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Is Blu-ray Really Taking Off?

by Sean P. Aune | January 5, 2010January 5, 2010 2:20 pm PDT

When Blu-ray won the format war of HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray, a lot of people thought it would be smooth sailing for the Sony backed format, but is it really gaining the market foothold in our homes that it should?

When DVD was invented in 1995, it was a revolution in the home video market.  While VHS, and Beta back in the day, had brought movies into our homes, they were bulky, not much fun to use and the video degraded over time.  Consumers were already familiar with the wonders of CDs and how they took up so little space, kept their quality and everyone loved jumping to their favorite part of an album without all the fast forwarding and rewinding.  It really wasn’t a huge shock when the same benefits came to home theaters that people were more than willing to embrace it.

With the advent of High Definition television, those formally “crystal clear” DVDs seemed less so since they only pushed 480i resolution, there were almost 600 lines of resolution going unused if you had a 1080p television set, so that is where HD-DVD and Blu-ray came in to play.  Although HD-DVD will now be relegated to a footnote in format history, one has to wonder why Blu-ray is still nothing more than a small percentage of home video sales this past year according to The Wall Street Journal.  (subscription required)

brpricesMany people have stated the price has kept them away from adopting the Blu-ray format, but at least on the hardware side of the equation, prices are tracking right in line with the life cycle of the DVD format.  Actually, when calculating inflation into the process, you see that Blu-ray players have always been cheaper than DVD on a year-by-year breakdown.

The software side of the product seems to be where problems begin to crop up.  DVDs are still significantly cheaper than Blu-ray discs, and with the plethora of devices that will upconvert DVDs to near high definition quality, there has not been a significant reason for people to upgrade their extensive DVD collections they had so lovingly built over the years.  New life has been breathed into their old discs, and the difference between upconverted discs to Blu-ray to someone with an untrained eye is so slight that they don’t see any reason to buy new copies of old favorites.

Super retailer Walmart has told Video Business that Blu-ray will become a significant marketing tool for itself as it has now captured 30% of the market, making it the leading retailer of the format.  The chain is adding ‘Blu-ray Experience Area’ displays to many of its stores through out the early part of the year to educate consumers on how HDTVs and Blu-ray players work together for a better home viewing experience.  However, since most Blu-ray players will upconvert those old DVDs, just because someone buys a player, it doesn’t mean they will buy the software to go along with it.

This isn’t to say that the discs aren’t selling, they are just selling in very specific categories.  Action films such as Transformes: Revenge of the Fallen are selling great because it has a visual appeal, but something like Paul Blart: Mall Cop isn’t something you really need to own in the more expensive format.

The more tech savvy consumers are also well aware of the many digital download and streaming media options at their disposal already, and many more on the horizon.  Will anyone even need to own physical media in five to ten years time when they can just pull up the movie they wish to watch at any time and stream it directly to their television set?  TV sets are beginning to show up with USB ports, Ethernet connections, built-in DivX decoders and so on, so why should anyone clutter up their homes with physical discs?

Blu-ray probably has some life left in it, but the chances of it hitting the market penetration that DVD has enjoyed seem to be dwindling more with each passing day.  If Internet speeds ever increase in the United States to a higher average speed, you may as well kiss Blu-ray good bye.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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