Newer, cheaper Blu-Ray
High definition movies are a sight to behold. I know, as a recent owner of a Xbox 360 with HD-DVD add-on. When I hung my Mitsubishi HD-1000 projector from the ceiling and watched King Kong in 106" of high definition glory, it was amazing. That didn't stop me, however, from taking it all back a few days later.
The problem was, I just can't tell whether HD-DVD will be around in a year or two. I kept thinking that perhaps I should buy the Playstation 3 with built-in Blu-Ray instead. Going back and forth like this, I realized I didn't want either one. DVD is good enough for now. I'll let the HD format war run its course, then I'll invest. I'm just not cut out to be an early adopter.
I am glad to see, however, that there are some benefits to having competition:
Sony Corp. said Monday it is bringing out a cheaper player for Blu-ray discs early this summer, a crucial step in its battle to make the high-definition format the replacement for DVDs.
The BDP-S300 will cost $599, yet will have the same capabilities as the $999 BDP-S1 Sony is currently selling, said Randy Waynick, senior vice president of the home products division of Sony Electronics.
Sony and Samsung Corp., which also makes a Blu-ray player, have been undersold by Toshiba Corp.'s players for the rival HD DVD format. Toshiba has a model on the market for $499.
It took years for early DVD players to become affordable. Part of the problem was that the transition to digital from videotape was much bigger and more expensive than the switch from regular DVDs to high-definition discs will be. But the lack of any format competition also meant that DVD could take its time and reap the profits when they came. The improvement over VHS was undeniable, so the product eventually sold itself.
With high definition, that's not an option. First of all, not everyone is ready to upgrade again. Some people only started buying DVDs within the past couple years, so for them DVD is nowhere near the end of its life. Furthermore, the benefits of HD are only found in video and audio. Unlike the VHS->DVD transition, which gave consumers a more compact medium, which did not require rewinding and did not degrade with age, the advantages of HD are only content-based, and only available to those who have the equipment to take advantage. And as the SACD/DVD-Audio fiasco proves, high definition audio is not a big draw, especially when DVD already has digital surround sound.
So the high definition video is really the key, and I think that eventually, it will be enough to bring people over from DVD. But it's going to be a hard sell, and while the format war bring the advantage of competition, it also risks confusing and alienating the consumer. Even people like me, who have the video and audio components to enjoy HD, and the disposable income to afford it, may be consciously choosing to sit on the sideline. So long as that is true, neither side will be getting what they really want: our money.