Just What Did Blu-ray Win?

The battle is over. Blu-ray is victorious over HD DVD as the high definition DVD storage format. To the victor go the spoils. But just what exactly has Blu-ray won?

A new report by ABI Research makes some interesting points. ABI Research analyst says “The studios better hope that people are playing movies on their Playstations.” Why? By the end of 2008, he expects that fully 85% of the Blu-ray players in people’s homes will be in PS3 units. Stand-alone Blu-ray players probably won’t be in the majority until 2013.

And then there’s the problem that “good enough” is the enemy of “better”. Keep in mind that study after study shows that consumers think that they’re watching HD content simply because they’re watching it on an HDTV. Nowhere is this more significant than in watching standard DVDs, especially when the image is scaled by an upconverting DVD player. According to ABI Research, 35% of all installed DVD players have upconverting features, and by 2013, that should reach 60%. Also keep in mind that a good quality HDTV should be able to do a good job of scaling DVD images on its own. As a result, most consumers are quite happy with the image quality that they get from standard DVDs; there’s no compelling reason to change as there was when making the shift from low-quality VHS tapes that had to be rewound to the digital clarity and convenience of DVD discs.

And keep in mind the recent moves by both Netflix and Blockbuster to explore digital distribution of movies for rent or sale. It’s possible that the polycarbonate DVD disc is going to exit as swiftly as it arrived, joining the VHS tape on the scrap heap of bypassed technology.

So has Blu-ray won the battle only to lose the war? Can Sony and its allies ever recoup the costs of getting to this point if consumers are not going to rush out and replace their old DVD players with Blu-ray versions? I’m not convinced that the high definition DVD market has not come with too little, too late.