Wednesday, September 03, 2008

BPN 1209 When will Blu-ray be over

It is interesting to hear how the consumer electronics manufacturers are looking for the next golden egg in the compact disc technology. At the consumer electronics fair IFA in Berlin the manufacturers are sending out messages. Sony and Philips tell the consumer that Blu-ray will be a mass product in two years time, while Panasonic says that DVD will be terminated soon. And the loser of the race for the successor to DVD, Toshiba, is still selling a High Definition booster to the DVD. In short, the DVD generation is nearing the end of its commercial DVD lifecycle.

It is almost 15 years ago that Philips boss Jaap Timmer, supported by IBM, banged the heads of the rivals and told them to set a common standard. Toshiba gave in and the DVD could get a fast start. After 10 years there was a new round for specifications of the next generation of DVDs, which was going to include more volume, but especially High Definition. This time Toshiba, NEC, Matsusishu and Microsoft did not give in and started to develop their own next generation DVD format. But they had to give up as sales were not impressive and the movie world held back. In the end Sony won the race with Blu-ray.

So now Philips has become a Blu-ray missionary, as many of its patents have been brought into the technical specification and says that Blue-ray will be a mass product within two years. It gambles that the film fans will start playing their DVD collection on the Blu-ray player and eventually will buy the Blu-ray version of the movie. After that wave the masses will follow. Sony on the other hand serves already the market of game consoles with Blu-ray and of course will also sell Blu-ray players to the movie loving audience. In fact Sony will have the Blu-ray version of the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace.

Will the Blu-ray really be a mass product in two years? The introduction of CD-ROM from the lab to the commercial market took three years and it was a success almost five years later. The introduction of the DVD from the lab to the commercial market took also three years and it was a success almost four years later. The Blu-Ray came on the market in 2005 and did not make much impact so far. Now after three years it looks like it will pick up. The movie industry does not have to make a choice any longer and neither has the consumer. So the consumer gets more volume, a better picture and an online link BD Live.

But the customer follows the industry. Presently there are roughly 200 movies on Blu-ray. This will not be enough to convince people to buy a Blu-ray player. A portfolio of at least 750 movies is needed to get the traffic in the consumer electronics shops going. Whether that portfolio will be reached in two years time is debateable.

There are two factors influencing the acceptance of Blu-ray: the portfolio and the introduction of disruptive technology. Big movie firms release between the 450 and 600 new movies every year. So in numbers the portfolio can be put together; however not every movie will automatically be released on Blu-ray. My guess is that by 2012 the Blu-ray will sell as DVD is selling presently. And in the background of course lure the disruptive technology of broadband. How fast will Hollywood release movies in HD quality over broadband? I do not think that Blu-ray will be the last offline movie medium to be replaced by online. But once the speeds are up, the online distribution of movies might become more interesting. I guess that the games world is already predicting that trend.

Blog Posting Number: 1209

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