Blu-ray's Real Battle Begins
But now that the format war is solved, the real work begins: getting consumers at large to embrace HD on a disc in a market crowded with more ways than ever before to obtain and consume media. While flat panel HDTVs are flying off the shelves, it's not even clear how much of the general public knows high-def sources are required for them to actually see a high-definition image.
While year one indicators for the HD formats showed a pace that was actually ahead of where DVD was in its first year, that pace slackened dramatically in year two. Software sales are shockingly low in absolute numbers, and if you take away the PS3 the hardware numbers aren't big shakes either. Even relatively modest forecasts for player penetration and dollar figures for 2007 were re-jiggered ever downward by both camps.
Blu-ray manufacturers and studios are betting that confusion over the format war has been holding people back, and now the path is clear for Blu-ray to make an impact.
But just what threshold will indicate success? And how fast will any degree of success become apparent? I ask the first question simply because that is something that will need to be re-defined. I don't believe that any physical medium will ever be as ubiquitous as the DVD was. Between Video-On-Demand from cable and satellite providers and downloads and other network applications (from PS3 to Vudu to Xbox Live) there is simply too much competition. Just how much success can Blu-ray really look forward to compared to its predecessor?
DVD had huge advantages in following the clunky, low quality VHS tape and coming before these other applications. And since a huge selling point of BD players is being backward compatible with DVD, average consumers can and probably will be far choosier about the catalog titles they replace with BD versions than they were replacing their VHS tapes with DVDs.
And can whatever broad success BD is bound to have happen fast enough to prevent inferior but more convenient download models from taking greater hold? Take a look at Sony's own PlayStation 2- a larger library of games and cheaper prices had that seemingly dated console outselling the PS3 often in 2007. PS3 has time on its side while developers come up with new games and prices drop, perhaps even years, as PS2's sustained success shows. BD might not have the same luxury in time.
And as I've frequently commented, Blu-ray can do more to clean up its hardware specs and improve the end user experience. The speed and relability of playback must get a lot smoother if mass adoption is to be driven by positive word of mouth and user satisfaction. Hopefully a raft of of faster, less expensive players will carry Blu-ray to big success this holiday season.