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Home video entertainment.

The other day i was trying to make space for some new DVDs in our living room cupboard but failing miserably. No matter how i re-arranged the boxes, i couldn’t squeeze more in there – not while those videos (yes, VHS video cassettes) were in there too. It was then i decided that since i watch videos even less often than DVDs (which is rarely) i really ought to throw them out. I could replacing those films i still like with the DVD version very cheaply these days and my storage woes would be solved (albeit temporarily).

Sat there amongst piles of plastic boxes, it was obvious that DVD didn’t replace VHS solely based on quality issues – the transition was also about convenience. Yes, DVD offers a better viewing experience, allows addition of “extras”1 and is slightly more robust and reliable medium (no more tapes get chewed up) but in the real world it also offers great convenience – you don’t have to sit and wait for the thing to rewind and the discs take up far less of your home’s precious storage space. I was then struck by the realisation that this is where Blu-Ray falls down. Blu-Ray offers the superior viewing experience over DVD (though you need to buy a new HD telly to truly enjoy the improvements) but that’s about the only benefit. It’s no more reliable or robust, offers no space-savings and is generally no more convenient than DVD. Then of course there’s the reasonably high-price of Blu-Ray players and discs, somewhat exaggerated with the state of the economy at the mo. It is not difficult to see how easily Blu-Ray could fail.

Oh, and by the way, i fully expect it to fail, for there is a medium that offers HD-quality content whilst also offering new conveniences (such as, say, not needing to use up any of your home’s precious square-footage at all). The name? Well, there isn’t one yet. Not a standard one anyway. But if i say “Digital Downloads”, “Video on demand” or “Movie Streaming” you’ll get the idea: Movies via the net. Certain to be used in every home long before Blu-Ray is.

Though DVDs will reign for a very long time yet. Never underestimate Man’s capacity for convenience.

Update: While i was busy committing this brain-dump to the web, it seems Bob Cringely has gone and written something very similar. If you’re too lazy to read it, he basically sticks with the need for an expensive HD telly being the reason Blu-Ray ‘ll fail. Of course I agree but I maintain that “convenience” plays a large, if not a larger, part of it.

  1. I note the much-touted choose-your-camera-angle options (“Multi Angle”) that we were promised in “future” DVDs never really materialised. Save in a few porn vids, of course.