The battle between the next generation DVD formats, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, rages on.
For the moment, the odds seem to be in favour of Blu-ray, with Warner Bros stealing the limelight with its pre-CES announcement that from May onwards, the studio will only issue discs in the Blu-ray format alongside regular DVDs.
Last year, Paramount decided to go HD-DVD only, but that decision seems not to have had a reverse impact on Blu-ray sales. Still, the real question that needs to be answered is not which format will win the battle of the standards, but rather if consumers really need a follow-up standard for DVDs. Our take on this is that, although HD Ready and Full HD screens are now abundant in homes across the Western world, there seems to be little appetite for these HD discs.
The studios are concerned that DVD sales will dwindle in the next few years and consumers will want a new physical medium to keep their movies and TV series. A problem for the studios might not be a problem for viewers, who during the next few years will get used to downloading movies and TV programmes from the web rather than buy them in a store. For the time being, DVDs will suffice for most consumers. With current price differences between DVD players and the next generation disks players, only early adapters will switch formats. However,prices will now start to fall, with Philips being the first to offer a Blu-ray player for $350, “less than a PS3”. A battle between standards does not help either, especially since most people seem to be content with the current media.
Of course DVD sales will go down, but so have sales of CDs – and in that case listeners also stayed away from super audio discs, but preferred downloads instead. This seems also to be the likely scenario for video. But again, also on this turf there are still problems getting standards sorted out. With music, Apple won the race with its iTunes software and store, setting the de facto standard, at least for the time being.
With video, there will be an even greater need for a simple user interface and a single standard. Apple has not yet achieved this with their Apple TV and neither has Microsoft with their Windows Media Center. Online video also suffers from a number of standards (Windows Media Player, real Player), proprietary solutions (Joost, Babelgum, others) and even dedicated hard ware solutions with set-top boxes or other devices such as Take TV from SanDisk, For the moment, cable operators and IPTV companies will try and introduce on-demand services on their set tops. Their advantage is that they already connect to the TV set and people are used to getting their video content from them.