October 7, 2008
I picked up my copy of the October Wired magazine and felt it was a little stiffer than usual. Sure enough, there was a Blu-ray disc sealed inside the magazine’s pages (page 123, to be exact).
I’m a fan of Blu-ray. Forrester actually called the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD battle as early as 2005 (I can’t take credit for it, my colleagues Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler were on the task back then).
But I’m also acutely aware of what a tough job Blu-ray has ahead of it. Not competing with digital, not even competing with VOD, but just competing with DVD (see my report from earlier in the year for more detail). DVD rocks. It’s easy to use. It’s ubiquitous. It’s cheap (follow this link to Walmart.com to see that at the time of this post, there were 14 DVD players under $50).
So when I saw this Sony promotion of the format I admired their gumption. The promotion itself actually focuses on Coma, an original Web series with some big budget names on Crackle.com. (By the way, this triggered me to see how Crackle has been faring lately, the answer: surprisingly well. Check out this link to see that according to Compete.com, Crackle is now at the same level as Metacafe and Dailymotion in the US.)
Back to the promotion: Make sure you read the fine print on the back of the ad which says “Blu-ray Disc Media/Formats are not universally compatible.” This is the embarrasing part because when I took my sparkling new Blu-ray disc to my Sony Blu-ray player, I got this message (which you probably can’t see because of the lighting, but it says: “Cannot Play”).
Ouch. More evidence that the format needs some time to work the kinks out.
October 2, 2008
VUDU, the movies-on-demand set top box maker, announced early today that it will dramatically increase the quality of its HD content in a bid to attract the people who not only obsess about the difference between 720p and 1080p, but who also understand that not all 1080p is created equal. If you’re one of those people who care, you can read more about why HD content does not always live up to its name at Gizmodo.
But here’s the problem. Most people, and by most, I mean 99% of people, can’t tell the difference between high quality HD video and sub-par HD video.
Many can barely tell the difference between 480 and 720p. Just last night I had dinner with a friend who bought his first plasma screen. He decided to go with a 720p resolution screen because, as he said to me, “I’m not buying Blu-ray any time soon, and I won’t pay extra for HD channels from my cable company. But it looks great with our DVD player.”
His attitude describes most people’s attitudes. People want big screens that look nice. They can’t tell the difference between competing HD standards. It’s what lets people like Apple rent HD movies without anyone complaining, it’s what lets cable companies compress their HD signals to conserve bandwidth without any backlash. Most of us can’t tell. We just like our pretty images to be big and bright.
For the wealthy home theater customer who wants the best of everything (the same market Pioneer targets), VUDU is doing the right thing. There’s enough people there to make some money, so I wish them well. But the larger issue will haunt them and the rest of the market as we continue to see more and more so-so quality content passed off as HD.