Tag Archives | Blu-Ray

No Blu-ray or DVD Playback for Wii U

Last week, I wrote a list of unanswered questions about Nintendo’s Wii U, the upcoming home game console revealed at E3. But I neglected to ask one biggie: Will the Wii U be a game console or a multimedia device?

The answer is still unknown, but if you’ve got a big collection of DVDs or Blu-ray discs, you won’t be enjoying them on the Wii U. Speaking to investors, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that the new console won’t support movie playback in either format, Kotaku reports. The Wii U will only accept discs in a 25 GB proprietary format.

Nintendo figures that enough people already have DVD or Blu-ray players, so including the capability — and licensing the associated patents — wasn’t worth the extra cost.

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The Blu-Ray Cup is Fifteen Percent Full

Retail research company NPD is out with a new report on Blu-Ray, and among the tidbits in its press release is the fact that 15 percent of consumers surveyed by NPD report having used a Blu-Ray player in the past six months. Analyst Russ Krupnick provides a sound bite in the press release that sounds, well, lukewarm:

While Blu-ray may not be the replacement for DVD that many once hoped for, it is certainly adding strength to the physical video-disc market. This added stability is helping to extend the life of discs, even as digital options gain in popularity.

So is 15 percent penetration good, bad, or indifferent? Well, Blu-Ray was launched in June of 2006, so it’s now a half-decade old. By way of (imprecise) comparison, DVD turned five in 2002–and that year, the CEA reported that DVD players were in 35 percent of U.S. households that year. Sounds like Blu-Ray is off to a far more sluggish start than its predecessor.

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Blu-ray’s New Format War: The Old School DVD

Win the battle, lose the war. The saying might as well apply to Sony’s Blu-ray high definition disc format (I’ve used it before on this topic), which continues to struggle for relevancy. Even with player prices now as low as $70 through Walmart, consumers are still taking their good old time in adopting the format.

Strategy Analytics researcher Peter King told Foxnews.com that even through Sony won the format war against Toshiba and HD DVD more than three years ago, only now has the format been able to equally split the 20 million disc players sold evenly with standard DVD.

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So Help Me, I'm a Blu-ray Player Owner

Back in October of 2009, I wrote that I found Blu-ray boring and that I hoped to avoid it by segueing directly from DVD to a 100% digital approach to home video that didn’t involve shiny discs. The post sparked a lively debate, with some commenters seeing my point and others defending Blu-ray.

So I feel obligated to provide an update: As of yesterday evening, there’s a Blu-ray player in my living room.

To be precise, it’s a PlayStation 3. Rather than buying a box with the principal purpose of watching Blu-ray movies–although I’ll admit I’d recently flirted with that idea–I bought the PS3 because it’s a significant piece of general-purpose consumer electronics. I figured I needed ready access to it so I could write about it…just as I own a Windows PC, a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone, and various other major platforms.

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Samsung is Really Serious About 3D TV

With the vast bulk of the still very emerging 3D TV market in its veritable hands, Samsung plans to place 3D TVs in more people’s living rooms by bringing out more entertainment content and less costly equipment. At an event this week in New York City, the consumer electronics maker did just that.

Many who got the mysteriously worded invitation expected to see the rollout of Samsung’s rumored tablet. Samsung instead presented the world’s first portable Blu-ray player with 3D output, a gadget that looks a lot like a netbook except for the DVD slot on the right-hand side.

Samsung also rolled out three new plasma 3D TVs–including a 50-inch entry in the Plasma C490 Series, the first 3DTV from Samsung in the $1,100 bracket–along with an LED 3D TV, a far pricier 65-inch model in the LED C8000 Series which goes for around $6,000.

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Blu-ray’s Last Chance to Shine

I think Sony’s finally gotten the picture: either drop your prices, or forget about Blu-ray ever catching on. Data from NPD is showing that player sales in 2009 stand to increase 54 percent over last year, thanks in part to an effort to bring player costs down to near the $100 price point ($79 at Walmart Black Friday) for the holiday shopping season. Consumers now can reliably find a player for under $200, something that was somewhat difficult this time last year.

Player costs have dropped at about the same rate as DVDs did, falling from a high of $800 at launch in 2006 to an average cost of $221 on Black Friday according to research firm Envisioneering Group. Chief among the reasons for the drop appear to be a marked drop in component costs, allowing prices to fall.

However, the deep discounts on Black Friday seem to be significantly more than what happened with DVDs, and probably has a lot to do with a realization that time is running out for Blu-ray.

Let’s face it: the format probably has one more Christmas season — two at most — before streaming media becomes a serious competitor in delivering high-definition to the home. Already, companies are moving along with their plans (take Apple’s rumored television service for example), and I feel I can say with some confidence that by Christmas 2011 there is going to be quite a solid fooprint for ultra-fast broadband, i.e. fiber optic to the home and the like.

Streaming HD is the next logical big thing — the overhead costs are far lower than producing discs and the players that play them: all that is missing is the capable broadband connection. It’s coming, however, and should be here sooner than we think. The window is closing for Blu-ray and its closing fast. It may have won the battle against HD DVD, but in all likelihood its going to lose the war.

One positive that may keep Blu-ray around longer? Internet integration. Most of the players coming out these days offer more and more net-enabled functionality, such as the ability to use Netflix and so forth. This is essential as the shift to streaming media continues. But it may already be too late, and the format’s fate sealed. Whether or not this was Sony’s fault is something that will certainly be debated in the years to come.


Sony Getting the Antitrust Eye Over Optical Drives

sonylogoIt’s not quite clear why it is happening, but Sony disclosed Monday that its Optiarc division in the US is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible antitrust violations. Sony Optiarc is one of the larger manufacturers of optical drives, including DVD and Blu-ray.

The DOJ is not the only government agency worldwide looking into Sony’s practices: other countries are apparently also requesting information as part of a wider investigation into the industry. It is unknown whether any other companies may have received requests for information.

An educated guess would lead to the investigation centering around price-fixing. While it’s not known, Blu-ray prices have remained high even though the technology has now been commercially available for over three years, and its competitor HD DVD has been gone for nearly two-thirds of that time.

Then again, it could have nothing to do with Blu-ray. Fact is we just don’t know much at this point. More on this as we get it…

(Hat tip: IDG)

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Blu-ray as an Xbox 360 Accessory, Says Ballmer. Wait, What?

xbox_hd_dvd_bigIs Microsoft planning a standalone Blu-ray player to go with the Xbox 360? It would appear that way from a quote Gizmodo dug out from its interview with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Asked whether Microsoft will add a Blu-ray player to the Xbox 360, Ballmer said “Well I don’t know if we need to put Blu-ray in there—you’ll be able to get Blu-ray drives as accessories.”

On follow-up with Microsoft PR, Gizmodo got the same line that we’ve already heard from Microsoft, that its current plan is to support streaming video and on-demand movies from the Zune Marketplace. “As far as our future plans are concerned, we’re not ready to comment,” the handlers said.

A couple things to consider: First, if you watch the interview, Ballmer’s remarks aren’t as clear as they appear in quotes. It seems as if he’s throwing out the Blu-ray comment off-hand, not announcing a new product, and Ballmer is pretty guarded in the rest of the interview. Second, Ballmer has slipped up before. In June, he spoke of a new Xbox 360 model in 2010, leading to speculation that the Project Natal motion sensor would launch with a redesigned Xbox 360, and forcing a flurry of carefully-worded denials from Microsoft that any new console was on the way.

I would guess that Ballmer was merely talking about owning any old Blu-ray player on the side, but the wording of Microsoft PR is intriguing, because it’s not a firm denial. Maybe the company’s keeping its options open.

That said, I don’t think the Xbox 360 needs a Blu-ray player, especially an external one. Sure, it could allow you to launch movies from the console dashboard and sign into Xbox Live while watching a film, but those benefits seem negligible to me. Besides, Microsoft already bet on HD-DVD with an external player (pictured above), and it failed. If the Xbox 360 is supposed to live until 2015, as executives assert, Microsoft should stick with online video instead of saddling consumers with another technology that will ultimately be overshadowed.


Blu-Ray: Still No Big Whoop

Blu-RayWill Apple release Blu-Ray-equipped iMacs for the holidays? Maybe–and it probably makes sense, since it’s been a while since iMacs got meaningful new features other than ongoing refinement of their industrial design. But to abuse a famous Steve Jobs quote, Blu-Ray still feels like a bag of boring to me. It’s one of the few high-profile examples of gadgetry I have no impulse to invest in.

Here’s why:

It’s not truly part of the digital world. These days, I’m less interested in getting better image quality, and more interested in doing stuff with content–sending it via wireless networking to multiple screens in my house, sticking it on my iPhone, storing it in the cloud. Blu-Ray doesn’t help with any of that. In fact, it’s designed specifically to prevent me from doing it.

The content isn’t there. At least not for me. I admit that I’m not representative of the Average American Consumer here, but I’ll never buy any blockbuster movie on Blu-Ray. I like obscure animation and box sets that aren’t going to sell by the million. For now, they come out on DVD, not Blu-Ray. That’ll change. Eventually. Probably. But if I bought a Blu-Ray player today, I’d mostly use it to watch DVDs.

It’s a stopgap. Like the 2.88MB floppy disk, Blu-Ray is ultimately an impressive (and pricey) improvement on a technology that’s going to go away. By 2012, it’s going to look almost as retro as VHS. Okay, it might take a year or two more than that. But no more.

I’m not saying that Blu-Ray will never show up in my living room or inside a computer I own. (Hey, I was a late adopter of DVD, too.) But I’d say the odds are less than fifty percent that I’ll ever get it–at least as a conscious decision which I’m excited about. (The day will presumably come when all computers that sport optical drives have it.)

But enough about me: