Where is Blu-ray?

I stumbled across this statement on Betanews as I looked around for news about Blu-ray: “Back in April, Sony President Ryoji Chubachi projected that its Blu-ray Disc format would garner 50 percent of DVD market share by the end of 2008.”

So here we are, halfway through 2009, and I’m wondering where Blu-ray stands. According to the NPD Group, first quarter 2009 sales for Blu-ray players in the United States reached 400,000 units. That sounds impressive until you consider that DVD players and recorders sold more than 142 million units worldwide two years ago in 2007, according to InStat. It’s not clear if the NPD numbers include Sony Playstation sales, but it’s almost certain that the InStat figures don’t include the millions of desktop and notebook PCs that include DVD drives.

Pricing remains a problem for Blu-ray, especially in the current dismal economic climate. Walmart made waves by offering a Magnovox Blu-ray player for less than $130 a few weeks ago for Father’s Day, but today their best price is just under $180. Compare that with less than $30 for a progressive scan DVD player today at Walmart, or less than $50 for an up-converting model (which you shouldn’t need if your HDTV has a decent scaler in it). In short, you’re being asked to spend up to six times as much for a Blu-ray player, or $150 over the price of the standard DVD player.

A huge portion of the Blu-ray players in U.S. homes are Playstations, which I believe distorts the numbers as I don’t expect that many of these are used as a Blu-ray movie platform. Many consumers have made it clear that upscaled standard DVD movies provide adequate image quality. And even if you do want high-definition movies and video content, you already have many options to get them streaming over the Internet from Amazon, Hulu, and other sources. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a new player and movies — either purchased or rented — when you get the same content for much less over the Internet?

I continue to believe that Blu-ray has been fighting the past war, and is the wrong solution for the next challenge. Yes, Playstations and other devices will help prop up the Blu-ray sales figures, but the technology is too late to catch this wave, and the standard DVD will remain dominant until the Internet is ready to replace the little plastic discs forever.