Format Floundering eXtended

The HD video format war was thought to be over. Back in February Toshiba accepted HD DVDs demise and announced it would step aside, allowing Sony’s Blue-ray to be the industry standard. This was thought a momentous victory for Sony, who’s Betamax had been defeated by JVCs VHS in the videotape format war in the 1970s.

The industry predicted that once a format was settled on, sales of HD video players would explode. Unfortunately this did not happen because the increase in price did not match the overall picture enhancement. To the average consumer, the increase in picture quality between a HDMI DVD player and Blue-ray is marginal, but the Blue-ray machines are still double the cost. 

Then the roof caved in this week as Toshiba shot back with its new XD-E500 that utilizes its new eXtended Detail Enhancement (XDE) technology, which upconverts standard DVD to 1080p. Many would suggest this will have no impact on the market because Blue-ray players do the exact same thing as well as allow customers to view true HD videos. I disagree. Instead I think this is the final nail in the coffin for Blue-ray for three reasons:

  1. Price. The Toshiba machine is half the price of a Blue-ray player, making it the lowest cost option for maximizing standard DVD quality.
  2. Confusion. Did you know Blue-ray players also upconvert standard DVDs? It is likely the masses will not and try to extend the life of their DVD libraries until forced to abandon them. The longer the standard DVD player is in a majority of households, the greater the certainty that Blue-ray will be skipped over for reason number three.
  3. Online movie distribution. Netflix, Blockbuster and Amazon all offer movie download and streaming options today. Then of course there is the iTunes behemoth. There is no need for a DVD player when you can obtain movies online and sync them to your TV. The need and desire to own movies in a physical form has past.

As stated by Molly Wood on Buzz Out Loud, Blue-ray is evolutionary, not revolutionary. It is not the next groundbreaking technology, but merely an expensive upgrade. Whether it is video, articles or radio, all media is headed online. Digital distribution is the revolutionary technology and it is right around the corner.

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