Just read David Carnoy’s piece on “9 reasons why Blu-ray will succeed“. I like David, but I couldn’t disagree more with his post (though not the individual points, as you’ll see below). And since (as of yesterday) it’s feeling like we’re in a free country where I can say what I want (again, at last), I’ll run through my counterpoints really quick:
- “Digital downloads will not eliminate the need for discs anytime soon.” – I agree, but this doesn’t point to Blu-ray success. Despite the rise of downloadable/streaming content, people are still buying disks. But for how much longer? I think even people who’ve never heard of things like Hulu are aware that the inevitable next step of content acquisition is file/stream based, not physical media (though they’d probably not use those words).
- “Having one clear standard is a big advantage.” – agreed, it’s called “DVD”.
- “Blu-ray isn’t going to be replaced by another disc format anytime soon.” – agreed. In his post, David references a piece that compares early complaints of DVD to current complaints of Blu-ray. In this example, the more apropo statement is “just like CDs, DVD isn’t going to be replaced by another disc format anytime soon.” Er, wait, hang on – I’ll go fire up my SACD player!
- “Prices for large-screen HDTVs will continue to drop.” – agreed. But with an estimated third of the country already on HDTV sets, their amazing-looking upscaling DVD players aren’t about to get replaced. Key here – there is not a dissatisfaction problem, in the slightest, with current content. There was with VCRs.
- “Prices for Blu-ray players will continue to drop.” – now we’re talking! Buuuuut, I still don’t see people rushing out to get them, even at $99 or $49. There’s no incentive to do so, and (as I’ve said before) consumers do not purchase new technology just because it’s cheap. In fact cheap Blu-ray players might cause as much negative enthusiasm as positive (“this thing was, like, $399, like, only last year! they must be, like, doing badly, like, or something. dude. like.”)
- “Prices for Blu-ray discs will drop to near DVD price levels.” – see previous point. Plus, people just aren’t into replacing their existing DVD collection. Check the Amazon Blu-ray home page. I see deals for… wait for it… The Scorpion King 2. End of Days. Miami Vice (ooh, director’s cut!). I think I’ve seen these titles in the $6.99 bin at Walgreens.
- “Sony will sell lots of PlayStation 3 game consoles.” - will they? Not from what I’m reading…
- “Sony can’t afford to have Blu-ray fail.” – they also can’t afford to not be the #1 plasma vendor. Oops, too late. They also can’t afford to make terrible terrible laptops that have industry folk lamenting about constantly (yeah, I went there, but you kinda knew I would). Oops, too late. They also couldn’t afford to have UMDs fail. Or memory sticks. Or mini-discs. Oops too late.
- “Sony and its partners will figure out a way to have Blu-ray resonate with the public.” – and, no. Sony’s being run by a team stuck in the 1990s, still hoping somehow Morita’s coming back. He’s not. And his replacements are just utterly out of vision. They let Samsung, LG, and a suite of other no-names take over the consumer electronics industry, and the best branding they can come up with today to sell me a plasma is based on deception.
So what’s to be done for dear old Blu-ray? Is it as dead as I prognosticate, or no? I think the best step is to change our expectations and mindsets on it.
People are buying buckets full of Blu-ray disks. They are available for rent by every major company, and all the new top films are coming out on Blu-ray. So if the definition of “success” changed from “Blu-ray will replace DVDs as the dominant format of physical media and we will have Blu-ray players in every home” to something more like “Blu-ray will be the last form of physical media consumers adopt, it will get adopted by enough of the population to show profitability, but will always be perceived as an also-ran” then we’re doing okay.
More than 80% of US homes have DVD players. Put the target for Blu-ray around a third of that, tops, and then we’ve got a win on our hands.