Surviving the Format Wars

Everybody's been dropping HD DVD like the plague over the last few weeks. So it appears that Blu-ray has won the latest of the format wars. Well, whoop-di-freakin'-do. I guess everybody who's bought an HD DVD player over the last few years is supposed to feel like somebody who bought a Betamax deck in 1980. Of course, I'm of the opinion that anyone who bought a player for either format ought to feel like someone who bought an 8-Track player in 1975.

Don't get me wrong - HD is freakin' awesome. We just got an HDTV set, and we keep marveling at how pretty the picture is. Even with just the standard DVD player connected, the picture is just incredible. And here's the thing - you can get a perfectly lovely DVD player for less than $100. A Blu-ray player is going to set you back probably about $400 at the cheapest. Not to mention that Blu-ray discs cost about twice as much as standard discs.

Now, maybe the higher quality is worth the extra dough. I'm pretty pleased with what we get from the HDTV and the HDMI upconvert on the player, myself. But maybe for the real videophiles out there, there's a real difference and the extra money is worth it.

I figure, though, that by 2015 (at the latest), hard copy of movies is going to be as obsolete as hard copy of music is rapidly becoming. I mean...I bought a couple of CDs at Amoeba Records in Berkeley when we were out there at Christmas, and it occurred to me that it was the first time I'd bought any hard copy music in ages. I honestly can't remember the last CD I bought before I picked up used copies of On My Way by Ben Kweller and Barenaked Ladies Are Men at Christmastime.

As with music, so with movies. "OnDemand" cable and Tivo are becoming ubiquitous. NetFlix is offering more and more movies through its "Watch Instantly" feature. Eventually, rather than a DVD player, Blu-ray or not, you're going to have in the same space a hard drive with an internet connection. And you'll download anything you want from iTunes or something similar, just like we're all doing with music.

So, Blu-ray has won the format war. Congratulations, Sony. You're the king of the dinosaurs. Enjoy it while it lasts.