad move. Only time will tell.

  2. Ridiculous! Apple can’t have BluRay because it’s Sony’s format, and Sony is totally fed up with Apple.
    No solution in this industry is permanent! Of course BluRay has a limited lifespan, but the point is that BluRay is now, and Apple is not allowed to have it!
    How much more usable would a Mac Mini be as a media box if it had a BluRay drive?!
    Apple didn’t pass on BluRay. BluRay passed on Apple!
    I would never suggest that BluRay is the answer forever, or that streaming wont take a larger chunk of the market, but did it ever occur to any of you that people might still want certain movies or “ownies” to belong to them?
    Jobs brilliance is always in presentation, like traditional Japenese meals. However, like traditional Japanese meals, there’s never enough to eat.

  3. with music yeah but with movies streaming/downloading is better left to renting, where people who want to actually own it would be far better off with a blu-ray, especially with the special features and all that other stuff, not to mention you won’t ever have to delete anything to make room on your HDD, so yeah, blu-ray is the future for owning movies and games all together but I think DD will dominate renting and music

  4. All fine and dandy but the expectation is for the user to be behind a decent connection, and Jobs states 720p.

    A lot of countries including where I sit Australia are still on copper with general low/fragmented connections. The physical ownership of a blu-ray was one big reason movie lovers (like myself) hooked onto blu-ray – and its 5.1 1080p options.

    The a huge reason Apple is pushing stream content is that it sees it position as a content distributer, its not just a technology based decision (like many of recent). Its about aggressive pushing out of competitors formats (ads in flash, ads from Google) with replacement technologies it owns (ads in Apps, ads from Apple).

  5. This should come as no surprise to anyone following the DVD industry. When Blu-Ray first came out, one of the makers of Blu-Ray even admitted that Blu-Ray wasn’t a permanent replacement for DVD but merely at best a fill-the-gap until download/streaming took off.

    I think a more important question that NewTeeVee should explore is which will become the dominate way to get movies and TV shows off the internet. Download or streaming? I think download is the way since it doesn’t require the user to maintain a constant connection to the internet to view content. You can also store it for later viewing. That and, by using p2p networks, you don’t have the big internet bill that streaming will cost you. In streaming-only favor there is the inability of people to later share what they get over p2p networks, as one streaming pioneers has recently told me about their streaming technology they’re about to roll out.

    Then again, if I were to guess, I would guess … both. A combination of the two. Essentially, you having the option to watch what you’re downloading as you’re downloading it. Not one or the other. Those that want to watch it now can. Those that want to watch it later can. Those that are watching it now but are interrupted for whatever reason (doorbell, phone call, screaming kids, nuclear war, etc.) can stop watching it but let it continue to download so they can pick up where they left off.

  6. Apple has long been very fast to adopt new technology. The fact that they ignored Blue-ray has long suggested that Jobs thinks the future of content is online… least from the computer/media center point of view.