Microsoft, Apple Execs Agree: “Who Needs Blu-ray?”


Visit the house of Microsoft (s MSFT) UK head of gaming and entertainment Stephen McGill, and apparently you won’t see any Blu-rays on his shelves. The exec told the video game blog Xbox360Achievements on Tuesday that he didn’t feel Xbox 360 was being held back by only supporting the DVD format, adding that “Blu-ray is going to be passed by” (hat tip to Thinq). The full quote:

I think people may have spoken about that originally, but that’s long gone. I think people now recognize what a smart decision it was to keep the pricing low, and actually Blu-ray is going to be passed by as a format. People have moved through from DVDs to digital downloads and digital streaming, so we offer full HD 1080p Blu-ray quality streaming instantly, no download, no delay. So, who needs Blu-ray?

In that same interview, McGill points to Xbox Live as being “a phenomenal heart within the Xbox 360” that’s transformed into a service that supports both gaming and broader entertainment. Xbox Live recently announced an exclusive partnership with ESPN to broadcast more than 3,500 live sporting events to Xbox Gold subscribers; with that, and other potential live programming on deck, it’s not hard to imagine a future where an Xbox is a suitable replacement for your cable box.

This attitude not only matches with Apple (s aapl) CEO Steve Jobs’s own thoughts on Blu-ray, but also statements made by Bill Gates in 2005, when he told the Daily Princetonian that “For us it’s not the physical format. Understand that [Blu-ray] is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything’s going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk.”

Bandwidth issues are always a concern with streaming media, and the reliability of a physical disc is hard for the format to match. But when it comes to copy-protection Blu-ray has issues, as recently seen when a firmware update made dozens of Warner Bros. and Universal Blu-rays unplayable.

Picture courtesy of Flickr user schreiblockade.

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eric susch

The problem is that blu-ray isn’t just about watching Hollywood movies. It’s also about computer data storage and consumer HD video. What if you are getting married and hire a guy to shoot your wedding in HD. Wouldn’t you want some sort of physical disc with your final wedding video? I would, and I’d want it in HD because that’s what I paid for. There needs to be some kind of ubiquitous physical consumer HD format. HDV tape is dead so blu-ray is the only real contender at this point.

Also, the margin on both DVD’s and blu-ray discs is A LOT higher than digital downloads for movies. The studios will want to keep that revenue stream going. Digital downloads are superior for movie rentals but blu-ray will stick around for collectors who purchase movies and want to see their collection on the shelf.

Scott Jensen

I recall reading many interviews with electronics industry people at the time that Blu-Ray was being rolled out that it was only a “transition stage” between DVDs and downloads. During a recent high-tech convention, one of the speakers was marketer for a TV maker and, during the Q&A session that followed his rather standard “the future is great” speech, he was asked about Blu-Rays and he called them “a trap for early adopters” since he didn’t think it would ever be the norm as downloads would surge long before “followers” would consider Blu-Ray. He also called Blu-Ray “the video store’s Custer” as in “Custer’s last stand”.

Paul Sweeting

Remember also that the interactive layer of Blu-ray is based on Java (BD-J as it’s known in the business). It was never likely that Microsoft would embrace a format that would require it to support Java. That’s why, while Windows supports drivers for a BD disc drive on PCs, Microsoft left the actual player application to third parties. The players require supporting BD-J. In contrast, the interactive layer on HD DVD (called iHD) was largely Microsoft-derived, which was one reason it supported the “red” format.

Benjamin Schwarz

Well written update of an old debate.
I wonder though if Blu-ray’s lack of success indeed due maintly to it being too little too late in a connected world?
Is there not also a possibility that it hasn’t taken off that much because the demand for HD, although tangible, maybe be a little over-hyped and the real surge still to come?

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