Last week we took a look at what’s happened for Blu-ray since it cast its nemesis, HD DVD, to the fiery gates of obsolescence. But what’s next? BD-Live isn’t the killer app we hoped it might be, so what can blu-ray offer us to fight off the threat of IP entertainment?Despite being the de facto high definition format now, Blu-ray is still a long way from being mainstream. Although there are reports that Blu-ray is performing as well as DVD was at the same point in its life cycle, the ongoing push for people to adopt Blu-ray is going to be a much harder one. Because in order to truly experience Blu-ray’s benefits, you need to upgrade your television to a 1080p HD model capable of 24p playback. You should also have a minimum of 5.1 surround sound – and all that stuff doesn’t come cheap.
Fortunately, Blu-ray players themselves are getting cheaper, and we can expect to see models down under the $200 mark by Christmas this year, potentially going as low as $150. But they won’t be your big-named brands like Sony, Samsung or Panasonic – they’ll be random Chinese companies.
How the big-named companies will keep selling their more expensive Blu-ray players is by expanding on what they’re doing already – IP entertainment. LG has a Blu-ray player that plays YouTube clips via a network connection. So does Panasonic with Viera Cast, which also streams Picasa web albums to your TV. In the US we’ve seen Blu-ray players with Netflix connectivity, turning the player into a IP entertainment hub, and although it will take some time, it’s inevitable that we’ll see the same services here in Australia.
Versatility is the key to success for Blu-ray. Because of BD-Live, all Profile 2.0 enabled Blu-ray players have an ethernet port, which opens up the door to IP entertainment on your home TV. And not just IP entertainment – the rumours about a TiVo box with built-in Blu-ray are extremely exciting because they bring together everything into one neat device under your TV. Panasonic’s Blu-ray recorders are close, but don’t offer the same awesome EPG functions or the ability to download movies over the internet.
But IP isn’t the only move forward for the technology. A dual-layered Bluray disc can store up to 50GB worth of data, but we’ve already seen that it’s possible to scale the technology up to 400GB. As this technology develops and the cost of Blu-ray discs and players come down, having the ability to store even more data on discs will make the format even more appealing. Imagine an entire series of your favourite TV show in HD on a single disc.
The problem Blu-ray faces, aside from the added costs from purchasing HD capable equipment to make it work, is the public perception that it will be obsolete before it really takes off. And that’s why we’re already seeing a big push to integrate IP with Blu-ray. Because no matter how easy it is to download stuff online, if you can do it from the same box that you watch Full HD movies on (and let’s be clear, it’s unlikely IP entertainment will ever match Blu-ray’s quality), that’s a more attractive proposition. Hopefully the people makeing the Blu-ray products are working on expanding that idea for the near future.