HD Download Lowdown Page 6

Downloads Down the Road

The Xbox 360's lackluster performance aside, a video download should be able to equal the quality of a videodisc. After all, a byte's a byte.

"There's no technical reason why you couldn't have exactly the same thing," says Andy Parsons, promotion committee chairman for the Blu-ray Disc Association (and also senior VP of new product development at Pioneer). "You could have the image file from a Blu-ray disc, for example, and in theory download that through a broadband port."

Richard Doherty, research director for the technology assessment and market research firm Envisioneering, agrees. In fact, his firm tested the new Apple TV unit and, in 720p mode, found that "it looks better than the average cable-television signal" - which he points out is often too compressed. "In the coming days, people will be realizing, 'Oh my God - Apple is really shipping quality movies'."

Still, don't get too excited about the possibility of providers piping ultrahigh-quality downloads to consumers. "The problem is it's very rare that anybody's willing to supply that," says Parsons. "It's just so difficult to justify allocating bandwidth for higher quality when you can instead offer more selection if you just reduce the quality a bit across the board."