Friday, February 29, 2008

Sorry, David

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I turned on CNBC this morning, and what did I see but a rant (and rant is the only word I can use to describe it) by David Pogue assailing online movies and defending Blu-Ray. (I can't find it on the New York Times site, and Windows Media Player is crashing both IE7 and Firefox before I can get the URL for the video from the CNBC website, so click here to read his article.) (UPDATE: The video is now availabe on the New York Times website; click here to view it.) I've already dealt with most of his arguments in previous posts, but there was one that I missed: Since only 50% of the U.S. population has high-speed Internet connections, the other 50% can't get access to online movies.

That's entirely true, but think for a minute: If you can't afford or live in some place too rural to get a high-speed connection, how likely is it that you'll have a big-screen HD display? Not very. It's even less likely when you consider that a 1080P display is needed to get the full value from Blu-Ray. As I wrote in an earlier post, less than 30% of all households now have HD monitors or receivers of any resolution, let alone 1080P. An upscaling DVD player will work fine for most people, at a cost of 50% less than a Blu-Ray player.

In fact, Pogue inadvertently made my argument for me. By the time there are enough HD monitors and receivers in households to make Blu-Ray a viable business for either consumer electronics manufacturers or movie studios, the problems of online movies will largely be resolved. For the vast majority of people in North America, there's no reason for them to buy a Blu-Ray player, unless they're already buying a Playstation 3 or PC with a Blu-Ray drive.

Thus, I believe the transition will go from DVDs to downloads and streaming. Just as DVD-Audio and SACD were touted as the next generation of CD but were bypassed by downloads, DVD will live on, and Blu-Ray will be bypassed by downloads and streaming.

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