Format Wars

If there was a space back drop and the Star Wars theme music, you could literally roll something like the following:

The Format Wars Begin: There was DVD, then came High Definition. In an attempt to overthrow the aging format, two formats were created. Giving birth to HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Each format had its specifications and companies to back them. But who will the studios pick? Who will the consumers pick? Thus began the format wars…

I realize it’s not that clever, but you see where I’m going. Then last week, Warner Bros. Studios announced that they will be going to Blu-Ray exclusively and Universal announced that they would no longer be HD-DVD exclusive. Many on the internet saying this was a major blow to HD-DVD. Well, Scoble posted last week that at CES many people in the “Blog Room” were moving to downloading their movie content (legally of course) through Netflix or even their Xbox 360s. Scoble even goes on to say that this could be how Microsoft (a huge backer of HD-DVD) gets the last laugh in the format war. Someone on another blog (can’t remember where) even said that they had heard that Microsoft wants both formats to fail so that people move towards online movie downloads.

The way I see it, downloadable movies (especially in HD quality) is going to be a commodity item for a nice little while. Reason being is file size. a DVD quality movie is 4-8GB minimum and HD quality is 1.5 times that at around 720p (2.25 times at 1080). Also, with the exception of the Xbox 360 and the PS3, there is not an easy consumer friendly way to watch downloaded movies on your television. I will say that Tivo has something that is quite nice with its Amazon Unbox integration and Apple TV has a lot of things done right but it’s still not perfect. But we are still not quite there with consumer friendly methods to watch a downloaded movie on your television.

If Microsoft wants to move to video downloads, they need to come out with a non-gaming device that is consumer friendly and will allow you to play movies in any format (WMV, Divx, Mpeg2, H.264, and even MKV). It should also have a way for me to subscribe to video podcasts. Until my parents can understand it without a lot of explanation, we just aren’t there yet.

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