Hard Times, Great Format
Blu-ray doesn’t have the same storied history that CDs and DVDs have simply because it hasn’t been around too long. But, for the short time that it has been with us (close to three years now), it has had its shares of ups and downs. Let’s look at what the history of the Blu-ray has been so far.
HDTVs have been around for a long time now, actually even more than 10 years since first launched. But even though DVDs were supposed to be able to give us the HD look we’d been wanting, the capacity of the discs still wasn’t enough to satiate the public’s thirst for 1080p definitions.
To this end, Sony started to develop the DVR Blue, a joint project with Pioneer. The precursor of the Blu-ray was nearly tossed aside because the discs had to be much closer to the laser than ever before, causing excessive scratching of the discs, rendering them unusable. Interestingly, the first BD player was developed in Japan and released in 2003. However, the DVDs lacked the DRM or Digital Rights Management system that Hollywood craved to end the DVD copy-fest that had been going on for years.
The format was finally completed in January of 2005, with the specifications for the disc system and the disc scratching problem resolved by early 2006. That same year, Sony made a huge gamble by placing the new BD drives inside every PS3, driving the production costs through the roof.
The disc was a complete revision over the original DVD disc. Instead of using a red laser; the new disc used a blue laser that was recently patented. This design alone suddenly opened the possibility of up to 50 GB optical discs on two layers. The new laser was a marvel of engineering and allowed more information to be placed on the disc, thus proving that Sony was once again on top of their game.
And after the standard had been developed, Blu-Ray was accepted as a universal standard and the world collectively held hands and sang Kumbaya, right?
Well, we all know that isn’t what happened, mostly because Kumbaya isn’t the capitalist work song. Toshiba, together with Warner Bros, decided to keep things interesting. They launched their own HD DVD format which immediately brought back the old format wars of the 80s between the Videotape and the Betamax. This time however, Sony wouldn’t be nearly as dumb.
Simply put, the PS3 put an end to the format war. However, every war has a seedy side, much like this one does – and that seedy side is the pornographic industry. While others will swear that the big pornography companies had nothing to do with it, it would be naïve to exclude their role in this. Much like the videotape war of the 80s, the pornographic industry had the final say on the Blu-ray simply because they thought it would be the format that would be better to develop for.
Combine the PS3’s initial success with the fact that each and every PS3 comes with a built-in Blu-Ray drive and the fact that it continues to be one of the cheapest and most versatile Blu-Ray solutions, and you have a clear winner.
With the format wars over, things still haven’t been looking up for the Blu-Ray Disc. Most industry analysts again told us that people would be snapping up the BD players when they came down in price for the Thanksgiving season of 2008, but this clearly did not happen.
Most HD setups today require a BD player for true High Definition, which is only possible through an HDMI cable and a Blu-ray player. The present situation of the Blu-ray is one of doubt – with the economy being in the tank for almost the entire duration of the time that BD has won the format war, the present looks uncertain for Blu-ray. People are cutting back, and one of the industries taking the biggest hit is the “experimental" or cutting-edge tech industry.
We can only hope that the future holds something brighter for Blu-ray. Hopefully PS3 sales will be spurred in a better economy, but nevertheless, the players need to start coming down in price before the average Joe prefers taking a PS3 or Blu-Ray player over the traditional DVD player that has become so synonymous with home entertainment. However, 82.4 million BD discs have been sold in 2008, so perhaps it really is only matter of time before the DVD, which was such a staple of the 90s, goes the way of the videocassette.