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

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Apple 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 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, 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. 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)

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