With HD DVD Gone, Now What?

Just how big a victory the Blu-ray Disc camp scored when Toshiba pulled the plug on HD DVD remains to be seen. Blu-ray may have won the hearts of Hollywood, which is dedicated to preserving traditional media (note Jon Stewart's jabs at viewing Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod during the Oscars), but the public may take a different route to movie playback. With Apple now renting movies via iTunes for under $5 each, in addition to selling downloads for $10 a pop, does anyone really need to buy and store a DVD with super-high resolution?

One question is whether portability will win out over quality following the iPod model for music. Another revolves around the rent vs. own picture. Will anyone other than parents looking to appease toddlers--or enthusiasts building a library--choose to go to the store to buy a disc--hi-res or not--when they can stream a movie from Netflix instead as part of their subscription?

One could easily make the argument that purchased video stands even less a chance in the 5-inch disc market than the CD since users are more likely to listen to music over and over while movie watching is often a one-shot deal. Sure, there will always be a market for the home theater purists--God bless 'em--but with movie downloads available for viewing on cell phones, iPods, PCs and other sources, the video disc is hardly the only game in town.

David Young, president of The Sound Room, a St. Louis-based custom installation company, sees it this way: "If both camps had waited a little longer, the entire issue would have been insignificant. Because of streaming and downloading, soon both will be obsolete."--Rebecca Day