The Real Fight: Blu-Ray vs. Streaming

Just read this article over on AlleyInsider about how Microsoft has sworn to never add a Blu-Ray drive to the Xbox 360. My first impression – that kinda sucks. For a student or new grad like myself, the PS3 is a pretty good deal: “hey I can get a gaming console and a Blu-Ray player for the price of one.” This is one of the key values of the PS2 before it, and part of the reason I convinced my parents to buy me one in highschool. I had heard rumors Microsoft would soon come out with a version of the Xbox with Blu-Ray. I wonder what changed their mind? Perhaps Sony tried to block them to keep the Blu-Ray competitive edge? No. I think it’s something much more disruptive:

First off, yesterday, there was another article talking about the uptake of Blu-Ray, which pointed out that older-style DVD players will out-sell Blu-Ray players in 2009. What does this tell us about the value proposition for the Blu-Ray player? It suggests that even with Blu-Ray players finally falling into affordable price ranges, people still prefer a regular old DVD player. So if people don’t want Blu-Ray quality TV off a disc onto their HDTV, how are they consuming their TV & movies?

If you look at the direction Apple is taking – Macbook Airs with no DVD Drive at all – and the growth of movie watching via  iTunes, Hulu, and now Netflix Streaming – the trend is toward high-def video on-demand delivered over the network, rather than via disc. Indeed, I read another article on AlleyInsider that said that Netflix was among the highest customer-satisfaction rates of the holiday season. AllThingsDigital – of the Wall Street Journal – adds a post called Let’s Stay Home and Watch a Movie – pointing out that with a souring economy, people are apt to avoid going out and watching movies in theaters, opting instead to use that Home Theater system they splurged on when times were good. And where will they get the content? Today they might get a Netflix DVD delvered to their door, but increasingly they’ll watch it over the net via iTunes, Netflix, or Hulu.

I expect Microsoft’s play here will be to push people to use Xbox’s Media Center Extender to stream media from their PCs, as well as Netflix Streaming on Xbox 360 – which allows you to instantly stream Netflix’s on-demand library from your Xbox. Apple will similarly move to push users away from Blu-Ray toward iTunes on their PCs, and AppleTV, there fledgling set-top device. It seems even Sony is hedging against Blu-Ray – promoting streaming movies on the PS3. Interesting times ahead as the “three screens” – the TV, the PC, and the Phone – converge.

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5 thoughts on “The Real Fight: Blu-Ray vs. Streaming

  1. I have blu-ray and I have streaming and I mix it up and I can’t say one is dominant, YET. I love the ability to stream from my PC through MY Xbox 360. If i could stream a ripped Blu-ray….heaven. Having the disc is nice to bring with you to a friends movie night though. Each format has its plus and minuses. Will they co-exist or will blu-ray fade away? We’ll see.

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