Streaming Las Vegas
I know what you’re thinking. Is that glass half empty or half full? Is it water or whiskey? Ok, that’s a trick question- the answer is obviously dependent on the answer to the first question. And what has the proverbial glass on my mind is CES 2009. I’m here in Vegas and the mood is indeed as subdued as many expected. So far it’s like low season at the hotels here. So, is our perspective on this glass half full? Or is it now a question empty or emptier? Where’s the news?
Say what you will for the format war of the last few years, but trade shows were fun with the battle royal in full swing. Galas with both sides trying to outdo the other in both event sizes, shapes and volume levels, and announcing more cool titles than the other guy. Now, what have we got?
This year, it’s looking like streaming video and IP widgety things invading our consumer electronics. Many pundits are already declaring Blu-ray stillborn and pronouncing streaming and downloads as the winners of the war, much as MP3 won the “war” between SCAD and DVD-Audio years ago. But I’ve got some questions for those making this prediction.
If Blu-ray has low consumer awareness, has anyone asked Joe and Jane Six Pack if they know Hulu from Vudu? Do they know “streaming” isn’t just what that running river across town does?
The conventional wisdom is drawing parallels to music and saying convenience will trump quality again. Will it? Most people don’t have broadband pipes big enough to get streaming quality that’s equivalent to DVD. Wimpy 2Mbps speeds won’t do it. With large 1080p flat screen prices at $999 and below is that good enough? The non-disc crowd better hope so. Vudu’s HDX titles look great, but those are downloads that take 4-6 hours over my cable connection. And that brings us to a one of many fundamental differences between movies and music.
Movies are not portable. They’re not meant to be. 112kbps music downloads take seconds and then the user owns them and can carry them around on an iPod. High-def movies take several hours and are rentals. And looking at a movie on a portable device screen isn’t nearly as compelling as music over the earbuds can be.
I don’t now yet what we’re going to find here at CES 2009. But I’m optimistic, which tells you how I see that glass.